Last week we witnessed seven snapshots of the crucifixion. Each snapshot recorded a different reaction to the crucifixion.
--Barabbas is released by the cross. “I’m alive!”
--The soldiers are callous to the cross. “Another joke of a Jew.”
--Simon takes up the cross of Jesus. “I picked up his cross and followed him!”
--The guard is indifferent to the cross. “Snake eyes, I win.”
--The chief priests are vindicated by the cross... “We win. You lose.”
--The bystanders misunderstand Jesus on the cross. “Did he say Elijah?”
--The Centurion speaks enlightenment from the cross. “Truly, he was the Son of God!”
We echo the same truth as the Centurion... only in the present tense... “Truly, He Is the Son of God!” (echo)
This morning, we begin with another snapshot... a group of women standing at a distance watching.
Mark 15:40-41 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
There are a number of women who watch from a distance as their LORD is crucified. This is fascinating. This is the first Mark mentions of these women. Yet, they are important enough to list their names...two Marys, and Salome. Then, Mark adds, like he forgot to mention it until now, they took care of Jesus. That makes me feel better about me. I certainly need the females in my life to minister to me. Or I might not make it. This group of women have traveled with Jesus on his mission to Jerusalem. Now, as they look on from a distance, they are about to play one of the most important roles in the Gospel.
First thing to remember: These women, who ministered to Jesus, are watching. Don’t forget. The women are watching.
Then, Mark tells of another previously, unknown disciple who plays an important role.
Mark 15:42-47 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Normally, when an executed person was finally dead, the ruler would release the body to the family for burial. If no one claimed the body, it would be thrown into a common grave. But, instead of a family member, a man named Joseph steps up to claim the body.
Joseph is a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the same council who passed judgment for the executed. But Mark tells us he is looking for the Kingdom of God. Joseph understood that Jesus was opening a new kingdom; a kingdom that was not ended because of his death; a kingdom that was inaugurated because of his death. This Joseph took courage. Took courage! This is the theme of the Gospel of Mark. Take courage and go to Pilate and ask for the body. This respected member of the ruling class of the Jews now reveals he too is a disciple! Joseph took the body!
Second thing we are to remember: Joseph claimed the body.
Pilate is surprised. Criminals can take days to die. Jesus took only 6 hours. Pilate is suspicious... “Wait a minute, are you trying to pull a fast one. Take Jesus down before he is dead. Go get the centurion in charge of killing him.” The same centurion who just said, “Truly this was the son of God” reports Jesus is dead. He knows death. Jesus is dead.
Third thing to remember: Jesus is altogether dead.
Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus. He wrapped him in an expensive shroud and places him in rock tomb and rolls a stone in front of it.
Then Mark reminds us again... Women are watching. The two Marys watch where the tomb is.
Three things we are remembering... Women watching, Joseph claims the body. Jesus is altogether dead.
Now let’s look at the end of the beginning of the Gospel. Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is the end of the beginning. Or maybe, the beginning of the Gospel which lasts till the end.
Mark 16:1-2 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
Early on the first day of the week, when the Sabbath was over, the two Marys and Salome go back to finish the burial process.
Fourth thing to remember: It is Sunday morning when the women go to anoint Jesus.
Flashback... Remember Jesus has already been anointed...
Mark 14:3, 8-9 And while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
Now we see that these three women who are going to be unsuccessful in anointing Jesus, but who will also be remembered as long as the gospel is proclaimed the whole world... even to Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Mark 16:3-5 And they (the three women) were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back- it was very large. And entering the tomb...
The women realize on their way to the tomb that they haven’t thought it all the way through. There is a stone which is too heavy for them to move is going to be problem. They saw how hard it was for Joseph and his servants to move the rock. But they are going anyway.
Upon arriving they see their problem is solved. Maybe, someone else has come ahead of them to do the same thing; Joseph or Peter. So, they step into the tomb...
Mark 16:5-6 ...they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
What is the first thing out of angels’ mouth? “Do not be alarmed!’ Then, we have the first Easter proclamation...
“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here!”
Remember we reached the climax of the Gospel back in Mark 14:62.
Mark 14:62 And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
This is the beginning of the fulfillment, the proving that Jesus was in fact the I Am who will rise to sit at the right hand of God coming in power!
When the angel announces... “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here!” This prediction is proven!
We are going to stop here, this morning and leave the last few verses of Mark till next week. Now, I want to explore the importance of the resurrection to my faith.
My faith is based upon this statement. Everything I believe, as a Christian, hinges on the truth of the resurrection! Let me finish this sermon by telling you why my faith is based right here.
1. Women were witnesses. The first three things we are remembering... Women were watching, Joseph claimed the body and Jesus was completely dead.
Women in the Jewish world of the first century were not considered reliable witnesses. I’m sorry... we have come a long way, baby. But there is no way Mark would have made up this story. If Mark were attempting to convince his world of the truth of the resurrection, he would have used someone besides women as his primary witnesses. This has the ring of truth. Mark tells us that it these women, who ministered to Jesus, who watched the crucifixion from a distance, who noted where Jesus was buried, who went to anoint him, who first saw the empty tomb. This has the ring of truth. This is the way it happened!
Joseph claimed the completely dead body of Jesus and placed it in a tomb by itself. All that had to happen to have an undisputed resurrection. If Jesus had been thrown into a common grave how could he there have been an empty tomb. These events came together to show these women and empty tomb!
Bam! Therefore, I believe!
2. The angel tells the women to... “Look where they laid him.” Mark does not go into detail because his readers knew this. But the Gospel of John does explain the angel’s statement. When the women look where they laid Jesus they see an empty mummy cloth. The expensive shroud that Joseph wrapped Jesus in was laying folded like someone beamed out of it. Sneak to John to hear these details...
John 20:6-8 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
Look, Jesus beamed out of the shroud!
That detail holds a lot of weight for my belief! It has the ring of truth.
3. Christianity Spread. No other satisfactory explanation of the spread of Christianity. Back when the unnamed women anointed Jesus, he predicted that the Gospel would spread. That fact is awesome. The only explanation for the spread of Christianity is the resurrection. A bunch of fearful disciples suddenly take courage! The same guys who ran in Gethsemane, preached on Pentecost! What changed them? Something changed them! They said it was the risen LORD.
There were “Messiahs” before and after Jesus. There is a reason most of us have never heard of them. When they died, so did their claims of being a messiah. When Jesus died that should have ended his movement. Crucified messiahs are failed messiahs; except one. The resurrection is the best explanation for the rise of Christianity.
One more detail that carries my faith...
4. It was early on the first day of the week. Mark makes it clear that these disciples of Jesus, the women and even Joseph observed the Sabbath. The regular, weekly day of worship in the Jewish religion was Saturday. But the Christian day of worship is Sunday. The Sabbath was as much of a defining point of Judaism as most anything.
Something happened to change these Jewish disciples to move Saturday to Sunday. It would take something big. It was, big. It was the resurrection! Change of worship from Saturday to Sunday was significant.
For these facts, the Resurrection is the center point of my faith.
“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here!”
In the resurrection Jesus pioneered the way of life. Jesus defeated death in the resurrection. That is the foundation of my faith and the reason for my hope!
1 Corinthians 15:20-26 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
We follow the one who was the first to be raised from the dead Jesus Christ the pioneer of our life.
November 19, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ