Mark 16:1-8
God Made Christ Rise From The Dead

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  Just before in the biblical passage we read today the following is written, "Joseph bought linen, and after taking Jesus down from the cross he wrapped him with it, and he buried him in a tomb carved out of rock and rolled a stone to the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James stared at the place where he buried the corpse of Jesus," (Mark 15:46-47).

2.  The beloved Lord Jesus was buried in a tomb.  The entrance to the tomb was sealed with a stone.  The text says that that stone was very huge, (16:4).  It's like an impossibly difficult stone to move symbolizes the reality of intractable death.  With the reality before them that the Lord Jesus had certainly died and was gone, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James could only stare into that tomb.

3.  Just like them, we too have felt the powerlessness of humanity when we encounter the death of someone close.  There's nothing one can do when it comes to "death."  No matter how much we love them or want them to be alive, we can't do anything in the face of death.  Of course, we are not only powerless in the death of those we love close to us.  We are powerless for our own deaths also.  We learn that soon our own lives will be sealed up by the huge rock of death.  This huge rock of death won't budge no matter how much we push and pull.

4.  In a certain sense, the tomb is not a place we enter after we die.  The lives we have now are but great tombs sealed up by huge stones.  We are corpses waiting to decay in them.  That is the intractable reality of humankind set for death, whether we are aware of it or not.  Thus, while we are alive, it's no wonder we can't avoid feeling a void and limitations in every form.  We may be able to forget its emptiness for a moment.  We may be able to divert it.  But, we can't remove that feeling of futility fundamentally out of our lives on our own power.

5.  Well, if this gospel had ended in chapter fifteen with the death of the Lord Jesus like the usual biographies do, it could not be a story that would provide us with hope, even though it was a story of a great and noble life.  Because the one truth we would know from it is that we would always have to die, no matter how great a life he lived.  But, this gospel does not end with chapter fifteen.  Death is not the end of this story.  It has another part to it.  There is, indeed, a message in it that we ought to hear today.

The Stone Was Rolled Away

6.  With that, let's move our attention over to today's passage of scripture.  What do we have written in it?  When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb on the first day of the week, that is, very early on Sunday morning.  They came to anoint the body of Jesus with perfumed oils.  The women were talking among themselves about "Who would roll away for them the stone from the entrance to the tomb?"  But, upon arriving and seeing the tomb, the stone had already rolled to the side.  That's the event which today's passage of scripture is telling us first of all.

7.  The stone to the entrance to the tomb was rolled away.  But, that itself was minor.  We know that even if they had opened the entrance to the tomb, the situation would have been no different.  But then, why do the four gospels tell us this event with harmonized accounts of it?  It is because the fact of the stone having been rolled away even further symbolically points to a great truth, which is, not only was the stone rolled away, but the very reality of death that was immovable like this huge stone had been was rolled away.

8.  Who was it that rolled it?  It was God.  It wasn't humanity.  In this way, the one who is able to affect the problem of life-closing death in a true sense is not man.  It is God alone who controls life and death.  Humankind is not the one who can give a true solution to the problem of death.  It is God alone.  What humankind can do at best is to turn one's attention away from death and to avert one's focus off it.  But, just to avert one's focus does not amount to a solution to it.  The reality that we are no more than rotting corpses in an enclosed tomb doesn't change even though we avert our focus from it.  God is the only one who opens the door to the tomb and can make the light of the eternal world shine into it.  Unless we know this God, we can not live in the hope that breaks through death.

The Resurrection Of The One Who Was Crucified

9.  Thus, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome became cognizant that morning of the resurrection of Christ.  During this event, the ladies had met the God of life who could defeat death, the true and the living God, (First Thessalonians 1:9).  However, this event simply did not bring joy to these ladies.  In today's passage of scripture it reads like this, "The women fled out of the tomb.  They were scared and lost their composure.  And they would not say a thing to anyone because they were afraid," (verse eight).

10.  This is not just about some women seeing a strange event and feeling fear; for, it was not so much that they were afraid because the stone was rolled away, or that there was no corpse, or that a white robed youth was sitting there; it wasn't these things themselves that they were afraid of.  The fear they felt must have been a very deep down one, down to the roots of their being.  That is, it was a fear that came from their encounter with the true and the living God.  It was a fear they held because they had experienced the living God who truly had power over life and death.  This very [response to encountering divine beings] is repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament.

11.  For example, you might think about the fear at the time when the prophet Isaiah experienced himself before God.  In a vision he saw the Lord sitting on a seat high in the heavens.  This is a mystical experience of one of the prophets, which we can not go into.  But, he did not simply find joy in that he saw God in that special experience[1]  That's not how it was, rather, he could not help but cry out, "Woe is me.  I am destroyed.  I am a person with defiled lips.  I live among people of defiled lips.  Worse than that, my eyes have beheld the Lord of hosts, the King," (Isaiah 6:5).

12.  We can [find] all the way back to Genesis chapter three in "The Story Of The Garden Of Eden" the fear that somebody under such conditions has towards God.  The man and the woman, who took and ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which had been forbidden by God, evaded God and hid themselves.  The Bible narrates the situation of that time like this, "That day, about when the wind blows, the sound of the Lord God walking through the garden was audible.  When Adam and the woman evaded the face of the Lord God and were hiding among the garden trees, the Lord God called Adam, 'Where are you?'  He answered, 'Since the sound of your footsteps was audible in the garden, I got scared and hid; for, I am naked,'" (Genesis 3:8-10).

13.  Humankind is not afraid of God from an academic perspective.  Humankind is not afraid of the God of the philosophers.  People are not afraid of a God that they have selfishly imagined.  They are not afraid of the simple object of their prayers for success and blessings in their daily lives.  But, if they stand before the true and the living God, the truth is that they can't help but be afraid.  For, since God deals righteously with us sinful humans, we will have to be destroyed.  For, the cry of "Woe is me.  I am destroyed," is the same as the true cry of every human being when before God.

14.  I mentioned earlier that "Unless we know this God, we can not live in the hope that breaks through death."  That is certainly so.  But, as we've already seen, knowing God is not simply connected to hope.  There is no need to be afraid of God unless there are sins and stains on a person.  But, the situation is not that simple.  Because there is no sinless people.  Because there is not even one person who has no need to fear God.

15.  So, in spite of this [fearful reaction], why has the resurrection of Christ, which had originally only been a dreadful event, been preached to this day to us as well as a visitation of joyous hope?  Why is Easter not a fearsome day, but a day of joy?

16.  So then, I would like for us to listen carefully once again to the message first given to humankind after the resurrection of Christ.  What did that youth who announced the resurrection of Christ really say?  He spoke to the women as follows.  "Do not be surprised.  You are searching for Jesus of Nazareth who had been crucified, but he has risen and is not here.  Please look.  It is the place they buried him," (verse six).

17.  The important thing here is not just that it was announced that "Jesus, who was dead, has been resurrected from the dead."  It is announced that "Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, has been resurrected from the dead."  In other words, the unmistakable work of God in the resurrection is revealed as the resurrection of the One who had been crucified.  There is where the great significance lies.  Thus, we have to think of the resurrection as being linked to the cross.

18.  Before this Easter celebration we had a long Lenten period (the Passion season).  In this period of time we had followed the foot prints of Jesus as he headed for the cross.  Please recall.  Christ went for the cross in order to redeem our sin with his own life.  He put up on this earth the cross for the redemption of sin for us.  The message the youth told us was none other than the event in which the One who died a death for redemption had been resurrected.  But, because God is "the God who raised the crucified Jesus from the dead" we don't need to cry out like Isaiah did, "Woe is me.  I will be destroyed."  We don't need like Adam to evade the face of the Lord God and hide ourselves in the trees of the garden.  When we look at God as the One who raised the crucified Jesus from the dead, God begins to be our hope.

Go To Galilee

19.  Well, the youth who told them that God had raised the crucified Jesus from the dead went on further and reported this, "Now, go and inform the disciples and Peter.  'He is going ahead of you to Galilee.  As he told you previously, he will meet you there,'" (verse seven).

20.  There they were the disciples who had forsaken the Lord Jesus and run away.  He said on purpose, tell "Peter."  That night, Peter denied the Lord Jesus three times.  [The youth] says let Peter know for Him, too.  Because God is a God who raised the crucified Jesus from the dead, he would let them, [that is,] those who confessed their sin and shame, live with Jesus again.  It was announced to them that they could meet the Lord again in Galilee.  It says the Lord went on ahead to Galilee.  Galilee is the place the disciples had first met the Lord.  It is the place they heard the voice of the Lord Jesus say "Follow me."  As persons set free from sin and death they were allowed to start over again with the Lord Jesus.  In Galilee they hear the voice of the call of the Lord again.  They can hear the voice saying, "Follow me."

21.  The message God first gave through that youth his servant is also being forwarded to us today.  The One who said, "Tell Peter too," has told us as well that news of him.  We, who have been told of the message of the resurrection, no longer need to live like persons bound by death.  God has made us too become persons freed from sin and death through the events of Christ's cross and resurrection and has made us persons to live with Christ.  And God will lead us to Galilee again.  We, too, are permitted to hear again the words of the resurrected Lord's call to "Follow me."  Easter is for us, just like it was for the disciples, tantamount to a time to begin to follow the Lord of the resurrection anew and afresh.

End Note

1. "Mamieta" is a literary form for "he saw."

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