Sermon Notes

March 31st 2024

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson March 31st

The Resurrection: Key to Faith / Mark 16:1-8 (MSG)

1-3 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, “Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?” 4-5 Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished. 6-7 He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.” 8 They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming. Stunned, they said nothing to anyone.


Mark begins his very brief account of the resurrection with a reference to the Sabbath, that period between Sundown Friday and Sundown Saturday, when Jesus lay in the grave. The other Gospel accounts do not mention the Sabbath, but Mark gives us this brief account of it. Clearly, it was a day of shattered hopes, broken dreams, desolated spirits, and of wounded and frightened hearts. These disciples’ hopes were dashed, their dreams demolished, and it was evident because there was no hope of a resurrection in any of them. Their apparent attitude was, “What’s the use? Why go on?”
*There are, perhaps, more human beings today who live constantly in the despair and hopelessness symbolized by that dark Saturday than ever before. 1 in 12 teenage Christians report suffering from depression. According to the Faith Protestant Reformed Evangelism Committee, 1 in 6 people (16%) will have an episode of major depression in his or her lifetime. Women are about twice as likely as men to suffer a major depressive episode. Not only is depression common, it is also a recurrent problem. If one has suffered from depression, there is a 40% chance he will have a recurrence in the next two years; if he has two episodes, there is a 75% chance he will have a recurrence in the next 5 years. Amid an increasingly godless world, despair grips people’s hearts everywhere. The lost of hope and meaning is rampant—even among Christians.
Yet, what we are made to see is that the joy of the Resurrection completely overshadows the utter despair felt by the disciples on that terrible Sabbath. “When the sabbath was past...” their hope had swallowed up their despair.
The first thing of note was that the stone was rolled away from the tomb. The women came concerned and worried about the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb. It must have weighed at least 1,000 pounds; these women were concerned about how to roll it away so that they might anoint the body of Jesus with the spices and ointments which they had brought. But when they arrived, the stone was already rolled back.
While Mark doesn’t tell us how this happened, Matthew tells us that before daybreak, an angel had come and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening bright and shining, so that he dazzled and dismayed the guards who had been detailed to watch over the tomb. They fell as dead men on the ground, and, then, as they recovered their senses, stumbled off into the darkness in fear.
All of this had happened before the women arrived. When they came, there was no sign of anyone, and the door of the tomb was open. That told them that something amazing had happened. At this point they did not know what it was, but they understood that something remarkable had occurred, for the stone was already rolled away, and the tomb was open.
When they went into the tomb, the body of Jesus was gone! That which they had come to anoint was no longer there. This empty tomb has been the answer to all the arguments of skeptics for centuries. According to Matthew, the lie was circulated by the soldiers charged with guarding Jesus. They were paid to say that the friends of Jesus had come and stolen his body away. No one has ever been able to explain how that could happen. That his enemies would steal it is impossible to conceive, for there were guards stationed at the tomb, and the stone was sealed with the Great Seal of Rome.
Though the body itself was gone, the grave clothes were still there. They were lying as though still wrapped around a body in the place where the body had been laid. The body seemingly had evaporated through the grave clothes; it was gone. It was evident that there was no body there, but the formation of the cloth was as though it were still wrapped around the body. The other Gospel accounts tell us that, when these women left the tomb, they ran to the disciples and told them the news. Peter and John came to the tomb. When they went in and saw the grave clothes, they were convinced that Jesus indeed had risen.
The words of the angel confirmed that a resurrection had taken place. The angel does three important things: He establishes the identity of Jesus—“This Jesus … who was crucified, has risen from the dead;” he confirms that Jesus kept His promise—“It will be just as He told you;” and he confirms that they will see Him again—“He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him. It will be just as He told you.”
*The joy of the resurrection is that there is blessed reassureance. In the resurrection we see reassurance of God’s power, of His voracity and of His presence. This is tremendous comfort for those who are overwhelmed by despair.
The hope of the resurrection was not just pervasive, but it was individual: “Go, tell His disciples and Peter…”. This word is a wonderful reminder that Jesus is available to us as individuals—not just to the crowd at large, not just to the world in general, or the Church, but to us. This accessibility has been the hallmark of Christianity ever since. Each one of us can know him personally, intimately—not just as a figure of history, nor as a coming King, but in that intimate, personal, real, conscious sense of knowing which we share in the most intimate communion of men.
This is what changed these women. This is what filled them with hope, brought them from the very depths of dark despair to trembling ecstasy, so that they went out with gladness to spread this rumor of hope throughout the world.
This has been the experience of millions from that day on. This is where we are today. We have this testimony, this evidence—it awakens hope within us, as these women found their hope awakened by the word of the angel. He is what makes life different. He is what puts joy in our hearts. He is what makes Christianity real.


Mark 16:9-20 has been called a later addition to the Gospel of Mark by most New Testament scholars in the past century. The main reason for doubting the authenticity of the ending is that it does not appear in some of the oldest existing witnesses, and it is reported to be absent from many others in ancient times by early writers of the Church. Moreover, the ending has some stylistic features that support the contention that it came from another hand. The Gospel account appears to be incomplete without these verses; so most scholars believe that the final leaf of the original manuscript was lost, and that the ending which appears in English versions today (verses 9-20) was supplied during the 2nd century.

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