Jesus And The Empty Tomb (Mark 15-16)




Mr. Irrelevant names: Kelvin Kirk (1976), Jim Kelleher (1977), Lee Washburn (1978), Lonnie Ballentine (2014), Kalan Reed (2016), Chad Kelly (2017).

The title is given to men who get drafted in last round with last pick. Mr. Irrelevant and his family are invited to spend a week in Newport Beach, California, where they enjoy a week of customized and lavish activity to the individuals preference.[1] There is also a roast of previous “Irrelevants” who give advice to the new draftee, and a ceremony awarding him the Lowsman trophy, which mimics the Heisman trophy, but depicts a football player fumbling the ball. lowsman trophy

Ms. Irrelevant: ladies who don’t get the rose on the bachelor show…? No offense intended, just not sure a communicative comparison outside athletics.

Mark’s Gospel shows us that disciples of Jesus are “Mr/Ms Irrelevant,” yet find their significance in the empty tomb of Jesus. In reading passages in the last two chapters of Mark we can discover 3 signs for when the empty tomb will matter to us.


EXAMINE       Mark 15 – 16             Jesus and The Empty Tomb

The empty tomb matters when we embrace the cross (Mark 15:15-47).

  • Jesus embraced the cross because He knew the glory of the Father and the promise of resurrection (Mark 14:36; 14:62).
  • The whole reason for the coming of Jesus into earth was to live and die as our substitute. His life is the perfect example that we cannot live, His death is the extreme penalty that we deserve. Jesus predicted His sacrificial death numerous times (Mark 8:31; 9:12; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:8; 14:22-25).
    • The cross: “flogged/scourged and crucified” (Mark 15:15)
      • Historians say the Roman’s goal of execution by crucifixion was intimidation to the crowd to not oppose them. So, all of this was done publicly.[2]
      • The flogging/scourging were done by a professional Roman soldier, knowing how to wield a cat-o’-nine tails, which was a whip with tentacle-like straps having heavy scraps of metal, bone and glass attached to the end of the straps. The victim being stripped naked, humiliated and then attached his hands and feet across a wooden beam to expose the victim’s bare back, was whipped numerous times. Each flick of the soldier’s wrist would whistle the end of the whip to dig into the victim’s flesh, and pulled back to rip into flesh repeatedly. The victim’s shoulders, back, buttocks, and legs would be tenderized, as skin, muscle, tendons, even bones were ripped of the body; and perhaps disembowelment. Some persons would die from the scourging alone.
      • After this scourging, there was placed on Jesus’s head a crown of thorns. Long thorns that would pierce into his forehead, ears, brow and even skull.
      • Crucifying Him was nails penetrating and pulsating through wrists at the top and feet on the bottom of recycled wood. A person’s body would hang and bake in the sun. Usually, the person’s feet would be only a couple feet off the ground, as the corpse would remain and become grim pickings for wild beasts and scavenger dogs.
      • For Jesus, while the physical pain was unfathomably intense, that wasn’t most significant in the Gospels. The spiritual separation of Jesus with God the Father from the punishment of human sin being placed on Jesus was the more intense and intimate pain (Mark 15:34). Jesus had never experienced aloneness or abandon from God, until the cross.
      • – – – after the cross, how dare we say there are many ways to salvation & entering heaven?
        “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved” (1Corinthians 1:18)
    • Simon of Cyrene carried the cross (Mark 15:21)
      • Simon
      • Cyrene: Greek colony in North Africa (modern Libya), also certainly an indication of his skin color.
      • Father of Alexander and Rufus. We don’t positively know these people, but Mark’s audience most likely did, as if to say – “go talk to them and they can tell you more about Jesus!” Perhaps Rufus is one whom Paul mentions as part of early Christianity (Rom 16:13).
      • As Jesus said earlier, following Him in discipleship is carrying your cross (Mark 8:34). Simon is the first to do so literally. And, the beauty of diversity is not to be missed in this early disciple.


  • Criminal (Mark 15:27; Luke 23:40-43)
    • One of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus exhibits faith in the righteousness and salvation by grace in Christ. Mark doesn’t mention this, perhaps because his information is from Peter and Peter fled before this moment (cf. Mark 14:27-30).


  • Roman soldier embraced the cross, at least on the surface, saying, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
    • Immediately following the last cry of Jesus and the temple curtain split in two, is the confession of Jesus as God’s Son from a Gentile. This is Mark telling us the significance of embracing the cross is salvation for all nations – God’s Temple is open for all to enter.


  • Joseph of Arimathea dignified the death of Jesus with a gifted proper burial (Mark 15:43).
    • Joseph – wealthy and prominent member of Jewish Sanhedrin, but also networked to Roman government, with connections to Pilate. His wealth is evident in owning tombs that he could afford to be generous in giving to others.
    • Arimathea, a city of the Jews (Luke 23:51).
    • He was looking forward to the kingdom of God. Evidently had become a quiet follower of Jesus (John 20:38).
    • Joseph is mentioned in all 4 Gospels.
      • Yet, in each of Gospels there is no mention of him until after the cross. After Jesus’s crucifixion, Joseph gets “courage” to overcome “fear of the Jews” and step out in faith and step up for Jesus by offering a proper burial place.
      • For Joseph, this donated tomb was not a dungeon of death but a doorway to life; it was not a final resting place but the ultimate reflection of hope; it was a gift that keeps giving thousands of years later. Joseph’s generosity had endless growth.


  • You may not follow Jesus because of
    • Questions of OT creation-science, or evil and suffering, or other biblical doctrines.
    • Hang-ups on biblical values on sexual ethics, marriage, morality, life issues.
    • Doubt or fears how faith would change your circumstances…
    • à Well, don’t start with these questions – start with Jesus, the cross and resurrection. Then once you affirm the gospel, let God begin and slowly shape your life one issue at a time.
      • Read Mark and see…
        • Who was this man who healed sickness, who cured diseases and paralysis, who performed miracles, and who wondered crowds with truth teachings?
        • Who was this man who challenged one of the dominant religious cultures (Judaism) and secular empires (Rome) of the day – and history points to His victory in the movement of Christianity?
        • Who was this man who died on a cross and rose from the dead?
        • If the resurrection of Jesus is true and death and sin are conquered by Jesus, and Jesus is the Christ (promised Messiah), the Son of God, and Savior of the world – then you can begin the journey of trusting Jesus one step at a time.
        • Being a Christian isn’t about human perfection or intelligence, but about God’s grace in what He has done for us.


The cross is God’s constant reminder to you of His great love so you can miss hell and spend eternity in heaven. God’s back is not turned against you because it was already turned against Jesus. In Christ, God is for you to come to Him. Salvation is a gift to every person who will place faith and trust in Jesus.


The cross is God’s constant reminder to you are not alone in the suffering you endure. God knows exactly what you face and regardless if your tension or trials are removed, you can be assured He will sustain you.

The empty tomb matters when we examine the testimony (Mark 16:1-8).

Many people doubt the resurrection happened, but look at the evidence:

  • Women who were named (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) gave testimony. A woman’s testimony mostly invalid in early centuries. Yet, the Gospels promote their witness as evidence regardless of perceived credibility to verify the historicity.
    • Further, Mark shows the women fleeing the tomb astonished and afraid (Mark 16:8), being mostly silent. Therefore, the emphasis and evidence for the growth of Christianity is not so much on the credibility of a person as it is the actual historicity of the events and the power of God.
  • The stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out but so that we can look in (Mark 16:3-5). How could a massive stone sealed to the tomb and guarded by Roman soldiers be removed apart from the resurrection account (Matthew 27:65-66)? If the disciples attacked the soldiers the Romans and stolen body, they would have told that story; but…
  • The tomb is empty and the body of Jesus appeared to hundreds of eyewitnesses (1Cor 15:5-6 – over 500 eyewitnesses), and is missing today. Most grave sites of religious founders are popular to honor the body, but Jesus’s empty tomb isn’t venerated – scholars debate the actual place – because it’s spectacularly unspectacular; it’s an empty cave!
  • Peter (and John). Mark notes a unique or divine messenger announcing peace at the empty tomb, and the news of Jesus being alive. He also commanded the women to tell the disciples AND PETER. The specific mention of Peter is restorative from his previous denial and failure of Jesus. The accounts of Peter being forgiven and restored and not condemned by Jesus is in fact evidence of the resurrection. If Jesus were not raised, Peter would not be a participant or much more a chief preacher among the disciples. Yet, because Jesus is alive and forgave Peter the church was commissioned under his leadership.


  • When we examine the testimony of the resurrection then we are not afraid to be ourselves. Our identity becomes found in Jesus and not self. By grace, Jesus tells us who we are as His children and commissioned to be generous and gracious to others.
    • Simon laying aside why he came from Cyrene to Jerusalem to carrying the cross.
    • Roman Guard laying aside his guilt to confessing Jesus as Son of God.
    • Joseph of Arimathea sacrificing riches and reputation, power and prominence.
    • Women are quiet, humble service
    • à What are you holding on to that hinders you from following Jesus?


When we trust the tomb is empty our minds are filled with truth, our hearts filled with hope, and our lives filled with love.
Faith in the resurrection is not a blind leap but a binocular climb up the mountain of hope or, perhaps better, a deep dive spelunking exploration where undiscovered depths are continuously found.[3] As Corrie Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

The empty tomb matters when we engage the mission of God (Mark 16:7-8).

  • The primary purpose of the incarnation, the atonement, and the gospel wasn’t simply to be a historic event, but to empower God’s people to spread the glory and grace of God to all the nations. The gospel of God creates the mission of God.
  • Disciples are to let their astonishment of the gospel result in announcing the good news to others. Fear is overcome by faith and trust in God.
    • Joseph of Arimathea had courage before the Jews… (Mark 15:43)
    • The women, and Peter, and the other disciples spread the word of Jesus everywhere – among family and friends, houses and hill tops, across neighborhoods and even across nations.
      • Acts 4:19-20 – unschooled, ordinary people… been with Jesus… cannot help but speak what we’ve seen and heard.
      • 1John 1 – what we have seen w/ our eyes & touched w/ our hands we proclaim to you.


  • Tell your story… don’t overcomplicate it; evangelism is a conversation about Christ not a presentation of a product.



Mark’s Gospel ends with the disciples remaining silent. One of the themes in Mark’s Gospel is the “Messianic Secret,” where Jesus commands followers to not speak of His miracles. Mark’s message of discipleship with Jesus is one of perseverance in the whole message of Jesus. The disciples were instructed to go to Galilee, and so they did, encountering the risen Christ and later being filled with His Spirit. In other words, Mark wants you to not set up residence at the empty tomb but continue on in the message and mission of Jesus.


Further, Mark’s Gospel radiates with fear/amazement of Jesus, and so his point is not to admire the disciples but to be in awe of Jesus.


1:22 “They were amazed at His teaching.”

1:27 “They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves.” He had just cast out a demon.

2:12 “He healed the paralytic, and they were all amazed and were glorifying God saying, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this.’”

4:41“He calmed the storm and they became very much afraid and they said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’”

5:15 “They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion and they became frightened.”

5:33 “He healed the woman with the issue of blood, and the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her came and fell down before Him.”

5:42 “Jesus raised the little girl from death and immediately, they were completely astounded.”

6:51 Jesus got in a boat and stopped the storm, walked on the water and they were utterly astounded.

9:6 Peter, James, and John at Transfiguration and “They became terrified.”

9:15 “Immediately when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.”

9:32 “He had just spoken of His death and resurrection, they didn’t understand the statement and they were afraid.”

10:24 “The disciples were amazed at His words.”

10:32 “They were on the road going to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them, and they were amazed and those who followed were fearful.”

11:18 “the chief priests, scribes heard it, began seeking how to destroy Him for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.”

12:17 “Jesus answers, ‘Render to Caesar things that are Caesar’s, to God the things that are God’s,’ and they were amazed at Him.”

15:5 Jesus before Pilate “So Pilate was amazed.”

16:5 “When they entered the tomb they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe, sitting at the right side; they were amazed”

  • What’s your step:
    • Embrace the cross. Today is your day. Be forgiven and free, have a fresh start!
    • Examine the testimony. Keep coming to church; join a bible group; meet with pastor; read bible or other books; etc.
    • Engage the mission. Get baptized and church membership; invest and incarnate Christ with a friend & community; participate in local church mission projects; go on mission trip; etc.






– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The two oldest and most important manuscripts of the Bible, codex Vaticanus (B) and codex Sinaiticus (ℵ), omit 16:9-20, as do several early translations or versions, including the Old Latin, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts. Neither Clement of Alexandria nor Origen shows any awareness of the existence of the longer ending, and Eusebius and Jerome attest that vv. 9-20 were absent from the majority of Greek copies of Mark known to them. An ingenious system of cross-referencing parallel passages in the Gospels that was devised by Ammonius in the second century and adopted by Eusebius in the fourth century (hence the name Eusebian Canons) does not include Mark 16:9-20. The apocryphal Gospel of Peter does not contain the longer ending, and concludes, as does Mark 16:8, with the fear of the women. Although a majority of ancient witnesses, including Greek uncial and minuscule manuscripts, church fathers, and versions in other languages do include vv. 9-20, this does not compensate for the textual evidence against them. The inclusion of vv. 9-20 in many manuscripts is accounted for rather by the fact that the longer ending, which must have been added quite early, was naturally included in subsequent copies of the Gospel. Many of the ancient manuscripts that do contain the longer ending, however, indicate by scribal notes or various markings that the ending is regarded as a spurious addition to the Gospel. External evidence (manuscript witnesses) thus argues strongly against the originality of the longer ending.
Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Gospel According to Mark


The evidence is clear. This ending is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark. In A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce Metzger writes: “Clement of Alexandria and Origen [early third century] show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.”1 The language and style of the Greek is clearly not Markan, and it is pretty evident that what the forger did was take sections of the endings of Matthew, Luke and John and simply create a “proper” ending.


Yet, the cumulative evidence that documents the genuineness of verses 9-20, from Greek manuscripts, patristic citations, and ancient versions, has some significance; whether that is persuasive or not is debatable.

[2] Info from John Stott’s The Cross of Christ; Mark Driscoll’s Death By Love, and Sam Storm article:


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