Resurrecting Me: Empty Tomb (Mark 16)


Why does it matter?

People ask this question for topics to test the level of importance. They often know it has some relevance, but they are uncertain if it should become a priority.

  • Does it matter if you drink Folgers vs other name brand coffee?
  • Why does it matter if you change the oil in your car?
  • Why does it matter if you replace spray yard for mosquitoes?
  • Why does it matter if you file your taxes after April 15?
  • Why does it matter if you shop local vs big box stores?
  • Why does it matter which university you attend?
  • Why does it matter if you get reg health physicals after age 50?
  • Why does it matter if I cohabitate but don’t get married?
  • Why does it matter if the US labels Russian war as genocide?
  • Why does it matter if I attend church online vs in person?
  • Why does it matter that Jesus died and rose again?

Today, I assume you are hearing this message bc there is some level of interest in Jesus and the resurrection. Thank you for being present/online. If you are new, we are extremely grateful you are here and know we are not asking anything from you but for you… we want you to know #1 genuine connection with God #2 apply faith connection to community. Church is not optional.

  • I’m a fan of the O’s… but not a follower. Rare go to stadium, don’t have cable channels to watch… Are you a fan vs follower of Jesus?
  • Imagine marriage but never speak or live together. That marriage will only last so long. If you have a genuine faith relationship with Jesus, then you cannot be infrequent or flippant towards His bride – the church.

EXAMINE     Mark 16:1-8

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, 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. And they 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, 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. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The empty tomb matters when we embrace the cross.

Mark notes the Sabbath having past: in other words, silent Saturday. Jesus was crucified on Friday. His beaten, bloody, and dead body was wrapped in linen cloths and buried in a tomb. Pilate had the Roman soldiers roll a stone against the entrance, and according to the other Gospel accounts (Mt 27:65) a band of soldiers secured the tomb. It was most likely 4 squads of 4 soldiers rotating every 3 hours (cf. Ac 12:4).

The Sabbath/Saturday follows, and we note the disciples have fled.

  • Mark 14:50-52 After the betrayal and arrest of Jesus… “[The disciples] all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” This is most likely the Gospel writer Mark with an anonymous byline in the narrative. It’s also likely the Soldiers were going to arrest all the disciples but all fled, except this one was a little slow and almost got caught. And this young man thought, “I’d rather lose my reputation by running naked than lose my life.”
    • Think about that – all the disciples fled (even naked) bc they didn’t want to die. But after resurrection, they’re unafraid to die in embarrassing and excruciating ways.

Think about that – all the disciples fled (even naked) because they didn’t want to die. But after resurrection, they’re unafraid to die in embarrassing and excruciating ways. Jesus can change anyone!

Multiple times in the Gospels, we see Jesus exhorting the disciples to embrace the cross

  • 8:31-38 “Jesus taught them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected and killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly but Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man. And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of them when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Cf also 9:12; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:8; 14:22-25.

What hinders you from embracing the cross? Mark’s Gospel also has others embracing the cross…

  • While the male disciples have fled in fear, the women are busy preparing for burial (Mk 15:40-41; 16:1). At sundown, the Sabbath would have been over, and the women could have purchased perfumes and gathered spices to anoint the body of Jesus. Undoubtedly, their grief kept them awake and busy. They sought to relive their restlessness with motion and meaningful work – paying respects and proper burial.
  •  Grief is never relieved, but it can be reassured with meaningful life purpose as these women of the cross: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James & Joses, and Salome.
  • Simon of Cyrene carried the cross (Mark 15:21)

Simon of Cyrene: a Greek colony in North Africa (modern Libya), also certainly an indication of his skin color. He was also likely the 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).

  • God could have picked anyone to assist Jesus, but He sovereignly selected Simon. There comes a divine moment when we must move from an infrequent fan of Jesus to a faithful follower. Now is your time to pick up the cross! Some next steps a) go public by speaking with someone, b) read Bible (Mark or Gospel), c) return next week.

There comes a divine moment when we must move from an infrequent fan of Jesus to a faithful follower.

  • 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).
  • There is no wrong too wicked or life too sinful that Jesus cannot begin to change and forgive. The same gospel grace that changed the criminal’s destiny from hell to heaven is available to anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.
    *Rom 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  • Roman soldier acknowledged the cross of Jesus by saying, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
  • Likewise, you may be someone who had preconceptions about church or bias against Jesus. Yet, like this soldier, acknowledge opportunity to change your mind. If you are still in the process of becoming a Christian – an open heart means an open Bible. It’s ok to have questions but if you never search answers to your questions, you’re not being honest. And if you’re just procrastinating, when will it be time when you know that we are not promised tomorrow.
  • Joseph of Arimathea dignified the death of Jesus with a gifted proper burial (Mark 15:43). Joseph was a 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. John 20:38 notes Joseph was looking forward to the kingdom of God. Evidently, he had become a quiet follower of Jesus. 
  • Your wealth may keep you comfortable and lacking the courage to step into public as a Christian. Like Joseph, God used the death of someone to awaken him to faith and that treasure in heaven starts with generosity on earth. Don’t wait to invest your faith and finances into God’s kingdom.  

Your wealth may keep you comfortable and lacking the courage to step into public as a Christian. Like Joseph of Arimathea, God used the death of someone to awaken him to faith and that treasure in heaven starts with generosity on earth.

The empty tomb matters when we examine the evidence.

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

  1. Women who were named (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) gave testimony. A woman’s testimony was 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.
  2. 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?
    – Disciples overtook the Roman soldiers? Fisherman vs Military…
    – Soldiers slept and disciples secretly stole body? Heavy stone…
    – Pilate’s plot against the Jews? Acts 12 Rome no friend to Christianity
    – Disciples went to wrong tomb that was empty? No body produced!
    – Jesus didn’t die but was merely resuscitated? But Jn20:34 professional executioners verified his death.
  3. Ultimately, the tomb was empty… well, almost!
    • While the tomb wasn’t exactly empty, the rolled grave clothes were (Lk 24:12; Jn 20:7). If robbers had removed the body, they would have given little care to folding/rolling grave cloths.[1]
    • Additionally, the tomb contained angels announcing, “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. Go and tell the disciples that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mk16:7)
  • If you have not examined the testimony of the empty tomb but you disbelieve, again – you’re not being honest with yourself, the evidence, or Jesus. We invite you to listen to a series of teachings on “Why Believe In Christianity?”[2]
  • Some have examined the testimony, but still living out faith as casual good advice rather than convictional transformation. Lots of religions give good advice: Secular humanism like Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, other religions like Mormonism, Judaism, even Islam. But Jesus was more than a moral teacher – He claimed Deity and Lordship. So, if Jesus is resurrected Lord, then Christianity cannot be moderately important but maximum priority for our life. We must give an account of our time, talent, and treasure (Mt 25:14-29). If we are lackadaisical then we will reap judgment.

The empty tomb matters when we engage the mission of God.

Mark’s Gospel ends with the women disciples being silent and fearful. However, we know that would only be temporary, otherwise we would not have the accounts of the other Gospel’s, the other 27 NT books, or much less ourselves be present worshiping the resurrected Lord Jesus over 2K years later! Their initial fears were overcome with faith to speak and spread the good news.

Mark’s Gospel ends strangely.

  • Most of your Bibles have a bracket note about Mark 16:9-20 being not included in earliest manuscripts. Codex Vaticanus & Codex Sinaiticus, as well as dozens and hundreds of other early versions and manuscripts. Neither later 2nd Century theologians Clement of Alexandria nor Origen reflect awareness of this longer ending of Mark. Later 3rd Century theologians Eusebius and Jerome attest that vv.9-20 were absent from the majority of Greek copies known to them. Also, the apocryphal Gospel of Peter does not contain the longer ending. Admittedly, this longer ending passage is included in some manuscripts but appears as a spurious addition.[3] Most of the external evidence is against its inclusion, and also internal evidence of a) language different than earlier writing in the Gospel, and b) the content not fully consistent with the character of Jesus:
    1. Jesus harshly rebuking disciples (v.14);
    2. Baptismal regeneration (v.16);
    3. Obligatory supernatural signs added to the gospel, such as demon exorcism, tongues, serpents and drinking deadly poison (v.17-18, 20).
    Further, not as well known, there is also a shorter ending in some manuscripts that reflect the women announcing the news to Peter, with the good news spreading from “east to west.”[4]

The aim of Mark’s original ending seems to be two-fold:

  • Faithful discipleship is not just head awareness but heart application. The women’s discipleship was measured by their faithfulness to fellowship with the other disciples and to tell the good news. If we remain isolated and alone, we succumb to fear. We overcome fear by growing in our faith with others – the gospel must not stop with us but grow godly generations!
  • Literarily, there is an invitation for the reader to evaluate their part in hearing and sharing the gospel. 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”

Fear/awe in Mark’s Gospel


What’s your step:

  • Embrace the cross: forgiveness, fresh start, new beginning!
  • Examine the evidence. 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.

[1] There is no evidence of a Jewish tradition for folding a napkin symbolizing a return to the table. Internet stories can be entertaining but they are not always accurate. There’s enough evidence in the teachings of Jesus that He will return that we need not invent traditions.


[3] See R.T. France NIGTC: Mark; James Edwards PNTC: Mark; also; Is Mark 16:9-20 Inspired? – Apologetics PressIs Mark 16:9-20 Inspired? – Apologetics Press

[4] See Bruce Metzger, TCGNT, 122-126.

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