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Did the Disciples Expect Jesus to Rise from the Dead?
"And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them . . ." - Mark 16:1-8, ESV
If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that dead men don't come back to life again. Of, sure, some people have had "near-death" experiences, when their hearts have stopped beating for a few minutes and then they've "come back" from the dead, but if someone has truly died and been buried, that's it. It's over. Right?
Sometimes, Jesus' disciples are accused of being naive, simplistic, backward and gullible. Some modern skeptics can look at people in the Bible and dismiss them as dupes, easily taken in and suspicious because of their readiness to believe in the supernatural.
But the truth is that the average person in Bible times has far more experience dealing with death than we do today. They knew what happened when someone died and was buried. At Lazarus' tomb in John 11, the family of Lazarus were reluctant to open the tomb, because Lazarus had been dead for four days in a warm environment and they knew that his body would be stinking.
And so, in today's passage, we find Jesus' three of Jesus closest female followers going to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea to anoint the body of Jesus with burial spices, to honor and more thoroughly and properly prepare His body. The last thing they were expecting to find was an empty tomb. Men who die brutal, public death at the hands of professional Roman executioners don't come back to life and leave the tomb after three days. That's the last thing anyone expected.
Jesus had told His disciples, on three different occasions, that this was going to happen. Thew Jewish leaders knew Jesus had said this, which is why they requested a Roman guard detail for the tomb. They wanted to prevent the disciples from stealing the body. But the disciples had no plans to steal the body. They were in deep shock and grief, and these faithful women just wanted to honor their Master.
The empty tomb and the presence of these women with spices, ready to anoint the body of Jesus, are two key pieces of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Everyone knew that Jesus had been buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. He was a prominent man, with a new and expensive tomb. The tomb was now empty. No one ever found the body, though both the Jewish and Roman authorities would have loved to have found it. These women, coming early in the morning with spices, demonstrated that the disciples did not have the body.
The resurrection was so far from the minds of these women that, even after the angel spoke to them, they fled from the tomb, seized by trembling and astonishment. Their whole view of reality, their whole sense of the world, was turned on its head. Only one thing has such power: resurrection!
Have we allowed our souls to be gripped with trembling at the astonishing reality of the resurrection? Or are we too skeptical, half-hearted or complacent to realize the world-changing reality of this death-shattering victory? Jesus has conquered the grave, and death itself has been overthrown!
[NOTE: This is our last reading in Mark? Why? See this sermon from John MacArthur for a good explanation.]
Prayer Based on Psalm 98:
Heavenly Father, our Lord and God, You are worthy of all praise and honor, of our best songs and highest acclaim, for You have indeed done marvelous things! Your right hand and Your holy arm - You beloved Son, Jesus Christ - has worked salvation. He has accomplished all of Your purposes to redeem and reconcile Your people, and You have revealed this salvation to all the ends of the earth in Your Gospel!
In Jesus, You have kept all of Your gracious covenant promises to Your people, Israel. You have reached down and redeemed and kept every promise in doing so! Just as You told Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him and his seed, so You have blessed the nations through the seed of Abraham, Jesus.
Let the whole earth give You the praise and glory that You are due for Your salvation, O God! We long for and look forward to the glorious day when You will reign openly and powerfully over all things. We rejoice in our great salvation, and we eagerly await the day when our salvation and Your kingdom victory will be final, complete, world-wide and fully consummated! And so we pray, come quickly, Lord Jesus, Amen!