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The great announcement (Mark 15:42-16:8)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au
Great announcements

Today I want to look with you at what is arguably perhaps the greatest announcement that has ever been made in this world. It is found at the end of the reading that was read for us just a little earlier (from Mark’s gospel) and like all great announcements its significance cannot be underestimated or ignored without consequences.

  • VE Day

Often announcements that have great significance for the people of this world are made by leaders from places that speak of authority and power. In the UK that is often number 10 Downing Street. When in 1945 Winston Churchill announced the end of the war in Europe it was done as a live BBC broadcast to the nation from number 10 Downing Street. According to the UK government this has been locale of British Prime Ministers since 1735 and they say “that it vies with the White House as being the most important political building anywhere in the world in the modern era”[1].

  • The Cuban missile crisis

In the USA often announcements of national significance are made by the president from the Whitehouse and from the oval office in the Whitehouse. For instance, in 1962 (the year that I was born) President Kennedy addressed the nation about the Cuban missile crisis. He told of the plans of the Soviet Union to put nuclear missiles in Cuba aimed at the US and he announced the US blockade on all ships going to Cuba. The whole world waited to see whether this would bring on another world war.

  • He is risen!

Often announcements of greats significance are made from places associated with strength and power. But in the case of the greatest announcement ever made it was spoken from a place that represented our frailty and vulnerability. The greatest announcement ever made was spoken from an empty tomb, a tomb which only two days before had been for many a scene of hopelessness and despair. But just two days later all this had changed for the tomb was empty and from it, God would make the announcement that “He is risen!” He is not here.” This morning we want to look at this announcement that ends the gospel of Mark and understand its importance for us and our world.

The burial of Jesus

Two days earlier when Jesus had been buried in that tomb for many if not for all those who looked on things appeared to be hopeless. Many had expected Jesus to be sitting on a throne in Jerusalem not laid out on a shelf in a tomb. For his followers it had looked like all their hopes for the coming kingdom of God had been laid to rest with Jesus in that tomb.

  • It was the day of preparation.

The burial of Jesus took place in the last hours of Preparation day which was the same day that Jesus had been crucified and had died on the cross. In Mark’s gospel we are told that it was Preparation Day (the day before the Sabbath) and as evening was approaching that Joseph of Arimathea who was a prominent member of the Council went boldly to Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus.

While it was normal for the Romans to leave the bodies of convicted criminals hanging on crosses until they rotted as a warning to others, the Jews believed in giving the dead a proper burial and they especially didn’t want bodies hanging on crosses on the Sabbath (John 19:31). Therefore, it wasn’t unusual for families to request the bodies for burial and for the Roman governors wanting to avoid problems with the locals to acquiesce to such a request. But what was unusual in this case was it wasn’t a member of Jesus’ family who requested for Jesus to be taken down and buried and nor was it even one of his closest disciples, but a prominent member of the Jewish Council, Joseph of Arimathea.

  • Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus.

As it turns out Joseph was not just a member of the Sanhedrin, but he was also a disciple of Jesus be it a secret one up until this point because of his fear of the Jews (see Matt. 27:57; John 19:38). Mark tells us that Joseph had been waiting for the kingdom of God and that he went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. When it really mattered Joseph found the courage to do what none of the other disciples of Jesus had done which was to openly identify himself with the one who had been crucified that day. This is what all disciples need to do – to not be ashamed to identify with the one who died for us.

  • Joseph went to Pilate so he could bury Jesus.

Joseph must have gone to Pilate not long after Jesus had breathed his last at three o’clock in the afternoon. Being the day before the Sabbath meant that he only had until sunset that day to make all the arrangements and bury Jesus. He wouldn’t have had much time to get everything done. For the Jews, a new day started, not at midnight like it does for us, but at sunset. Seeing the next day was the Sabbath and you couldn’t work on the Sabbath the burial had to be complete before the sun went down that day. We know from the gospel of John that Joseph had help but again not from whom you might expected. He enlisted the help of another member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus who had come by night to visit Jesus. In John’s gospel, we are told that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes about 34 kilograms to help bury Jesus.

  • Pilate verified that Jesus was dead.

When Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Jesus the one thing that Pilate wanted to do was to make sure that Jesus was dead and so the centurion who had heard Jesus cry out and had seen him draw his last breath comes into the story again.

Mark 15:44-45

44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.[2]

That Jesus had died that day was verified by Pilate. The fact that this was confirmed and verified by Pilate is important for the story and the later announcement that was made from the empty tomb.

The announcement was not about a man who had recovered his strength or had somehow been revived or been resuscitated after being unconscious or in a death-like swoon. It was about the resurrection of a man who said that he was the Son of God and had told is disciples that he would rise from the dead on the third day. It was only after Pilate had the verification that Jesus had died from the centurion who had been standing there watching everything that he gave permission for the body to be released for burial.

  • Joseph buried Jesus.

That Jesus was dead is also confirmed by the fact that he was buried and laid to rest. Paul lists this as one of the things of first importance that those who are saved must believe and continue to hold on to. In chapter 15 of his letter to the Corinthians he wrote:

1 Cor. 15:3-5

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, i and then to the Twelve. 6[3]

The burial of Jesus was evidence that Jesus had truly died. We are told that Joseph had bought some linen cloth and after using it to take the body down wrapped the corpse in it and placed it in a tomb that had been cut out of rock.

At this time, the practice in Jerusalem was to bury the dead in tombs that had been cut into the limestone hills around Palestine. The bodies would be perfumed with spices not to preserve them, but to counter the odour of decay. In fact, what I read suggested that the bodies would be laid out on niches or shelves that had been cut into the walls with the intent that after the flesh had decomposed the bones would be gathered and placed in another part of the vault leaving room on the shelves for the whole thing to be repeated. Joseph buried Jesus and when it was done, he rolled the stone against the entrance of the tomb.

  • The women saw where they had laid Jesus

Mark tells us in verse 47 of chapter 15 that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the Lord Jesus had been laid to rest. The fact that these women had seen where Jesus had been laid was important for what would happen once the Sabbath was over. The women left that day with the intention of coming back after the Sabbath to anoint Jesus body with perfumes and spices.

The empty tomb

Mark goes on to tell us that it was early, just after sunrise on the first day of the week, the Sunday, that the woman returned to the tomb.

  • On the way to the tomb

On the way they were asking one another how they would roll the stone away from the entrance perhaps hoping that someone might be there early to help them.

It was relatively easy to roll a stone to shut a tomb, but it was another thing to open it up again. The stone sat in a groove at the entrance, and the groove was cut into the rock in a way to make it easy to shut but hard to open again. But when they got to the tomb, the women found that they hadn’t needed to worry about this because the stone had already been rolled away. Much to their surprise and alarm, instead of finding the body of Jesus in the tomb where Joseph had left it, they found a young man dressed in white sitting on the right side of the tomb with a message or announcement for them.

  • The young man at the tomb was an angel.

The fact that the young man was dressed in white and caused the women so much alarm was because he was an angel, a messenger of God. The gospel of Matthew makes this clear (Matt. 28:2,5). The alarm of the women at the sight of the angel is not unusual for those who encounter angels, but after reassuring them that they had no need to be frightened the angel got on with what he was there to do which was to deliver what I believe is the greatest announcement ever made – one that we are remembering today.

The angel’s announcement

The women were not left to make sense of the empty tomb themselves. God made sure that they understood what happened and why the tomb was empty. The angel explained that the tomb was empty because Jesus had risen.

Mark 16:6-7

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

  • This is Mark’s ending to his gospel.

This is Mark’s ending to his gospel. There are a lot of commentators that argue that there is a bit missing to the gospel and there have been various attempts to supply one. But I think this announcement of the resurrection is what Mark really wanted to end on. Without the resurrection of Jesus, the story of Jesus would not have become the good news that it is. And Mark makes it clear that it is good news that we are meant to share. The earliest manuscripts end at verse 8 with the women commissioned to tell the disciples that Jesus has risen. This is where the gospel ends with the commissioning of the women to tell others.

  • Tell others others the good news.

The women were afraid and while Mark leaves us a little unsure of what they will do, Mark has made it clear that what they are meant to do is to tell others the good news of the risen Jesus! The way that the gospel ends seem to suggest that this what those who follow Jesus are to do. It is what we are to do. We are to tell others that the one who was crucified for our sins and was buried has risen.

This is good news that the disciples of Jesus are to be sharing with others. When Paul reminds the Corinthians of the gospel that he had preached and that they had believed what he said was at the heart of the message that had been passed on was:

1 Cor. 15:3-5

“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead on third day changed everything for the disciples. It meant that God had vindicated His Son. Jesus was who he said he was, the Son of God who has come to reign and rule our world. It also meant and that he had had paid for their sins and that his resurrection would only be the first of many. The kingdom of God that Joseph of Arimathea had been waiting for had burst into our world in that tomb when Jesus rose from that grave.

  • Death has been defeated.

The angel’s announcement that day truly was the greatest announcement ever made. At last death had been defeated. The sons and daughters of Adam no longer needed to fear death for Christ had risen and because he did so will those who belong to him. The apostle Paul explained to the Corinthians that Jesus is just “the firstfruits” of a greater harvest (1 Cor. 15:20). He wrote that “in Christ all will be made alive”. He wrote, “Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes those who belong to him.”  (15:23). The reign of death was broken that day and it no longer needs to be end of our story.

Mark started the story of Jesus with the words “the beginning of the gospel (the good news) about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. He ends the story with this great announcement from the place where all our sad brief stories end in this world ultimate in a graveyard. But the announcement is made here because here has been the scene of the greatest victory that this world has ever witnessed. Christ has risen. Death has been conquered.

Death came into this world because of our sin but on the cross Jesus paid for all our sin and he rose to life victorious over death so that all those who would believe in him might not perish but have eternal life. As the writer of Hebrews puts it by his death, he destroyed him who holds the power of death and he “freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death (see Heb. 2:14-15).

  • Changes everything

Friends, the words, “he is risen” changes everything. It’s a call to no longer live under shadow of death but to believe the good news and live under rule of the Son of God. “He is risen!” These words have been changing lives since that first easter.

If you are hearing these words for the first time or if they are only just starting to register for you then they should cause you to reassess everything that you thought you knew about life. What many of us try to do is we try to hold on to our lives for ourselves but if we do this we remain under the tyranny of sin and death. We are not free agents we only think we are. True freedom is not found in saving your life for yourself, but in handing it over to Jesus and following him. The Lord told those who would follow him.

Mark 8:35…

“whoever want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

You don’t have life by holding on to it for yourself. You only find life by handing yours over to the one who is life. As Jesus told Martha just before he raised her brother Lazarus….

John 11:25-26

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believe is me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

Jesus then went on to ask Martha “Do you believe this?”

If you believe this then surrender your life today to the who died for your sins and rose to life on the third day. The reality is that you lose nothing that Death wasn’t going to take from you and instead you gain the life that sin had robbed you of, a life that is worth living and a life that doesn’t at the grave.

Today we come together to celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from death on the third day. We come together to remind ourselves of what we believe that he is the resurrection and the life. Without the resurrection the story of Jesus wouldn’t be the good news that it is. Without the resurrection our faith would mean nothing. Without the resurrection, there would be nothing to tell others about.

But Jesus did rise on the third day and this has changed everything and turned our world and our lives upside down. “He is risen! He is not here” are the words that announced the dawning of a new day that is ours to share in. Death has been defeated. This is what we are celebrating today.

“He is risen!”

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/history/10-downing-street#:~:text=10%20Downing%20Street%2C%20the%20locale,for%20the%20last%20275%20years.

[2] The New International Version. (2011). (Mk 15:44–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] The New International Version. (2011). (1 Co 15:3–6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.