“When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he told them, ‘You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.”‘” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I’ve talked before about my love of magic. I love seeing the fruit of many years’ worth of hard work and dedication that talented magicians have put in to honing their ability to completely wow me by making something appear where it has no business being or knowing something there’s no way they could have known. One of my favorite categories of magic acts is where the magician looks like he has lost control of the trick. He “messes something up” and it appears you have caught him in the act of deception, only to find out he was perfectly in control of the situation the entire time and you only saw what you were intended to see. The truth is things were always unfolding just exactly like he planned for them to go. On the morning of the resurrection, it looked at first like things were flying out of control. The truth, though, was they were unfolding just exactly like God had planned for them to go. Let’s talk about it.
Nothing on that fateful morning went the way anyone was expecting it to go. The stone wasn’t where it should have been. There was an angel inside the tomb (Luke tells us there were two angels, which is probably more accurate, but Mark’s reporting on the appearance of only one doesn’t preclude a second, so this is no contradiction). The angel wasn’t there for any kind of judgment as angels tended to be. And, most surprisingly of all, Jesus’ body wasn’t there. Because we are so used to the idea of the resurrection, it is difficult to overemphasize just how shocking this all would have been for the these women showing up early to finish the embalming process on His body. It would have been shocking for anyone. And indeed, as the other Gospel writers fill us in on a few more details of what happened after the women discovered the empty tomb, neither Peter, nor John, nor any of the other disciples believed them. Those first two ran to see for themselves.
Yet Jesus’ body wasn’t there. He was risen.
Now, there is much that could be said about the resurrection. But for now, let’s focus in on what Mark highlights right here in the angel’s greeting to the women. The angel said three things to them when they entered the tomb and discovered its presence there.
First, it told them to not be alarmed. This was because everyone who saw an angel in the Scriptures was terrified. And indeed, if you or I saw a being that wasn’t human but looked powerful, we’d be alarmed too. Actually, we’d probably go sailing right on past alarmed to scared out of our minds. Just about every angel God sent to tell anyone anything in the Scriptures started its message with, “Don’t be afraid.” Because we were always afraid. It probably got to the point that it was a joke among them. They probably swap stories about which human looked the most terrified at seeing them.
The second thing the angel said was to announce Jesus’ resurrection. “He is risen. He is not here.” And I love the last part of this: “See the place where they laid Him.” It’s like that is supposed to somehow serve as evidence of the resurrection; like the angel simply took the resurrection as a matter of course, but had been told we might be skeptical of the idea, and so that was the best defense it came up with. Jesus is risen. See, He’s not here anymore. Obviously it didn’t take into account the deeper skepticism of everyone who heard the news who naturally figured someone had stolen the body.
The third thing the angel said was the most interesting. The women were to go tell the disciples – and especially Peter – they were to go to Galilee where Jesus would meet them just as He had told them. There are several things to see here. The first is the restoration of Peter. The special word for Peter was no doubt given with his denial in mind. Jesus wanted Peter to know He wasn’t going to be left out of the group. He was still part of Jesus’ plans.
Second, the angel told them to go to Galilee where Jesus would meet them. Now, it didn’t say anything about His meeting them sooner than that, but it is interesting to me they didn’t pack up and go to Galilee right away. They stayed in Jerusalem. I think the biggest reason for this is they were so blown away by the revelation of the resurrection they didn’t know what to do. They certainly didn’t do any of the things the women passed along to them from the angel. They were shocked into inaction. It would take Jesus’ appearing to them all more than once before they finally got their hearts and minds wrapped around the reality of what was happening. Until then, they simply continued to hide and talk about what to do now that Jesus’ body was gone. They were no doubt talking about how to get out of the city safely now that the chief priests and Roman authorities would be searching for them to explain Jesus’ missing body.
The third thing the angel mentioned and which we must not miss is this whole thing was unfolding just exactly like Jesus had told them it would. None of this should have been a surprise to them. Jesus had told them again and again things were going to unfold this way. He told them He would be betrayed. He told them He would be arrested. He told them there would be a trial. He told them He would be crucified. He told them He would rise from the dead on the third day. The only difference between this and one of those tricks where the magician seems to let things slide out of control is Jesus wasn’t trying to trick them. He didn’t do any magic. He really rose from the dead. God’s plans were unfolding just exactly like He designed them to go from the beginning. Jesus rose and life is available to everyone. The ball is now in your court to decide what to do with it.
One last note. Tomorrow will, at long last, be our final stop in Mark’s Gospel. Thank you so much for going on this journey with me. For the next few weeks we are going to hop around a bit, and then we will dive deep into another book and see what we can learn from the Spirit as we go. I’ll announce that as we get closer to getting started. In the meantime, enjoy a bit more variety than we’ve had for a while. Thanks for reading and sharing. You are why I keep doing this every day.