************ Sermon on Mark 16:8 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on March 27, 2005

Mark 16
Mark 16:8
"A Strange Silence"

Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome had come early to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus. These devoted women had ministered to Him in life and they would do no less in death.

They were among only a handful who had remained with Him through His ordeal on the cross (Mk 15:40). They watched as Joseph and Nicodemus had taken His body, wrapped it with spices in linen, placed it in the tomb, and rolled a stone against the entrance (15:46,47). Observance of the Sabbath had interrupted the embalming process begun by the men. So now the women were coming for the purpose of finishing more carefully and lovingly the rites that had to be so hastily performed on Friday evening.

As they made their way to the burial place they became preoccupied with the obstacle that stood between them and Jesus a stone. As a result, they began to inquire among themselves, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" (vs 3).

The women themselves? No way. In the first place, the stone was very large (vs 4). [Joseph, who was a rich man, probably had servants help him and Nicodemus roll it into place.] In the second place, the stone was likely fitted into a groove cut into the rock, and then rolled down a slope to the entrance of the tomb. The women knew that they themselves would not be able to move the stone.

What about the disciples? Surely they could depend upon these hand-picked brothers. Sorry! The brothers had long since gone into hiding. They all "deserted him and fled" the Gospel of Mark reports (14:50). Nope, the women couldn't expect the disciples to be of any help.

Maybe the soldiers guarding the tomb would feel sorry for them and lend a hand. Forget it! They had been hired by the chief priests to make sure the tomb was secure that no one got to Jesus.

Pilate? Maybe he would be sympathetic to their plight. He certainly had the authority to provide the help that was needed. Don't waste your time, ladies! Pilate was nothing but a coward, afraid to do what he knew was right because he feared what the people would do or say.

How about Joseph and Nicodemus? Surely they would be there. They had the courage to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus' body and then prepare it for a hasty burial. Sorry! They are not to be found. Well, it is rather early in the morning. And, they had already done their duty for the cause. Whatever the reason, they were not there to help.

In view of these circumstances there was only one logical thing for the women to do to go back home, saying, "We tried!" But they didn't do this. They wouldn't do this. No way! You see, they loved Jesus. And love, says Paul, refuses to give up:
(1 Cor 13:7-8) Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

So instead of accepting defeat, these women continued on. They continued on in faith, believing that some how, in some way, the stone would be rolled away from the entrance of the tomb.

I A Strange Silence
A When the women arrived at the tomb they looked up and noticed that the stone had been rolled away. Inside the tomb they saw a young man dressed in a white robe. They quickly realized he must be an angel, a messenger from God. The angel told them that Jesus Who was crucified had risen. He told them to look at the empty place where they laid Him. And then he said,
(Mark 16:7) 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.'"

What great, wonderful, exciting, amazing, and awesome news Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed.

B So what happened next? What was the response to the angel's amazing message? Our text tells us:
(Mark 16:8) Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
These women have good news, the best news, and they keep quiet about it. They are told to tell Peter and the other disciples, but they are too scared to say anything.

The Gospel of Mark ends here with verse 8. It ends with a strange silence Jesus has risen from the dead and no one says a thing about it. Don't you think this is strange? Throughout the Gospel of Mark, people don't keep quiet and can't keep quiet when Jesus asked them not to spread the news of what He had said and done. Here, when they are commanded to spread the word, they keep quiet (cf Mk 1:34; 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; 9:9). Don't you think this is strange?
When Isaac Newton sat under the famed apple tree and discovered gravity, can you imagine him not telling anyone about his discovery?
When Thomas Edison discovered electricity what would have happened, do you think, if he told no one about his findings?
Can you imagine Alexander Graham Bell keeping quiet about the telephone?
What if the Wright brothers kept silent about the airplane?
What if Dr. Christian Bernard kept still about the first successful heart transplant?
What if Bill Gates and Microsoft kept DOS and WINDOWS all to themselves or Intel refused to let the world know about the computer chip?
Stranger then imagining all of these, is the silence of those women on Easter morning even though they were commanded to tell Peter and the other disciples!

[Some scribe did not like this ending and added verses 9-20. He thought that Mark, like Matthew and Luke, should end with resurrection appearances of Christ and the believing response of His disciples. That's why your pew Bible says "The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20."]

What is the message here? Why does Mark end his gospel on such a strange and negative note? Why doesn't Mark report that the women carry out their assignment, as they do in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke?

C Over and over again in the Gospel of Mark we are told about astonishment and fear as the common reaction to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mk 1:1). For instance, when Jesus healed the paralyzed man lowered through the roof, everyone was amazed (Mk 2:12). When Jesus calmed the storm the disciples were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (Mk 4:40-41). Fear and amazement was again the response when Jesus healed demon-possessed men (Mk 1:27;5:15,20). The woman who touched the hem of His garment and was healed, trembled with fear before Him (Mk 5:33). When Jesus raised from the dead the daughter of the synagogue ruler, all who were with Him were "completely astonished" (Mk 5:42). When the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the waves they were terrified (Mk 6:49-51). The healing of a deaf, mute man overwhelmed people with amazement (Mk 7:37). And, on at least five different occasions, people were amazed at His teaching (Mk 1:22; 6:2; 10:24; 11:18; 12:17). Wherever He went, whatever He did, Jesus provoked amazement, astonishment, fear, and terror.

Our Lord's resurrection provoked the same response. The message of the empty tomb and the angel visitor was simply soul-shaking. It was awesome, totally awesome. It was earth-shattering news. So the women's response was trembling, bewilderment, and fear. The resurrection was just too great, too awesome, for these poor women. It was beyond human comprehension. It was so wonderfully great that it was beyond the ability of mere mortals to accept and believe.

D I talked earlier of the stone that blocked the tomb. It seems that this is not the only stone that kept the women from the Lord. The women, with the disciples, were kept from the Lord by a stone called fear.

Today there are different kinds of stones that stand between people and the resurrected Lord.

There are STONES OF IGNORANCE. So many people just don't know Christ.
Dorinne Henken has a delightful story about a teenaged graffiti artist who was ordered to do some community service. He was sent to the Love INC thrift shop and Dorinne asked him to paint three crosses on the windows. Underneath, he had to write the words, "Behold the Lamb of God ..."
In talking with him Dorinne found out the young man didn't have a clue about the Gospel, the three crosses, or the "Lamb of God." He had no awareness of sin. He had no knowledge of salvation.
And, this is a young man from our community. He has been surrounded by churches. Yet, he never once heard the Gospel message.
Hosea warned that "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge ..." (Hos 4:6). That certainly is the case with this young man. The Apostle Paul writes, "How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Unless we preach and witness and evangelize, how can anyone, by grace, come to know the resurrected Lord? Unless we preach and witness and evangelize, we are responsible for those stones of ignorance.

Another kind of stone that stands between people and the resurrected Lord are STONES OF INDIFFERENCE. Many people want nothing to do with Jesus because of Christians' indifference to their material needs:
(1 Jn 3:17-18) If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (18) Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Whenever God's people are indifferent to the needs of the poor and hungry, whenever God's people show no love to those who are homeless, whenever God's people have no pity for prisoners or those who are sick and dying, whenever God's people forget about those in nursing homes, they are erecting stones of indifference. These stones of indifference keep people from seeing the Lord.

STONES OF INFIDELITY have a way of hiding God from others and blocks our own communion with the Lord. Whenever we sin, whenever we fall into temptation, whenever we live and act and sound exactly like the men and women of the world, we block access to the risen Lord.

STONES OF DIVISION, of fighting and quarrels, of arguments and disagreement, also turn people off and keep them from the resurrected Lord. For instance, no one least of all God is uplifted by the divisions going on in at least 4 churches in Visalia today. All sides can and probably do talk of sweet communion with God, but the fact is there can't be communion where there is fighting.

II An Encounter with Christ
A There are so many stones that stand between people and the resurrected Lord: stones of fear, stones of ignorance, stones of indifference, stones of infidelity, stones of division. Who will roll these stones away?

The fact is, on his own, sinful man cannot and will not believe in the resurrected Christ. On his own, sinful man finds it impossible to get past the stones.

So what is the answer? How is it, then, that in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke the women and the disciples do believe? How is it, then, that there is a church? How is it, then, that we believe?

The answer lies in verse 7 of our Scripture reading. The angel said to the women:
(Mark 16:7) He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.
The key is an encounter with the risen Lord.

Contrast the behavior of the women in our Scripture reading with the behavior of those who have an encounter with the risen Christ. I am thinking of people like Thomas, Mary Magdalene in another story, the disciples, the two on the Emmaus road. Anyone who has met the risen Lord cannot do anything but believe. Anyone who has an encounter with the risen Lord cannot do anything but testify to all that they have heard and seen.

B I want to ask you: have you met the risen Lord? have you had an encounter with Jesus? Unless you have, you will not and cannot get past the stones. Unless you have, you will not and cannot believe in the resurrection.

There is only way this can ever happen. By grace you must fall on your knees and ask Jesus into your heart. By grace you must repent of your sins and ask Jesus to fill you with His Spirit.

Have you, by grace, given your heart to Jesus? Or, is your way still blocked by all those stones?
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