This last chapter of Mark gives us the empty tomb, the resurrection and two options for an ending to this Gospel.
Dear Heavenly Father
We thank you for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This event shows us that he was more than an ordinary man.
We believe and rejoice in the fact that he died for our sins. We accept the fact that he rose and then ascended into heaven. We are grateful for his present intercession for us and look forward to his soon return.
We offer up our prayers to you in his name,
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 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. 7 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.”
The women went to the tomb that Sunday morning only to find that Jesus was not there. His body was gone, and the young man (apparently that is how the angel appeared) told the that Jesus had risen.
This event, Christ’s rising from the dead is the basis of our faith.
If Christ had not risen, we would not have what the New Testament declares is most important. The gospel would be pointless. Christ would not have secured complete victory over death for us.
But Christ has risen from the dead. Our sins are covered by his blood. He has won the ultimate victory over Satan, sin and death. We can be confident he represents us before the Father and is seated at his right hand.
The battle Christ won on the cross was, in a way, first won in the garden. It was there Christ obediently determined to follow through with his plan in complete submission to his Father’s will. After Gethsemane there would be no turning back.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Christ knew exactly what was coming. Going to the cross would be horrible, but many had done this before. Two others, in fact, were crucified the same day with Jesus. What made Christ’s death any different?
The difference was in his carrying the weight of our sin.
It is impossible to know what that is like, but we can imagine at least a little. It might feel a lot like guilt. For example, sometimes we get into trouble and, while our circumstances annoy us, the thing that truly tortures us is knowing that it is our own fault. How much better would everything be if this had all been avoided? Sometimes we do something wrong and have no one to blame but ourselves. Knowing that the consequences are of our own making makes them worse.
Now let’s think further. It is bad enough dealing with the consequences of our own sin. That much guilt is usually enough for any of us. What if we had to bear the sins of the world on our shoulders while dying that slow, painful death?
By all available accounts, Christ’s time on the cross was less than many who died in that same manner. Sometimes it took a few days for the crucified victim to expire. Christ died in a matter of hours. But no one before or since has had to bear more than their own sin. The physical torture was bad enough, but the psychological and spiritual anguish was much, much worse. Yet Christ was determined to walk it through to the end. And he did that out of love for us.
It was there in Gethsemane that the prayer, “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,” was answered. It was answered when the Father simply said no. Jesus was okay with that. He understood what was necessary for us to be saved. He knew the cross was only the first step toward resurrection. He knew that if he shared in our death, and shared in our sin, we would share in his life forever more.
Jesus has clearly told us to watch and be ready for his return.
Your word repeatedly reminds us that he is coming soon. We do not want to neglect that major biblical point.
Help us to watch and be ready. Help us to be zealous for good works while we wait. Help us to be faithful to worship you, live for you and encourage one another till Jesus comes.
Jesus wants us all to be alert and ready for his coming. In Mark 13:32-37 he says,
32 But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.
Jesus draws an analogy between the kind of constant awareness and expectation he wants from us and the doorkeeper to a house. In this case the doorkeeper’s master has gone off on a journey and may come back at any time. When Jesus compares this to his own return, he points out that he, our master, might come at any moment, even in the middle of the night. No one knows when he will arrive.
I happen to be an advocate of the pretribulation rapture view of Christ’s coming, which, among other things, seems to make the most sense of this passage. Though I know plenty of wonderful Christians who disagree, I do hope they at least see the importance of our constant preparedness and sense of expectation. For example, one of my former professors, who holds different views on end-times prophecy from me, still says in his commentary on this passage,
The reference to all four watches, including the second and third watches when people avoided travel, underlines the fact that Jesus’ return may happen when it is least expected, and emphasizes that Jesus’ followers are always “on duty”: they must always, constantly, be alert, prepared for Jesus’ sudden, unexpected return.
– Eckhard Schnabel, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary *
In a day when people are not overly enthusiastic about Bible prophecy, there is a constant danger to shift toward a lack of enthusiasm. Let’s not forget that the New Testament emphasizes that Jesus is coming soon. Let’s be like the faithful doorkeeper in Christ’s comparison who is ready to open the door at any time, even at an unexpected moment. In other words, at any and every time, Jesus might realistically be expected.
No one knows when Jesus will return. This means we should always be ready.
* Eckhard Schnabel, 2017. Mark, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. (Downers Grove, IVP Academic), 339.