There is nothing more terrifying than the feeling of when your child is lost. When I was 4 years old my family lived in Cedar Rapids, IA. One night we came home from dinner with friends and my parents heard a car skid out in the neighborhood and looked to the street just in time to see the car speed off. It was an unusual event in our quiet neighborhood so naturally parents started to make sure that all their children were accounted for. My parents looked all around, but could not find me. Their hearts sunk and all they could think of was the worst possible scenario that their baby boy was kidnapped by that car that skidded and speed off in that quiet neighborhood. They woke up the neighbors and canvassed the entire area for two hours.
Can you imagine the fear that filled the hearts of my parents? The dread and the panic that gripped their thoughts. If you ever lost a child even for a few moments, you have a small understanding what my parents were filling that night. After a two-hour search, one of my neighbors went back into the garage lifted up a big green garbage bucket and found me asleep under it. To this day, I have no recollection why on earth I felt the need to put a garbage bucket over my head to sleep, but I did. A day that started out horrible turned into one of our favorite family stories. “Hey remember when Dave feel asleep in the garbage bucket!!” A night full of fear ended with incredible joy.
Can you imagine the fear and the pain of the disciples? They walked with Jesus for three years. They ate together and served together. They put all their hope into him to deliver the nation of Israel. Their mighty leader brutally condemned and crucified. The eyes of the world, Jesus was cursed, “for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Those disciples experience the worst Sabbath of their lives. It was full of fear and the unknown. And we begin Mark’s account of the Resurrection with, “When the Sabbath was past.” It was a Sabbath of fear and dread, but that terrible night will become the best story ever. A night full of dread will become the favorite story of all the world.
I do not know the fears and anxiety that you bring with you today. It could be fear over financial stress and the anxiety of how the bills are going to be paid. It could be fear over the direction of your children’s life and the anxiety that fills the heart wondering if they are ever going to turn it around. It could be fear over a friend’s faith and the anxiety of watching those you love make poor choices. Whatever fears you bring here today, I know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ can calm those fears.
The Resurrected King Calms Fear
One of the greatest signs of the veracity of the resurrection account is that all of the gospels give a prominent place to women as the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. In the first century, women would not have been ideal choices to fabricate a story because they were not looked as reliable witnesses. They were not even allowed to testify in court. Notice how Mark highlights the role of women of the discovery of the resurrection. Mark 16:1-3,
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
These women were going to anoint the body of Jesus. They were expecting Jesus’ body to be there. They were prepared to see Jesus. Even though Jesus had told the disciples that after his death, he was going to be raised from the dead, the expectations of the women, and most likely the men, was that Jesus was going to be in the tomb. The women had brought spices and were concerned how the stone was going to be moved so that they were able to anoint Jesus’ body.
Some of the greatest witnesses of the power of God are those who were not expecting to see the power of God. The women were not ready to see the resurrection, but they were the ones who first witness it, Mark 16:4-7,
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 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. 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.” (Mark 16:4-7)
As they approached the tomb, the large stone was rolled away. They entered the tomb and turned to the right where the body should have been laid, but instead saw a man dressed in white robe. Mark is implying that the women saw an angel of the Lord with his description. All angels in the Bible are classified as men. This angel sees that these were alarmed.
The Greek word for alarmed here is common in Mark’s gospel. Mark uses it both as amazement or as terror. The translated here decided to translate this word ‘alarmed.’ I think there would have been a mixture of both amazement and terror as those women entered the tomb. They were expecting to see Jesus, but he was gone. The angel saw their fear whether by divine revelation or by observing their fear on their faces, and said, “Do not be alarmed.” The angel calmed their fears by sharing the truth of the resurrection. The truth of the resurrection should always calm our fears. Whether we are just beginning to inquire of Jesus Christ or whether we have been lifelong believers, hearing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ should calm all our fears.
The angel uses a very specific title for Jesus. He says, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” Mark draws out the historical Jesus Christ. There are some who claim that Jesus’ resurrection was not a bodily resurrection, but merely a spiritual resurrection. In a society that is growing increasingly secular, the idea that a man could be raised from the dead to life is too hard to grasp. The New Testament does not explain the resurrection in spiritual terms, but explain the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an event of history. The man Jesus from Nazareth, Mary’s son, who grew up in the region of Galilee of Judea, who was actually crucified on a real Roman cross on a literal day in history, Jesus of Nazareth, has risen. It is important to note that the New Testament teaches a literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. We should accept the historical record of the Bible explaining a real event in History.
When Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, he passed his entire life on the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:12-21,
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus should calm our fears because Jesus was the firstfruits of those who had fallen asleep. Paul says that as through Adam came death, by the man, Jesus of Nazareth will come the resurrection of the dead.
Humans fear death. The desire for survival is the greatest of human instincts. The resurrection of Jesus Christ should calm our fears because it solves are greatest problem. Through Adam’s sin, death came into the world. Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” All human beings desire to survive because they know in the deepest part of their hearts that upon death they will face judgment for their sin. We cannot escape the fear of death because we know that we are going to meet God. Jesus came to die in our place on the cross. He came to take our judgment on the tree to be cursed for us. Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The only way for Jesus to die in our place was that if he was a sinless, perfect man. For our sake, he who knew no sin, became sin for us. But we rejoice in the resurrection for as Jesus literally took our punishment on the cross, he literally rose from the dead as our justification.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s stamp of approval on his sacrifice. Mark uses the Divine passive in Mark 16:6 implying that it was God that raised Jesus from the dead. God raised Jesus to calm the fears of the world by giving them the hope of the resurrection. If you have not trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, the resurrection is your invitation to turn from your fear of death and put your hope in Jesus Christ. God approved of Jesus’ sacrifice and now he is asking you to turn from your sins and receive his mercy so that you can be born again to a living hope through Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is undefiled, imperishable and unfading kept in heaven for us through faith in Him. Will you heed the words of the angel spoken to those women so many years go, “Do not be alarmed. He has risen.”
The women should not have expected Jesus to be in the tomb. Notice the last words of the angel, “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.” (Mark 16:7) The women lived in fear because they did not trust the words of Jesus. Friend, allow Jesus to calm your fears by trusting in his words. Believe in his resurrection.
The Resurrected King Creates Fear
It seems like a contradiction to say that the resurrection calms fear, but also creates fear. Although it seems like a contradiction, that was the response of the women at the end of Mark’s gospel, Mark 16:8, “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The earliest Greek manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9-20. It is believed that someone came an added the last section of Mark’s gospel because it appeared that ending was too abrupt. It did not make sense to the earliest Christians that Mark’s gospel would have ended with the women being afraid.
Scholar James Brooks, provides three reasons why he believes that Mark’s gospel ends so abruptly and is fitting with the rest of the book.
First an ending with references to trembling, bewilderment, flight, and fear is not surprising or out of place as many have thought because Mark previously recorded similar reactions when people observed the power of God being manifested in Jesus. (All throughout Mark’s Gospel, people respond to God’s power with fear and amazement.)
Second, the abrupt ending is quite in harmony with the abrupt beginning of the Gospel. Just as Mark recorded very little that preceded the ministry of Jesus, so he recorded very little that followed it.
Third, Mark had a definite purpose in his ending. He apparently wanted an open ending to indicate that the story was not complete but was continuing beyond the time he wrote. He wanted his readers/hearers to continue the story in their own lives. By stating that the women told no one, he challenged his readers/hearers to assume the responsibility of telling the good news to everyone.
I especially appreciate his last observation. Christianity does not end with hearing about the resurrection, but with Christians going and sharing what they have seen and heard.
How said would it be for Christians to say nothing of the resurrection? We may look negatively at Mark’s ending or at the women who were afraid, but how often are we in the same situation. The resurrection creates fear in us because it forces us to be at odds with our world. The resurrection forces us to confront a naturalistic, anti-miracle worldview when we tell people that we actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead. How many times have we had the opportunity to share the greatest story ever told with a lost friend or neighbor, but have remained silent because of our fear of rejection? Do you believe in the resurrection? If you believe, why would you not share it? How could Christians keep silent?
Beloved, if the resurrection is true it puts us at odds with the world. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ provides a distinct way of viewing the world. Are we going to be overcome with fear or all the power of the resurrection to conquer our fears?
The Resurrected King Conquers Fear
The Gospel of Mark ends in fear, but we have the book of Acts. We have the rest of the story how disciples of Jesus Christ have become witnesses of the resurrection in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. We are a product of the how the resurrected King conquered the fear of the disciples. Peter and John were confronted by the Sanhedrin for a miracle done to a crippled man. Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John conquered their fears of death and rejection because they had spent time with Jesus. They believed in the resurrection and it changed their life.
Have you ever stood on top of a mountain? It is incredible sight to look down on everything below knowing that there is nothing above and nothing higher than where you stand. Standing on the top of a mountain is so sweet because we know of the labor and physical exertion that was necessary to reach the top for mountaintops cannot be reached without a struggle.
Jesus Christ is now seated on the supreme mountaintop of His own glory. He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. There is no one above our Sovereign Lord. He sits at the right hand of God with full authority and power until all His enemies are made His footstool. The resurrected King conquers are fears because he has been exalted to the highest place and been given the names above all names. And yet, the only way Jesus was exalted to the highest place was because of His willingness to walk up Calvary’s hill in obedience to the Father. Phil 2:8-11,
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is only in Christ’s giving of Himself in death that He was exalted to the highest place. And because Christ is seated on the throne, we as His people know that nothing can separate us from his love. He is the one who died and who was raised. And knowing that our God is far above all authority and power gives us the freedom to follow Christ in giving ourselves in humiliation so that one day we will be exalted (1 Peter 5:6).
Beloved, our great and glorious Savior is seated at the right hand of God as the supreme authority over all else. And this all powerful Savior always stands before the Father interceding for us as our High Priest. He is our King and our Priest. His death and resurrection secure for us an eternal hope through faith. We have nothing to fear for He who is supreme is the One who speaks for us.
One Day our King will come again. And on that Day it will be clear that we have no reason to fear. Acts 17:31, “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” The resurrection is our assurance that Jesus will come again. We do not need to fear, because Jesus has conquered our fears. Revelation 21:5-7,
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
The one who conquers will have this heritage, that God will be our God and that we will be his children. Beloved, we conquer our fears by believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead who conquered the grave on our behalf. The One who is seated on the throne will come again.
He was lifted up to die;
"It is finished" was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
When he comes, our glorious King,
all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we'll sing:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Beloved, our glorious King is coming. Let us live as conquerors by trusting in our Conquering King. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
 Brooks, J. A. (1991). Mark (Vol. 23, p. 275). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.