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“The Death of Death” Jesus has said to his disciples, “I will rise on the third day.” He said it in Mark 8, again in Mark 9, and yet again in Mark 10. Given that repetition, something curious is going on. On the third day after Jesus’s death, there are no male disciples around; these female disciples do appear, but they are bringing along all the expensive spices and perfumes with which a dead body was customarily anointed. Nobody is expecting a resurrection. If you were the Gospel writer Mark, trying to write a credible piece of fiction, and you have had Jesus saying repeatedly to his disciples that he would rise on the third day, wouldn’t you have at least one disciple thinking this through after Jesus’s death and saying to the others, “Hey, it’s the third day. Maybe we ought to go take a look at Jesus’s tomb. What can it hurt?” That would only be reasonable. But nobody said anything like that. In fact, they did not expect a resurrection at all. It didn’t occur to them. The angel in front of the empty tomb had to remind the women: “You will see him, just as he told you.” If Mark had made up this story, he wouldn’t have written it this way. And here’s the point: The resurrection was as inconceivable for the first disciples, as impossible for them to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soulfrom the body. For them resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’s day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are. Is it difficult for you to believe Jesus rose from the dead? How does Jesus' resurrection give you hope?
Mark 15:40-47 (ESV) -
40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
Jesus Is Buried
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who 38 was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Mark 16:1-8 (ESV) -
1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 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.” 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.