“Jesus, … who has been crucified, … has risen.”


Mark 16

Mark records the attentiveness to these events of both the mean and the mighty. Three women saw his death (15:40), saw where Joseph of Arimathea buried him (15:47), and brought spices to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection (16:1). Also, they were part of a support group through much of his ministry (15:41). Joseph of Arimathea, “a prominent member of the council,” got courage to break rank with his fellow council members (15:1) and to speak to Pilate about caring for the body of Jesus. This act showed the respect that Jews, in accord with the implications of creation, had for the human body. The resurrection would verify this act of Joseph and crown it with infinite glory.

I. Mark 15:42–47 – Jesus was buried.

It is remarkable that Paul includes in his recitation of the gospel that he preached and which the Gentiles of Corinth received, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.” The continuity of the events is to show that the same body that was buried also was resurrected. The death was certain, the resurrection was not less than physical, bodily, and in continuity with the body that was placed in the tomb.

A. It was on the day of preparation before the Sabbath.

The burial had to occur before nightfall on Friday in light of Sabbath observance. That meant that Jesus was in the tomb on three consecutive days, but only two nights. Any part of a day was calculated as inclusive of the entire day. So when Jesus said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” (Matthew 12:40) he does not establish a contradiction with what actually occurred. He was in the tomb one full day, Saturday, and two full nights, Friday and Saturday, but parts of three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. He was buried late on the sixth day of the week and rose early on the first day of the week.

B. Joseph of Arimathea took initiative to bury Jesus.

    1. Till this time, he had been a secret disciple and had feared the Jews’ declaration to cast Jesus’ followers out of the synagogue (Luke 19:38). Nicodemus came with him and provided spices (John 19:39) giving support to Joseph as they now gave public professions of their esteem of Jesus and apparently their conviction that he was the one to usher in the kingdom of God –“who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God” (!5:43).
    2. His prominence is mentioned here and his riches in Matthew (27:57) to show why Pilate, always responsive to political clout, would hear him on such short notice. In addition, Pilate believed in the innocence of Jesus, sought a method by which he might be released (Matthew 27:17), and had even been warned by his wife to “have nothing to do with this just man” (Matthew 27:19).
    3. They did not want the body of Jesus to be given an ignominious burial after a brutalizing descent from the cross. This, in God’s providence (cf. Isaiah 53:9), though crucified as wicked and along with the vilest of transgressors, yet his burial itself began his vindication as the just one. Even the linen speaks of purity (Revelation 19:8).

C. Pilate ascertained his death (44, 45).

Pilate was surprised that Jesus already was dead. He summoned the centurion who officiated at the crucifixion, had seen the manner in which Jesus died, and had confessed Jesus’ deity (Mark 15:39). Pilate wanted to determine with certainty that Jesus was dead. The interview with the centurion (15:44, 45) satisfied his hesitation—Jesus already was dead. Other soldiers had verified this in addition to the account of the centurion, for they had broken the legs of the other crucified ones to hasten their death. They saw that Jesus already was dead and did not break his bones but pierced his side (John 19:32–34) giving further evidence that his heart had ceased its operation.

D. The body was wrapped carefully, even as at his birth (Luke 2:7), so at his death. Mark records that Jesus was wrapped in a “linen cloth.”

John says that they “bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:40). The “shroud of Turin” that has caused such interest is a solid sheet. Explanations of the images on it are intriguing. It seems, however, to be inconsistent with the description of the manner in which Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Some have said that a sheet was first placed over Jesus, both front and back from the feet to the head before the wrapping and this accounts for the sheet. John’s description of the manner in which the cloths were placed in the tomb after the resurrection (John 20:6, 7) does not seem to give warrant for the presence of a full sheet.

E. The placing of Jesus’ body in the tomb was observed by Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses. This is further evidence that indeed it was Jesus who was wrapped and laid in the tomb.


II. Mark 16:1–8 – Jesus Rises from the Dead; These verses appear to be the earliest manuscript evidence for the end of Mark.

Verses 9–20 contain attempts to give an ending with more literary resolution by conflating other accounts of the events following the resurrection. As it stands, however, ending with verse 8, the ending leads the reader to bring into focus the single most credible explanation for all that has been said up to this point. Jesus, the ransom for many, the Son of God, has suffered as he predicted and has risen from the dead as he predicted (8:31–33; 9:30–32; 10:32–34; 12:10 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Mark 14:24–28). Thus, all the claims, instructions, admonitions, and warnings that he connected with the resurrection are true. He is the cornerstone, he is the ransom for many, he is the Son of Man prophesied, and he is the Son of God.

A. Verses 1–3 – Having prepared spices for the buried body of Jesus, the women mentioned got an early start, before sunrise, and probably arrived just as light broke [look at the accounts in Matthew 28:1f;Luke 24:1 f, and John 20:1f].

Their affection for Christ outran their realism, for they knew that they had no access to the body in light of the largeness of the stone (16:4). They hoped, however, that someone might be there that would allow them at least to anoint the body. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb” (16:3). The close guard of the tomb combined with the Jewish paranoia of the possibility of stealing the body increased the difficulty of their mission. They could not, however, simply dismiss the memory of Jesus with a sigh and a shrug and go about their business just as if he had never been there.

B. Verses 4–7 – What seemed to them the first great difficulty had already been removed, for the stone had been rolled back for easy entrance. In addition, the appointed guards had fled after experiencing the biggest fright of their lives.

Replacing the Roman guard as a watcher of the tomb was an angelic presence [cf. Luke 24:2, John 20:12] that announced that the one they sought was not there but, as he had told them on several occasions, had risen from the dead. For verification he made sure that they looked at the place where the body had been laid (16:6). The angel also reminded them that he had told them to meet him in Galilee after he rose (14:28).

C. The sudden change of perception so startled these women that for a time, they were unable to speak.

The angel, however, had instructed them to tell his disciples, which eventually they did. Mark’s version is so compact that we need the other accounts to give a more detailed version of the entire phenomenon. Mark intends for us to sense the simple, startling, and astonishing impact of this first awareness that the crucified and buried Jesus had risen. He is not here—He who was placed here in this grave is no longer in this grave—He has risen (16:6).


III. This event puts in focus the details of the arguments that Paul enforces in 1 Corinthians 15.

Paul’s main point is a defense of the resurrection of the body as a reality using the necessity of the resurrection of Christ as the most powerful evidence for the resurrection of the body. Christ’s resurrection, as Paul argued, is a redemptive necessity. It is the capstone of the redemptive power of Christ’s passion for forgiveness and for the hope of eternal life.

A. Paul mentions other appearances of Jesus in verification of the historical certainty of his resurrection: to Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5), to more than 500 at one time (15:6), to James (15:7), to the twelve (15:7), and to Paul himself (15:8).

B. Paul then argues for the resurrection of Christ by showing the implications of his not rising.

    1. The preaching of the Apostles is empty and meaningless, for their message centers on the resurrection and its implications (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:10–12; 5:29–32; 10:40–42).
    2. Their faith is vain, for faith centers on the worthiness of Christ’s sacrificial death and present intercession as the just means of a sinner’s attaining forgiveness and right standing before God (1 Corinthians 15:14–17).
    3. The Apostles misrepresent God in their preaching, for they preach Christ’s resurrection whom God did not raise if the dead are not raised (1 Corinthians 15:15).
    4. Sin is unforgiven for the due penalty for transgressions has not been executed and accepted as paid in full (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10).
    5. The bodies of believers, in addition to their sensate spirits, will perish, so the hope of wholeness before God is gone (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18; 1 Corinthains 5:18).
    6. All suffering in the body in this life motivated by the hope of resurrection and of being like Jesus, seeing him as he is, is false and makes this present trouble a misery, not a joy (Philippians 3:8–11).
    7. Death has not been defeated and so all things have not been and will not be placed under the feet of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:50–57).

But none of these things need plague our thoughts, for HE IS RISEN!


When the sacrifice was made
And the price had now been paid,
Jesus left his body here,
Entered in the heav’nly sphere.

Pilate heard and was surprised
That so soon the man had died.
Joseph wrapped his body tight,
Closed his tomb before the night.

Sabbath done, another dawn,
Empty tomb their fear did spawn—
Empty space where Jesus lay,
Sabbath rest, a glorious day.

“Why the empty tomb?” you ask.
“Does it mean a finished task?”
Sin forgiven! Death is done!
Righteousness comes through the Son.

Day above all days arrived.
Has he even hell survived?
No more claim it has on us,
He redeemed our mortal dust.

Now new Sabbath rest is here.
Finished work expelling fear;
Satisfied the curse of Law,
Jesus fills our souls with awe.

Angels said “He’s in the womb.”
Angels said, “Not in the tomb.”
Angels shouted at his birth.
Angels saw him leave the earth.
Angels said, “He’ll come again.”
That time not to deal with sin.
Now redemption’s work is done.
Point the nations to the Son!

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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