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Amazement at the Empty Tomb

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
April 2, 2021 4:00 am

Amazement at the Empty Tomb

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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The resurrection thus is established as a fact of history. It is the most important event in the life of Christ. It is the most important event in the history of the world. It is the most important event in your life and mine because it is by His resurrection that we are justified and that we will live forever. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Today, Good Friday, is a day of sorrow for many people as they mourn the shame and the unspeakable suffering Jesus endured at the cross. And yet what followed His enormous sacrifice is so remarkable, so monumental, only the sinless Son of God could accomplish it.

And it's the reason that sorrow and mourning give way to joy. For an encouraging look at what changed so many lives on that first Resurrection Sunday and what can change yours, keep it here as John MacArthur continues his study, The Divine Drama of Redemption. We come this morning to the end of the gospel of Mark. As we return to the gospel of Mark, a few comments that might help us establish the setting, all four gospel writers tell the resurrection story. As all four tell the story of His crucifixion, all four follow it up with His resurrection. Each of the writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, bring to bear upon the story unique elements and features. The result is a powerful, magnificent blending of all of these inspired accounts to give us the full revelation on this magnificent historical event.

Nothing is missing. When we put Matthew, Mark, Luke and John together, we get everything that the Spirit of God inspired and wanted us to know. Mark's account is the most brief, but we're used to that with Mark, aren't we? He seems in a hurry. The familiar word in Mark is immediately, immediately, immediately, immediately. Listen to his account, starting in verse 1 of chapter 16, when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him. Clearly on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?

Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right wearing a white robe and they were amazed. And He said to them, do not be amazed, you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here. Behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you. They went out and fled from the tomb for trembling and astonishment had gripped them.

And they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. And that's the end of Mark. It ends abruptly.

But it also ends climatically, does it not, with amazement and wonder. Verses 9 through 20, you will notice in your Bible are probably in brackets, or there is a marginal note explaining that these verses do not appear in the most ancient manuscripts. Mark ends his gospel with the blazing reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ gripping the souls of these women with wonder and astonishment. The four gospels each, as I said, give differing details of the resurrection. Matthew has a lot more to say beyond where Mark stops the narrative. Luke has a lot more to say beyond where Mark stops the narrative. John has a lot more to say where Mark stops the narrative.

But for now, let's go to Mark's account and we will blend in the other three a little. Now as we step into this incredible experience, we're going to see evidence of the resurrection along three lines, the testimony of the empty tomb, the testimony of the heavenly angels, and the testimony of the eyewitnesses. Testimony from historical fact, testimony from heavenly revelation, and testimony from personal eyewitnesses. Mark does that in only eight verses.

And that's really all he needs to do. No doubt Jesus said He would rise. No doubt He said He would rise on the third day.

All Mark has to show is that He did and give evidence. Let's begin with the testimony of the empty tomb, chapter 16 verse 1, when the Sabbath was over. We're now, Luke puts it this way, on the first day of the week.

So it's what? Sunday. That's the third day. He was in the grave on Friday. He was in the grave on Saturday. He's been in the grave for perhaps nearly twelve hours on Sunday. That covers the three days in the grave. Any part of a day constitutes a fulfillment of that.

It is now Sunday early in the morning. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, and I'll stop there. Here's these women. We are aware they're around, they've been around a long time.

They've been around a couple of years, really. It all started in Galilee, didn't it? There's a whole group of women who have followed Jesus. They watched His burial. Go down to verse 46 of chapter 15, Joseph of Arimathea bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him, took Him off the cross, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock and rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were looking on to see where He was laid. So they had seen His death and they had seen His burial. And now on Sunday they come back.

Why did they come back? They bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him. They loved Him. They adored Him. They served Him.

They worshiped Him. They are caught up in horrific sadness, wrenching, agonizing sorrow. Look, this isn't just a friend, this is the one in whom they believed their salvation rested. It is inconceivable what their agonies were like.

I couldn't imagine them. This is an action of love on their part. So they come. And verse 2 says, they come very early on the first day of the week.

These women may have been coming from different locations, starting together. Mary gets there first. She arrives, John says, on the dark side of dawn.

It's light enough to see the tomb is open, the stone is gone. So Mary Magdalene arrives first before her companion. Remember they're in the dark, they may have been separated, couldn't wait for each other.

Certainly Mary Magdalene seemed to be way out front, the other women coming in the dark at different speeds. She sees the stone rolled away, says John, she doesn't go in. She bolts, spins on her sandals, heads for Peter and John.

She's going to tell them and what's the message? John says, chapter 20 verse 2, they have stolen the corpse. That's her conclusion. By the way, that tells us she didn't believe in a resurrection. She doesn't say, oh, it happened just like He said it would.

No. They never believed it. Even with all the miracles, they didn't believe it. She just makes the assumption His body has been stolen and she turns and runs back in the dusky darkness to tell Peter and John, doesn't even see the other women who are coming. We pick up the story in verse 3 then of Mark, the other women arrive. As they get near, they say to one another, verse 3, who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb? Look, they knew where the tomb was and they knew the stone had been rolled over it because they saw that on Friday. They're wondering how they're going to remove the stone. Verse 4 says, looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.

Wow! What a shock! What are they going to conclude? Well, instantaneously they would conclude the same thing that Mary Magdalene concluded because none of them expected a resurrection. You say, well don't you think these women came expecting a resurrection? No, they came expecting to anoint a dead body. Why would they be anointing a dead body with spices?

To mitigate the stench. If they were convinced there would be a resurrection that day, why spend the money and waste the time? And by the way, they didn't know what happened on Saturday.

Saturday was a big day at the tomb. But they had no idea. Mary Magdalene had no idea. These women had no idea. I'm sure you'd like to know what happened.

I'll show you what happened. Turn to Matthew 27. Here's Matthew's account. If you look at verse 60, you see the Friday burial. Joseph puts the body in a clean linen cloth, lays our Lord's body in the new tomb hewn out of the rock, rolled a large stone against the entrance, went away. Mary Magdalene was there and the other Mary sitting opposite the grave. So they saw it all, the burial, on the next day.

What's the next day? Saturday, Sabbath day, the day after the preparation which was Friday. The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate. So on the Sabbath they go into Pilate.

This is desecration of the Sabbath, the Passover weekend as they go into a Gentile place again, at least by their own laws. So they go to Pilate and they say, we need a guard to make sure the disciples don't come and steal the body to try to pull off a phony resurrection. So Pilate said to them, you have a guard, gave them some Roman soldiers, said, go make it as secure as you know how. They went and made the grave secure and I'm telling you, when the Roman soldiers made something secure, they made it secure because they knew it was at stake, had to do their duty or the consequences were dire.

Along with the guard, they set a seal on the stone, put a seal on it, simply identifying it as sealed by the Roman power and the seal not to be broken. So that's what happened on Saturday. Something else happened in the deep, dark hours of Sunday morning.

Sometime after the Sabbath ended on six o'clock, sometime in the darkness of the dark, I'll show you what it is. In chapter 28 of Matthew, verse 2, a severe earthquake, it had already occurred by the time the women arrived, a severe earthquake occurred for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.

And by the way, the stone rolled away just as a footnote, not to let Jesus out, but to let the women in. The soldiers at some point wake up from their stupor and you can imagine the buzz, did you see that angel? What happened after that? I don't know what happened after that. Nobody knows what happened after that.

They all just went out like lights. By the time the women arrived, there are no soldiers, or they would have encountered them. They just arrive and in verse 5 it says, they entered the tomb. There aren't any soldiers there. There's not even any evidence of soldiers there.

The soldiers have no one to guard. They awoke at some point out of their stupor in the depth of darkness and they knew they had a problem. They had failed at their duty and they have to report to the ones that they are accountable to and that's not Pilate, but rather the Sanhedrin who asked Pilate to give them to them, to the Sanhedrin. So they go to the Sanhedrin and they report to the Sanhedrin.

Well you know what they say. We were doing what we're supposed to do, what we always do. We were guarding. All of a sudden there was a terrifying earthquake that was shaking everything and then a blazing angelic being came out of the sky, sat on the stone after rolling it away and that's the last thing we remember.

And when we woke up, we checked the tomb. He wasn't there. Let me just stop you right here and give you the simple point that Mark is making. Everything I've said to you so far is to demonstrate one thing, one thing and one thing alone. The tomb is not occupied, okay? Got that?

That's it. You have an empty tomb. That's what Mark is conveying and so does John and Luke and Matthew. The tomb was empty and we know the disciples didn't steal the body because they didn't even believe in a resurrection which then didn't necessitate that they fake one. But the body's not there. So all the facts, all the physical facts make clear the tomb is empty...the tomb is empty.

And everybody knows the body was not stolen. That's confirmed, back to Matthew 28, in a most interesting way. Let's go back to the soldiers meeting with the Sanhedrin. Verse 11 of Matthew 28, they came into the city and reported to the chief priests what had happened. They gave them the story. What had happened? Just the way it happened, an earthquake, an angel, a coma, we woke up, the body's gone.

Oh, we've got a problem now. We have a real resurrection on our hands, what are we going to do to discredit that? Isn't that amazing? How deep and profound is unbelief? They're so comfortable with a lie, they're so used to a lie, they're so familiar with hypocrisy that the truth totally escapes them.

They not only don't see it, they don't even have an interest in it. So they assembled the elders together, the Sanhedrin gets together, consoled and they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers. There's a word for that, yes, bribery. And they said to them, this is what you are to say, His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep. That will go over real big with our superiors.

We're not supposed to be asleep, supposed to be fulfilling our duty. Oh, by the way, if it comes to the governor's ears, we'll win him over, keep you out of trouble. They were good at winning Pilate over, I promise you. They won him over in the execution of Jesus.

They could intimidate the sandals off that man. Do you know the leaders of Israel never denied the empty tomb? The women knew the tomb was empty, the disciples knew the tomb was empty, the guards knew the tomb was empty, the Sanhedrin knew the tomb was empty. That's the testimony, the first line of testimony. No one ever pointed to an occupied tomb. No one ever denied that Jesus' tomb was empty. Well the women are now in shock and the shock is escalated in the second line of testimony, the testimony of angels.

We'll go through this quickly. In verse 5 again it says, when they got inside the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right wearing a white robe and they were amazed. They saw a young man sitting at the right wearing a white robe, a blazing, dazzling robe. Yes, Luke says there were actually two angels who suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing. If you saw a dazzling angel, you might not figure out whether there was one or two.

John says in John 20 verse 12, there were actually two angels. The women were amazed. The word is ekthambeo, it means to be terrified...terrified not in the sense that you fear for your life, but that there's something around that cannot be rationally comprehended. You can't get it, you can't grasp it, bewilderment. In fact, Luke says they were terrified and they literally fell with their faces toward the ground.

This is so shocking. Luke uses a word from which we get the word phobia, kind of severe fear...a phobia is a fear of something that's not rationally grasped or explained. Well finally, one of the angels is recorded to have said to them in verse 6, do not be amazed. Maybe for you to say, sir, do not be amazed, you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who has been crucified. And here's the first word concerning the resurrection, He has risen. That's one word in the Greek, hegertha, one verb, He, literally passive, He has been raised...He has been raised. Luke adds in Luke 24, 5 that one of the angels also said, why are you seeking the living one among the dead?

So it's a very natural conversation. Things were said as the angels tried to communicate past, as I said, the shock waves that were going on in the minds of the women. He is not here, He said, He has risen, He is not here, behold, here is the place where they laid Him, He's not there. We've seen testimony from earth, an empty tomb, now we hear testimony from heaven, heavenly angels. To deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it's to deny the historical realities of the empty tomb and it is to deny the historic revelation of heavenly angels. They speak for God, don't they? They speak for God. There's a third line of evidence to prove the resurrection, just briefly. Verses 7 and 8, it's the testimony of eyewitnesses, I love this. The angels continue to talk, go, go.

This is a command. Go, tell His disciples and Peter. Why does He throw Peter in there? Because Peter needed a little personal touch of love and recovery because the last scene with Peter in it was really pretty ugly.

His denials. Tell Peter and the rest that He's going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see Him just as He told you. Well the astonishing wonder of this resurrection reality is dawning on the women by the empty tomb and the angelic message. So verse 8 says, they become the first eyewitnesses. They went out, fled from the tomb for trembling and astonishment had gripped them and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.

When it says they were afraid, it means they were in that phobic condition of not being able to give reasons or explanations to what was going on and that's the end of Mark. The empty tomb, the heavenly angels and the experience of the women, all evidence of Jesus' resurrection. But I want to end here. I want to end in Matthew. Matthew 28, you're going to like this. Verse 8, Matthew picks up the story. They left the tomb quickly with fear, oh I'm so glad this is in here, and what?

Great joy. Their fear is melting into joy as it all begins to come clear. And they ran to report it...what?...the resurrection to the disciples. I love this, verse 9, and behold, Jesus met them and greeted them.

Hi, ladies. I mean, this is really amazing. They came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. What a day for them, huh? And isn't it something that women were the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ? Jesus said to them, don't be afraid, go take word to My brethren, tell them to leave for Galilee.

He's trying to get a message across. And there they will see Me. And you know the rest of the story, the women go and they can't convince them and they don't believe it and they hang around for eight days. Mark ends it where Mark by the providences of the Holy Spirit intended to end it in wonder, in awe, as anyone's response should be to the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection thus is established as a fact of history, as a fact of theology by the angelic testimony. It is the most important event in the life of Christ.

It is the most important event in the history of the world. It is the most important event in your life and mine because it is by His resurrection that we are justified and that we will live forever. We're tuned in to the Good Friday edition of Grace to You with John MacArthur.

He is the chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, and his study is titled The Divine Drama of Redemption. Well, John, again, it's Good Friday, and that means Resurrection Sunday is just two days away. And of course, you'll be preaching the word the way you've done for, what, 52 or 53 Resurrection Sundays. So you've touched on the story of the cross and the resurrection so many times, and Easter Sunday, there's always lots of visitors.

Lots of them maybe don't even make a profession of faith. How do you think about preparing for a sermon on Resurrection Sunday? You know, it's not a lot different than any other Sunday, because I believe the power is in the text, the power is in the Scripture. The Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. So you just unleash the Word of God. You just take the text of Scripture. The story of the resurrection appears in many, many, many ways throughout the New Testament, both in the accounts of the resurrection and the gospels, the preaching of the resurrection through the book of Acts, the explanations of the meaning of the resurrections in the epistles, and the ultimate end of the resurrection, which is the final resurrection.

So there's a whole lot of material. You just unleash the Word of God. And I think for me, there's always one sort of initial reality, and that is everybody faces death. And death is cold, hard, stark reality, particularly in a culture like ours, where we're becoming more and more agnostic, if not atheistic.

And there is an existential fear of death that people have. And so I think the good news for somebody who's not a believer who comes to an Easter service is to hear that death's sting has been removed by Christ on the cross, and resurrection life has been provided through faith in Him. So I think it's best to start with the inevitable reality that you're going to die and go from there to being sure that when you do, you enter into the joy of the Lord and not into eternal punishment.

So that's kind of how I approach that. So today, we got a little preview of what you're very likely to hear in your church on Sunday, the story of the resurrection. So you're well prepared, having heard grace to you today. Let me remind you as we kind of wrap up things that this entire study from Mark, The Divine Drama of Redemption, is available free to you at You can download it in print form, or you can listen to it. The title again, The Divine Drama of Redemption. Tremendous amount of detail, and it's the detail that makes the miracle of the resurrection so profoundly wonderful.

We couldn't cover everything on radio. So let me suggest that you take advantage of the free MP3 downloads and get the whole story. They are, as I said, available at Grace To You, and you might want to share them with somebody else. Yes, friend, since this study covered so much ground, there was a lot of material we weren't able to air, but as John said, you can download every lesson complete for free. To get The Divine Drama of Redemption, the MP3 downloads, or the 14-CD album, contact us today. Our web address,, or to get the CD album, call 800-55-GRACE. But if you'd like these lessons today, maybe to listen with your family, The Divine Drama of Redemption is free to download at In fact, all of John's sermons from 52 years of his pulpit ministry are all free to download at And when you get in touch, make sure to let us know if you have been strengthened by this series or by John's recent series on rediscovering the Christ of Scripture, and especially if you know someone who has professed faith in Christ after hearing John's verse-by-verse teaching.

We love to hear those stories. So email your feedback to letters at, or drop a letter in the mail to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. And now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff. I'm Phil Johnson wishing you and your family a blessed Resurrection Sunday celebration. And be here next week when John begins a series titled Forgiveness, How to Restore Broken Relationships. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Monday's Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-09 17:07:35 / 2023-12-09 17:18:07 / 11

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