By Robert Olsen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Mark 16 begins with Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James going to Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body. One of the main problems the women were going to face was removing the stone from the tomb. Stones for this purpose could weigh up to 4,000 pounds and often would have to be moved up an incline. However, when they arrived at the tomb, the stone was already rolled away.
These women were willing to do what they needed to do to show their love for the Lord, even if it meant overcoming some physical deterrent. They did not worry about this, though, because they were being obedient. How often do we look at circumstances and decide that they are too great for us and for God to overcome? As Christians, our job is to honor God and be obedient to Him, no matter the cost.
Upon entering the tomb, the women saw an angel sitting there, and of course they were alarmed. Instead of finding the body of their Lord, they found an empty tomb. He had risen from the dead! Death could not hold down the perfect Son of God. The angel instructed the women to go tell the disciples, a task that they originally neglected out of fear.
The resurrection demands a response from every person who hears the gospel. In fact, the gospel is no gospel at all without the resurrection. (See 1 Cor. 15:17–19.) This is why we need to defend the resurrection as historical fact. Jesus actually physically rose from the dead and defeated death.
When it comes to the resurrection, there are two possibilities. First, some claim that Jesus’ disciples stole the body so they could claim Jesus had risen from the dead.
The problem with this view is that there is no evidence of this, and the disciples had nothing to gain from it. What good would it be to follow a dead “savior” whose form of discipleship leads to hardship and poverty? Why would the disciples invent this story?
The second idea is that Jesus actually rose from the dead. This not only is supported by every biblical text but also makes the most sense. The fact that the disciples preached this message throughout the known world is beyond historical dispute. Furthermore, the disciples of Jesus met every sort of hardship — imprisonment, physical abuse, economic hardship and in many cases, death.
This again is beyond historical dispute. Why would these Christians preach a lie only to get beaten for their troubles when all they had to do was deny the resurrection and live normal lives again? It makes no sense on any level. When it comes to the veracity of the resurrection, we can be confident that we have evidence on our side.
After the episode at the tomb, Jesus appeared to many others over time. Some did not believe at first and needed to see the risen Jesus. Their skepticism is something that we see even today when we present the gospel.
However, just because we do not see conversions immediately does not mean we lose hope. God is the one who changes hearts; it is our job to be obedient in telling others the good news about Jesus and to pray for them. Even the hearts of the most ardent skeptics can be softened by the Holy Spirit.