I have read Mark 16 a handful of times throughout my life, but as I prepared to write this piece, I first read the whole chapter to reacquaint myself. What stuck out to me is found in verses 3 and 4:
“On the way they were asking each other, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.”
Now, if you’ve been in church for a while, these verses are probably familiar to you. When I read it again, the first thing that came to mind was that God had already answered their prayer before it was said, and that Jesus had already predicted that on this day the tomb would be empty. We may think of the women walking to the tomb, perhaps just discussing amongst themselves in between tears this obstacle that was preventing them from doing what they had set out to do, but remember this: they have been grieving for three days, likely asking “God, why?”, and possibly doubting Jesus’s promises of being the Messiah.
But God’s answer to their prayer didn’t just stop with the stone being rolled away – a man clothed in white was waiting for them, likely an angel, to deliver the truth behind this wonder (verses 5-6). The tombstone wasn’t simply rolled away, the tomb itself was empty! Jesus’s promises of being the Messiah were true and He had risen from the dead. A dead body cannot walk away, only one that is living and breathing; and as He is God-incarnate, no tombstone could keep Him in the grave!
I cannot imagine what went on inside the heads and hearts of those women. Fear? Excitement? Praise? Relief? Confusion? Jesus had told His followers that He would die and be raised to life, and even though He had predicted it, it was as if they forgot Jesus was God and doubted His power.
Some manuscripts do not include verses 9 through 20, but it’s important to note that in verses 9 through 13 Jesus reveals His risen self to three individuals: the first is a woman, Mary Magdalene, and then two disciples. Each of these three went back to the rest of the group, proclaiming the astonishing reality that what Jesus had predicted had come true and He was alive. But each time, the group rejected the truth.
Let’s ask ourselves, what has God proclaimed in our life that we doubt? Have there been sights and testimonies presented before us that we’ve dismissed out of grief, anger, or confusion? Verse 14 says that Christ “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.”
My friends, do not harden your heart to the truth. Get rid of any unbelief. God is good and His Word is true. Whatever He says, whatever He predicts, whatever is proclaimed that lines up with Scripture in accurate context, it is true and it will come to completion. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of His truth and proclaim it to the world, and this is the Great Commission (15-16).
We will, sadly, come across unbelievers with hardened hearts.. But as believers, those who are forgiven sinners and redeemed by His righteousness, may we never have hardened hearts no matter our circumstances or the things we experience. May we never disbelieve what He has said and reject the truth, wallowing in grief and confusion rather than living in joy with praise. Let’s keep the faith, trust in His Word, and wait expectantly for His promises to come to pass.