ἠγέρθη

“Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! (ἠγέρθη) He is not here. See the place where they put him. (Mark 16:6 CSB17)

Mark uses one word in the Greek for the young man in the tomb to announce what has become of Jesus: “He has risen” (ἠγέρθη).  I assume the actual word(s) were spoken in Aramaic, but the Greek is all we have.  This is the most important word spoken by someone other than God in all of human history.  Without this word, without Christ’s resurrection, then we have no hope. Paul is very clear and blunt on this fact:

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:16–19, NASB95)

Because of ἠγέρθη, we have hope that there is One who paid the penalty for our sin, who died in our place, so that we could live with him; who appeased God’s wrath so that we could be justified, saved, redeemed, loved, accepted, and adopted into God’s family.

As long as the sun rises and sets, as long as mankind wrestles with sin and shame and failure and weakness and envy and temptation, ἠγέρθη is their only hope, which is to say that Jesus is their only hope. How glad I am that Mark makes the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection so clear and plain.

 

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The Empty Tomb

Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him. (Mark 16:6 CSB17)

One of the things that I try to ask myself as I study the Bible is, “why does the author write what he does in that particular way that he writes it?”  Mark’s account of the resurrection of Jesus is a great example.  His account is quite spare, especially in contrast to the other gospel authors, but he martials an amazing array of evidence that Jesus was not in the tomb.  Indeed, if we had only Mark’s account of the resurrection, we would have to conclude on the evidence that Jesus was, in point of fact, no longer in the tomb.

Here is the evidence that Mark sets forth:

  • The very large stone had been rolled away which allowed the women to physically enter Jesus’ tomb.
  • They do not see Jesus
  • They do see a young man dressed in right sitting on the right side.  Notice the eyewitness details, there wasn’t just a man in there, he was sitting on the right side.
  • The man tells them: “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.” There is so much information packed into that little sentence.  They women have the correct tomb (no arguing they inadvertently go it wrong); they are looking for the correct person: Jesus of Nazareth; and that person had been dead.
  • He has risen!  One word in the Greek and arguably the most important word ever spoken in human history.  Jesus was crucified.  He was dead.  He was buried in this very tomb.  As you can see he is no longer here; that is because He is risen!
  • He is not here. The tomb is empty.
  • See the place where they put him.  The women see for themselves that Jesus is indeed gone, no question, no doubt.
  • There will be more eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus: “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.’”

Mark wants those who read his account of Jesus’ death and resurrection to have no doubt that the tomb was empty, that there were eyewitnesses to that fact, that a “man in white” testified to it, and that there would be more eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus.

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Fierce Devotion

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise.” (Mark 16:1–2, HCSB)

As we get to Mark 16, and the aftermath of Jesus’ death and burial, we meet an intrepid group of ladies that exhibit really fierce devotion to Jesus.  Up to this point in the gospel narratives, the women around Jesus have been present all along, but for the most case—with a few exceptions—they are in the background and the disciples play a much larger roll. During the crucifixion, burial, and discovery of the empty tomb we come to see that these women will let no obstacle stand in their way of serving Jesus, even after he has died.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and presumably a few more women rise up before sunrise on Sunday morning so that they can go to the tomb and anoint Jesus’ body with spices.  This was an act of love and devotion, and it also helps us understand that these women were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, any more than his disciples were.

They have one huge problem, and that is the very large stone that has been rolled in front of the entrance to Jesus’ tomb.  Who will roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb for us? they ask each other, but proceed on their way without the disciples to help.  They would not let a stone stand in the way of their fierce devotion.

These ladies have followed Jesus in Galilee, just as his disciples did, and just like them they have followed him to Jerusalem.  Mark tells us that they helped him, probably both by ministering to him and some at least helped him financially.  They were present at the crucifixion and Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Joses even follow Joseph and Nicodemus as they lay Jesus’ body in the tomb.  Now they head out to the tomb solely in order to minister to Jesus’ dead body—so they assume—and obstacles are there to be overcome, not to prevent them from serving Jesus even in death.

We will find out in short order that this devotion allows them to be the first witnesses to the empty tomb, and indeed, the first witness(es) [whether it is only Mary Magdalene who speaks with Jesus, or Mary along with other women isn’t quite clear] to the risen Christ.

These really are remarkable women and their fierce devotion to Jesus is something that should stir us up in our own devotion to him.  They are good examples for us to follow—the commitment, the devotion, the willingness to persevere despite obstacles, the sheer love for Jesus.

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Irony Everywhere

In his account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, Mark subtilely presents irony everywhere; he doesn’t point it out explicitly, he leaves it for us to discover.  Consider:

  • The soldiers.  As was their custom, when the foot soldiers got ahold of Jesus, they tortured and abused him with little regard for human decency, this was the nature of the day. They dressed him in purple robes, the color of royalty; they crammed a crown of thorns on his head; they hit him on the head with a stick; they spit on him; they mockingly worshipped, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”  Ironically, Jesus really was the King of the Jews.  The soldiers were blind to the fact.
  • Passersby. We don’t know exactly who these people were, most likely part of the mob that the Jewish leaders got to cry out, “Crucify him.”  They mocked Jesus: “Save yourself by coming down from the cross.”  Ironically, the only way for the mockers to be saved was if Jesus did not save himself and come down from his cross.  They were unwittingly calling for their own destruction.
  • Chief priests and scribes. Jesus’ main opponents do not miss the opportunity to mock him on the cross, as grisly and appalling as that was. “Let Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross that we may see and believe,” they cry.  There is very deep irony here because they know, and Mark knows, and we the readers know, that even if Jesus were to come down from the cross, they would see but still not believe.  They proclaimed him the Messiah, the King of the Jews, but they did not believe a word of it, what they said was merely for the purposes of mocking Jesus, but inadvertently they themselves proclaimed the truth.
  • Those crucified with him. We know from the other gospels that at least two other prisoners were crucified at the same time as Jesus.  Mark says that they were both mocking him, but we discover from other writers that one of the mockers comes to faith in Jesus on the cross.  It isn’t difficult to believe that one of the prisoners who began with mocking, as he listened to Jesus, and watched his suffering and heard his words, had a change of heart.  Jesus was their only chance, and yet they did not realize or accept this fact, until at the very end, just under the wire (all three men will be dead before sunset), one of them professes faith in Jesus.

In Mark’s account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion, almost everyone abandons him, including, shockingly, God himself.  Jesus’ last recorded words were: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” There is irony even here because Jesus was innocent.  He was forsaken by God and died in our place for our sins.  Isaiah puts it this way:

But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished him for the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53:5–6 CSB17)

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Simon of Cyrene

After they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his clothes on him.   They led him out to crucify him. They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus’s cross. He was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. (Mark 15:20–21 CSB17)

Mark is the only gospel writer who mentions that Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service to carry Jesus’ cross had two boys: Alexander and Rufus.  This is fascinating. Consider for instance, if you had never been to Michigan, nor to my church, but when I was talking about it I said that the preaching pastor was Mike, who is the father of Luke, Abbie, and John.  You would think me quite odd wouldn’t you?  You don’t know Mike or his kids and have never been to our church, so why am I telling you the name of Mike’s kids? What if you had been to my church and met Mike and his kids, then when I referred to them it would make complete sense, you know Mike and you know his kids as well.

Mark, who church tradition tells us wrote his gospel at the behest of Peter and for a Roman audience, must have mentioned Alexander and Rufus because many/most of those who would read his gospel were acquainted with them.

Then notice what Paul says in his letter to the Romans as he is sending greetings to people that he knows: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother—and mine.”(Rom. 16:13 CSB17) Well, well, well, that is a very interesting connection.

Admittedly, I am speculating here because we cannot know for sure that there is a connection between the Rufus of Mark and the Rufus of Romans.  What if this random Simon of Cyrene was so profoundly affected by this Man for whom he carried the cross that he came to faith himself at the foot of the cross, or shortly thereafter?  What if he took that faith home to his wife and two sons, and what if the early church in Rome were acquainted with them?

Could it be that what Simon of Cyrene thought at the time was the worst duty ever compelled on a passerby in the history of the world (carrying another man’s cross so he could be crucified) turned out to be the greatest blessing that God could bestow on Simon, a blessing that eventually reached his wife and his sons, Alexander and Rufus?  I would like to think they are all connected, but we cannot know for sure until we talk to Simon, Alexander, and Rufus when we get to heaven.

 

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Mark and Time

And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him…And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”..And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. (Mark 15:24-25; 33–34; 37 ESV)

Mark is very careful to mark the times associated with Jesus’ crucifixion, this is so obvious that he must have noted the times because he was trying to tell us something, but what?  Does it matter that Jesus died at the ninth hour?

The crucifixion of Jesus took place during the Passover, the time every year when the Jews remembered the miraculous deliverance from the clutches of the wicked Pharaoh. God had instructed the Israelites to slaughter an unblemished lamb and take a brush and dip it in the blood of the lamb and then spread that blood on each side and the top of the door leading into their dwelling.  God’s angel would see the blood on the doorposts and pass over that dwelling and not kill any first born in the house. (Ex. 12)

Because the Passover day started at sunset, the lamb had to be slaughtered before sunset to ensure that the Jews followed the instructions given by God in the Torah not to do any work on the Sabbath.  The lamb was generally slain around the ninth hour (3 pm) so that all work surrounding preparing the lamb could be completed before sunset.

Think back to what John the Baptist says about Jesus in the book of John: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV)

Mark is very careful noting the times associated with Jesus’ crucifixion because Jesus was the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He was killed at 3 pm because that is when the lamb was slaughtered, the lamb that would save the lives of all the Israelites, indeed of all the world, or as John puts it: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17 ESV)

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Mockery and Crucifixion

 The soldiers led him away into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called the whole company together. They dressed him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They were hitting him on the head with a stick and spitting on him. Getting down on their knees, they were paying him homage.

 After they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his clothes on him. They led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:16–20 CSB17)

  • Dressed in purple robes
  • A crown of thorns
  • “Hail, King of the Jews!”
  • Struck on the head
  • Spit upon
  • Paid facetious homage
  • Mocked
  • Crucified

I can barely read through this description of Jesus’ path to crucifixion, so intense is it both in its physical description and emotional and spiritual mockery.  Has ever in history mockery been so mistaken and foolish?

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Innocence

And he [Pilate] answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. (Mark 15:9–10 ESV)

Mark paints an interesting picture of the interaction between Christ and Pilate as the governor of the province interrogates Jesus.  What is Mark’s purpose here as we see the interaction between the pair?  Was Mark’s concern merely to recount the facts as he understood them?  Yes…and no.

Mark’s clear purpose as he writes about Jesus before Pilate is to make sure his readers (us!) understand that Jesus was innocent of all charges.  We can be sure of this because Mark inserts a comment into his narrative so that we do not miss it. His comment is in vs. 10: For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 

The charges against him, as Pilate understood, and as his accusers understood, and as we clearly understand when we read Mark’s version of the encounter, were false and brought only because of envy.

One person defines envy as an emotion that “occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.” This was certainly true in the case of Jesus and the Jewish authorities, but the envy went even deeper than that because they understood that not only did his faithful ministry expose their own self-interest, but he was implying, indeed even stating that they were the exact opposite of what they claimed to be! In addition, because of their spiritual blindness, they could not see nor comprehend, that he was the Messiah.

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Hope

“And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”” (Mark 14:27–28 ESV)

Surely the disciples must have been shocked at Jesus’ words to them.  They had been with him for three years, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  He was their rabbi.  They had imbibed his teaching, believed that he was the Son of God, and given their lives to him.  They were committed!

You will all fall away. Ouch!  Did Jesus not see their commitment, their sacrifice?  Did he not see their devotion to him? Hadn’t they left all and followed him? And they were all going to fall away?  And this was prophesied beforehand?  Surely not!

But then, in the space of just a few hours and before a mob of soldiers this: “And they all left him and fled.” (Mark 14:50 ESV) Five words in the Greek, and everything Jesus had told them came true.  They had all fallen away.

What must they have felt like in the aftermath of running away?  Discouragement?  Depression?  Failure? Surely they remembered their vows to stick with him no matter what, and then…

What was it Jesus had said after he claimed they would all fall away?  There was something else, something about Galilee.  After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee. With the recollection of these words: hope!

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Betrayal

“And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.””  (Mark 14:41–42 ESV)

It’s tempting to read through Mark’s account of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in Mark as Mark’s best understanding of the events that came to pass in the order in which they happened, in other words, Mark’s only goal is to write down what happened.  This would be a mistake, because this isn’t his only goal.  Mark (along with the other gospel authors) is trying to shape our understanding of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest in order to communicate and teach us something.

The NIV Application Commentary for Mark [if memory serves] lists three things that Mark is communicating in this passage from Gethsemane:

 

  1. We see the sovereignty of God in the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, indeed we see Scripture fulfilled. Mark’s purpose was not just to recount events, but to set them down in such a way, that the reader understands that Jesus’ betrayal and arrest had been prophesied before in the Scriptures and this was what God had planned all along.
  2. We see the frailty and weakness of even the best of human intentions! Isn’t this the truth, and it is one good reason that we believe in the inspiration and veracity of the biblical books.  If you were writing about these events and you fell asleep repeatedly on Jesus, would you tell everyone you did?  The only way Mark would know what happened to Peter, James, and John, was if one of them (or one of the other apostles) told him.  Indeed, church tradition tells us that Mark wrote his gospel at the behest of Peter himself, so in all likelihood, he got this event straight from Peter!

    These guys were committed followers of Jesus, but they were human and fatigued and literally could not stay awake.  Let him who is without sin here cast the first stone.  Which one of us has served Jesus perfectly without failure?  Who hasn’t let their own unbiblical actions and attitudes affect their walk with Jesus?  Who has failed to live up to what they say the believe?  Me, for starters, dear readers, me.

  3. We begin to see the physical and spiritual cost of God laying on Jesus his wrath at our sins. Can anyone read through the accounts of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion without cringing at the sheer horror of the physical torture?  Any in-depth description of the Roman customs here is barely readable and shocking. Jesus went through this…for us. God’s wrath.  On His Son.  In our place.

Soli Deo Gloria

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