19 December 2021
Book: Mark

Sincerity vs. Faith

Speaker: Jonathan Pugh

Bible Passage: Mark 15:42-16:13

What is the difference between emotional reactions and genuine faith in our response to Christ? #SalvationDawns

Sincerity vs. Faith

 

The end of the Gospel of Mark is perhaps one of the most head-scratching and odd parts of the entire Bible. You would expect the first written account of the death, and resurrection of Jesus, to focus on all the gruesome and horrifying details of the flogging and crucifixion. But, as I said last week, this is being written to the church in Rome and they are extremely familiar with flogging and crucifixion, as was everybody else in the Roman Empire, especially the Jews! 

 

Furthermore, you would certainly expect the first written account of Jesus to spend a significant time proving His resurrection. If you read Mark looking for this then you are going to be let down. Mark makes no attempt whatsoever to prove Jesus was resurrected. It’s certainly articulated that He is, but there’s no attempt to prove it! 

 

As a matter of fact, if anything Mark hurts the case of the Resurrection because as you will see, the testimony in Mark of Christ’s resurrection is centered on female witnesses; and women were not considered reliable witnesses. I know that’s an incredibly politically incorrect thing to say, but it is a fact of ancient history. 

 

If you were in court and your only defense was the word of women then you stood no chance of winning your case! Many scholars point out that this is another reason to trust the Gospels as an accurate account because if they were making this story up they wouldn’t have put women forward as witnesses!

 

My point in all this is that Mark is not writing this as an apologetic account of the Resurrection of Jesus. His purpose in writing the story of Jesus is not to convince people the story of Jesus is real. He’s not writing to a group of skeptics in a college philosophy class who refuse to believe there’s a God. 

 

He’s writing to a group of people in Rome who are enduring persecution because they are confessing that Jesus Christ is risen from the grave and as such is God! Therefore, I’m asserting it wasn’t Mark’s purpose at all to prove that Jesus rose from the grave, but rather Mark’s purpose was to put into writing the actual story of Jesus, His teaching, His death, burial, and resurrection, and in so doing, make the grace of God in Christ that saves us abundantly clear (The Gospel!). 

 

Mark wanted the believers in Rome, and consequently, you and I, to see the utter failure of mankind’s faith in Christ (secular, religious, and even devoted followers of Christ) so that we will see the utter success of Jesus and His love for us! 

 

I believe Mark’s purpose is that we will be blown away by the fact that God loves us in spite of all our failures, that His salvation overcomes all our failures; and that no matter how hard life gets, no matter how far we run into sin, no matter how many things stack up against us; we need to stand firm that Jesus is enough and as such Jesus alone is worthy of all our praise! The conclusion of Mark’s Gospel and his account of Christ’s burial and resurrection make this purpose and truth abundantly clear and it should drive us to respond to Jesus in genuine worship and faith!

Mark 15:42-16:13 demonstrates two sincerely compassionate responses to Christ that still fell short of God’s expectations.

 

The 1st demonstration of a sincerely compassionate response that fell short of God’s expectations was Joseph of Arimathea.

 

42 And when evening had come since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 

 

So first, let me give you a little context as to why Mark is updating us on the day and time.

 

“Crucifixion played a central role in Rome’s terror apparatus. It was Roman custom to allow crucified criminals to hang on crosses until they decayed, as a warning to would-be miscreants or rebellious slaves. If requested, however, their corpses might be handed over to relatives or friends for proper burial. The Jews, on the other hand, considered burial of the dead—including even the dead of their enemies—a ritual piety (2 Sam 21:12–14). According to Deut 21:23, a criminal executed for a capital offense (usually by stoning) whose body was hung on a tree in disgrace deserved to be removed and buried before sunset. The Jews took this commandment seriously”1

 

In addition to their sunset law for burial, there was a sense of urgency created by Christ’s death occurring Friday afternoon. Friday was called the day of preparation for the Sabbath because all work stopped on the Sabbath. Therefore, you had to get everything done that you were not allowed to do on the Sabbath, and he had to be done before Sunset on Friday! The sense of urgency is being compounded! 

 

However, “Under Roman law the release of a crucified man’s corpse for burial was determined only by the imperial magistrate. Usually such a request by a victim’s relatives was granted, but sometimes a body would be left on a cross to decay or be eaten by predatory animals or birds and the remains were thrown into a common grave.”2

 

So who was going to do it? Who was going to go ask Pilot for permission to take Jesus off the Christ? And don’t forget where most of his disciples are at this time – nowhere to be found! Furthermore, which one of Christ’s disciples or family members, none of whom resided in Jerusalem, was going to even be able to facilitate it? 

 

Where was he going to be buried? Who had enough money with them to even purchase a burial plot? This was a serious problem with no pathways forward. It appeared Christ’s body was going to simply be tossed in a common grave full of decaying bodies. 

 

But, God always has a way! His ability to accomplish His will is not dependent on us! Meet Joseph of Arimathea!

 

43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus

 

“Otherwise a stranger to us, Joseph is said to be from Arimathea, which is likely a variant of Ramah (also known as Ramathaim-zophim), some twenty miles northwest of Jerusalem. Joseph was “a prominent member of the council.” The Greek word for “prominent” (euschēmōn) means honorable and reputable as well as powerful. The council of which he was a member (the Gk. bouleutēs means “counselor”) must mean the Jewish Sanhedrin.”3

 

“Joseph, influential enough to ask for the body (normally, the property of the Roman government in such cases), and rich enough to own a rock-cut tomb to use for the temporary burial (46).”4

 

“He was assisted by Nicodemus, also a member of the council (John 19:38–42).”5

 

“He was personally waiting for the kingdom of God (cf. Mark 1:15) which suggests he was a devout Pharisee. He regarded Jesus as the Messiah though so far he was a secret disciple (John 19:38).”6

 

“But he took courage and went to Pilate boldly, a description unique to Mark. His action was bold because: (a) he was not related to Jesus; … [and] … his request amounted to an open confession of personal loyalty to the crucified Jesus which would doubtless incur his associates’ hostility. He was a secret disciple no longer.”7

 

44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 

 

“Only Mark recorded Pilate’s questioning of the centurion, thereby highlighting to his Roman readers that Jesus’ death was confirmed by a Roman military officer.”8

 

“Exegetes have occasionally suggested that Jesus did not actually die but only swooned on the cross and later revived in the cool tomb. Mark’s account renders such a hypothesis dead wrong”9

 

Getting permission from Joseph, and as we learned from John’s account, Nicodemus quickly get to work.

 

46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 

 

“Unlike our modern burial custom of sealing a corpse in a coffin and lowering it into the ground, Jews cut burial tombs (or enlarged natural caves) in the limestone hillsides of Palestine. The Mishnah specifies a burial vault six by nine feet, with shelflike niches on which bodies could be placed (m. B. Bat. 6:8). Nearly a thousand such “kokhim” (Heb.; “niche”) tombs have been discovered in and around Jerusalem, some of which have body-shaped depressions carved in their flat upper surfaces. After the flesh of the corpse decomposed, the bones were removed and deposited in ossuaries hewn out beneath the niches, freeing the niche above for repeated use. The OT refers to depositing the bones in ossuaries as being “gathered to their fathers” (e.g., 2 Kgs 22:20). Burial caves were sealed by large, disk-shaped stones that were rolled in channels in front of the opening, sealing ritual impurities within the tomb and keeping animals and grave robbers out.”10

 

“Ordinarily, the body would have been anointed with spices, but the lateness of the hour necessitated postponing anointing until after the Sabbath”11

 

“So as we see Joseph obtain permission, and then watch him and his colleague Nicodemus rush to take Jesus down from the Cross as the shadows lengthen, … we are seeing a remarkably noble act. Jesus death, properly contemplated, is elevating.”12

 

So, what’s the catch? How is their effort an effort that fell short of God’s expectations? Didn’t they act in faith? Didn’t they potentially risk their lives? How does their response fall short of God’s expectation?

Responding to God out of brokenness and guilt is a part of faith but it doesn’t equal faith. (15:42-46)

 

Remember how we began this sermon. Believing Jesus is the Messiah is only correct if you believe the Messiah to be the Eternal Son of God who was to die to pay the penalty of sin for all mankind then rise from the grave in victory!

 

These men, just like the public disciples of Christ, don’t believe Jesus is that Messiah! There’s no evidence or even suggestion in Scripture that any of them believed Jesus would rise from the grave. The Jesus they are so concerned about is not the man they presume Him to be!

 

On the other hand, there is however evidence that would lead us to assume these two guys are totally broken and filled with guilt over the death of Jesus. Like Peter, they knew He was being falsely accused and should be followed instead of crucified; however, like Peter, both totally failed Jesus and in actuality failed more so than Peter. 

 

Peter would have never been allowed into the room where the trial of Jesus was taking place, but Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were in the room! They stood right in the middle of the trial with the full right to speak and argue a case but said nothing as the council ravaged the testimony of Jesus. 

 

They stood by and did nothing as the Chief Priests stirred the crowd to shout for Jesus to be crucified. They then witnessed the horrifying flogging and crucifixion of Jesus as their fellow religious leaders and the Romans mocked Him. They saw Jesus suffer. They heard Jesus cry out to the Father from the cross. They saw Jesus die. They saw all of this up close and personal, had the right to speak against it, but chose to stand silent!

 

So, it’s not hard to imagine these two guys are totally broken and done. It’s not hard to imagine the sense of guilt and shame they experienced when Jesus died! I believe it is totally sincere. It has nothing to do with being caught but everything to do with coming to grips with their own cowardly actions and as a result they right the ship. 

 

They don’t cover things up and hope it goes away, but rather they refuse to settle for their cowardness and bravely come out of the silence to take responsibility for the body of Jesus! But, as noble and sincere as this is, it is not Biblical faith because it lacks the key ingredient of faith– believing Jesus to be who He said was and as such do what He said He’s going to do (rise from the grave!).

 

Al the brokenness, compassion, and even willingness to risk one’s life for Christ is not faith if it lacks a belief that Jesus is the Eternal Son of God who gave His life as the ransom for many and then rose from the Grave in victory! 

 

There is nothing bad about their response! It’s insanely admirable! But it’s incomplete! It’s not the response God demands!!! As good as it is, it is only a first step towards biblical faith in Christ, but it is missing a huge and totally necessary final step! It is so well-intended and sincere, but it is still not faith! It’s a Friday response, not a Sunday response! It’s a Christmas response rather than an Easter response!

This takes us to the 2nd demonstration of a sincerely compassionate response that fell short. Remember last week’s passage telling us about the women who stood at a distance watching the death of Christ? Well, Mark wasn’t done telling us about them! Mark tells us two of them followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb.

 

47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

 

These women were faithful followers of Christ that likely laid around in utter agony all day Saturday. It was likely the longest Sabbath of their entire life, but the moment the Sabbath was completed they sprang into action. Mark 16:1-2 says,

 

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 

 

“The Jews anointed corpses with oil mixed with myrrh and aloes (John 19:39).”13

 

“Spices were poured over a dead body to counteract the odor of decay and as a symbolic expression of loving devotion. Embalming was not a Jewish custom.”14

 

It’s presumed by many scholars that the haste of getting the body of Jesus buried before sundown on Friday likely meant there was no time to purchase the necessary spices and ointments much less clean the body of Jesus and properly anoint the body. Therefore, these women, out of compassion and brokenness set out to honor Jesus, purchase the necessary items, and anoint His dead and decaying body.

 

But, there’s a problem these women have not been able to resolve,

 

3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 

 

“Only Mark recorded their concern over the practical problem of getting it rolled back. Evidently, they were not aware of the official sealing of the tomb or the posting of a guard (cf. Matt. 27:62–66).”15

 

But in addition, and this is key, “‘We see that there was not the slightest idea of the possibility of resurrection in their minds.” 16

 

“The anxiety of the women about this significant detail is due, in part, to the fact that all the men were hiding (John 20:19). The women were evidently left to chance at finding workers in the area to help them roll the stone away from the opening of the tomb.”17

 

BUT, when they got there here’s what they found!

 

4And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back–it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 

 

When learn in other Gospel accounts that there were soldiers stationed outside the tomb of Jesus, however, these guys apparently fled the scene when the stone rolled away! We will talk more about that next week.

 

So to our story, “Entering the tomb, the women saw “a young man dressed in a white robe.” The “white robe” (Rev 7:9, 13), the “young man,” which frequently refers to a heavenly being (Luke 24:4; 2 Macc 3:26, 33; Gospel of Peter 36; Josephus, Ant. 5.277), and the women’s response indicate an angelic encounter”18

 

“The word for “alarmed” is used only here in the New Testament. It is a compound verb used to express strong fear and agitation. They were terrified! The “young man” was an angel whose clothing, Luke tells us, “gleamed like lightning” (Luke 24:4).”19

 

“Whether the angel’s position is intended to represent Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father (12:36; 14:62), is uncertain. The Greek word for “angel” literally means “messenger (of God).” That is precisely the young man’s role at the empty tomb: he is a mediator between the ineffability of the resurrection and the women.”20

 

“The Crucified One, says the angel, has been raised! The angel invites the women to see the place where they last saw the body of Jesus (15:47). The references to the place of his burial and to Jesus as the crucified one are of crucial importance. The women are not directed to a mystical or spiritual experience or to a numinous encounter. They are directed specifically to Jesus, who died by a crucifixion they witnessed, was buried in a place they witnessed, and now has been resurrected.”21

 

“The one whom the angel invites them to know is the one whom they have known. The announcement of the angel is literally the gospel, good news, and the place from which the gospel is first preached is the empty tomb that both received and gave up the Crucified One. A new order of existence is inaugurated. The NIV reads, “ ‘He has risen!’ ” but the Greek is more precise, “ ‘He was raised.’ ” “Risen” could suggest that Jesus arose on his own, but “was raised” rightly implies that he was resurrected by God. At this moment and in this place the women are witnessing “the kingdom of God come with power” (9:1).”22

The Angel then commands them to do something, and this is KEY to understanding the story correctly!

 

7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

 

Go tell! This is the command to all of us, to tell of the Resurrection of Christ! That His death accomplished what no death could and the proof is that He resurrected! His death defeated the curse! 

 

In addition, as we discussed a few weeks ago, notice the amazing grace in telling of His resurrection. The Angel tells the woman to go tell the group of cowards, who will be the Apostles of the church, to stop hiding in fear! Tell them He is alive as He said He was and, despite their lack of faith He is going to come to find them. 

 

Specifically, the Angel tells them to go tell Peter! All the disciples were likely dealing with the guilt of their cowardness, they didn’t even go with these women to the tomb, but there is none more likely than Peter to be experiencing a level of guilt that would leave you wondering if he could ever stand up and follow Jesus. 

 

Peter, the rock that Jesus said He was going to use to launch His church likely felt a rock was sitting on top of him! But this angel directs the woman to go tell the Disciples everything is going to be alright and make double sure to personally tell Peter! 

 

God’s grace is certainly seen in the death of Jesus, but that picture isn’t made clear until the resurrection of Jesus! Our sin that killed Jesus was not the end of the story! The end of the story is not a tragedy but a triumph! Our failure cost Jesus his life, but that’s now how the story ended!

 

 Jesus overcame our failure, He overcame our sin, He overcame our shame and guilt; because when He rose from the grave all of that was made void! We dropped the ball but Jesus still won the game for us! All was not lost by our sin being placed on Christ, but rather everything was gained!

 

So, this is great news, right? You are probably expecting these faithful women to bolt out of that tomb and start proclaiming that Jesus is alive! Well, if you do, you would be wrong! Mark says,

 

8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 

The empty tomb doesn’t prove to them that Jesus is alive! Even the appearance of an angel doesn’t prove it. All the angel does is freak them out. An empty tomb just means the body of Jesus wasn’t in it. The stone being rolled away just means somebody or something moved it. The information is not adding up in their minds because it’s missing a key component – where is Jesus!

 

Listen, in their defense the proof of the resurrection is not an angel (which could be a demon for all we know), nor is it an empty tomb. These are all supporting facts but they are not the proof. The only proof is the person of Jesus living, breathing, walking, and talking, and at this point, He is nowhere to be found.

 

So, the woman takes off running in fear! The entire episode scared them to death and they had no concept of how to take it. Why did they not know how to properly understand what the Angel had just said, well, because of the flaw in their faith. 

 

They, like all the others, didn’t expect the resurrection because they had yet to understand and truly believe who Jesus is and what He said He was going to do! They had yet to understand that Jesus wasn’t kidding or being metaphorical when He said I’m going to Jerusalem to die but don’t worry I’m going to rise from the grave! They have yet to put together that when Jesus was always referring to the Yahweh as His Father that He literally meant it, not as a metaphor, but as fact that He is the eternal son of God; that He Himself is God!

Responding to God with compassionate service is a part of faith but it doesn’t equal faith. (15:47-16:8)

 

Now, this is not the end of their story. These women are going to soon run right into the proof of the resurrection! They are going to soon run right into Jesus! But as of right now we see that as sincere and loving as their response to Jesus is, it’s still not faith.

 

Faith requires us to believe Jesus to be who He says He is and do what He said He will do, meaning faith requires us to believe He’s God and that He rose from the grave. Anything less than that, as compassionate as it may be, as helpful to others as it may be, as sincere as it may be; is not faith!

CHALLENGE: Is your response to Jesus a genuine FAITH response to Christ?

 

These responses are not faith because they are not anticipating the resurrection and thus they fell short and are incomplete! They were moved by compassion but not faith! Faith comes from hearing the truth! 

 

It is so important that you and I understand the difference between guilt, regret, fear, and faith. 

 

Listen, the emotional tug of all the traditions of Christmas is awesome! They should pull at our heartstrings! They should motivate us, BUT, if those motivations aren’t defined by a life identity and effort (faith) based on the fact that Jesus is God, that He died on the cross and rose from the grave as king and Lord, then your faith is not faith! 

 

The realization of the love of God put on display in the manager and the cross is massively important, but they are not faith! Faith can’t be found in the manager or even on the cross. Faith can’t even be found in an empty tomb. 

 

Faith is found in the resurrected Christ who sits on the throne! It isn’t found in the realization that Jesus is the greatest teacher ever, the greatest servant ever, and the greatest hero ever, it’s found in the realization that He is God! 

 

Its found in realizing He is all of those other things because He is the eternal logos; the eternal Son; and as such The Eternal God! Respond to Jesus for who He said He is and as such respond to Him how He expects and commands it!

 

Footnotes

  1. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 487). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  2. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 191). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (pp. 487–488). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  4. Cole, R. A. (1994). Mark. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 976). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
  5. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 166). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 191). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  7. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 191). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 191). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  9. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 489). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  10. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 490). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  11. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 489). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  12. Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior (Vol. 2, p. 214). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
  13. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 491). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  14. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 192). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  15. Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 192). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  16. Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior (Vol. 2, p. 216). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
  17. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 492). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  18. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 493). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  19. Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant and savior (Vol. 2, p. 216). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
  20. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 493). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  21. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 494). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  22. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 494). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.