A Mission Destined to Fail
Mark 15:45–16:8 (ESV) When Pilate learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 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. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 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. 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.” 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.
It is a loving work to care for the bodies of the deceased. The women who wanted to anoint Jesus' body for burial did this out of love for Jesus, but their mission was destined to fail.
The women knew where the tomb was because they had watched Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus and secure the tomb with a stone. They came to the tomb “when the Sabbath was past” (Mark 16:1), which could have been any time after the sun set on Saturday, due to the Hebrew way of reckoning time. They had seen that Jesus’ body had not been anointed after His crucifixion, so they wanted to remedy this supposed oversight.
However, they overlooked two things. First, Jesus' body had already been anointed for burial! Just days before, "while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head" (Mark 14:3). After the fellow dinner guests criticized this apparent wastefulness, Jesus responded, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:6-9).
The second thing the women overlooked was that Jesus had repeatedly said that He was going to rise from the dead on the third day. Most recently, He had said, "After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee" (Mark 14:28). So the women certainly would not find a body in the tomb to anoint, even if they managed to roll the stone away! This is why the angel says to report to Peter and the other disciples to go to Galilee, and announces, "There you will see Him, just as He told you."
From this we can reach two conclusions: first, Christ is risen from the dead and promises resurrection and everlasting life to all who believe in Him and are baptized; and second, listening to what Jesus tells us will save us a lot of needless trouble and in fact is the way to true blessedness: "Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:28).
Prayer: Almighty God, through the resurrection of Your Son You have secured peace for our troubled consciences. Grant us this peace evermore that trusting in the merit of Your Son we may come at last to the perfect peace of heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Prayer requests: for the family of Jeri Gruetzner, who was laid to rest yesterday; for Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care.