The world isn't exactly short of conspiracy theories; but when it comes to the case of the empty tomb, there's an abundance. We've probably all heard the common ones: maybe someone stole the body, or perhaps Jesus somehow survived the cross and got away.
It's hardly surprising that people seek an alternative explanation for the empty tomb to the one the Bible gives - after all, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then the consequences are massive for all of us. So as we look at the last passage in Mark's Gospel, 15:40-16:8, Mark wants us to be sure of is that Jesus definitely was dead, and definitely rose.
Firstly, Jesus was definitely dead. Pilate, the Roman governor, checked this with the same centurion that saw Jesus die, and he confirmed it. When it came to killing people, the Romans didn't make mistakes. The women who saw where he was buried were also clearly convinced that he was dead - they'd bought expensive spices expecting to find a corpse.
What they found when they got to the tomb though, was not a dead man but a live one. What's astonishing is what this strange figure told the understandably shocked women - that Jesus had risen from the dead, and that they would see Him alive again. Not only that, but this would happen 'just as He told you'. That points us back to the three times that Jesus predicted His death in Mark's gospel (8:31, 9:31, 10:33). But Jesus hadn't just predicted His death; He had also predicted His resurrection. Each time, after announcing that he would be killed, Jesus also said that 'after three days he [would] rise'.
Jesus' resurrection then, is the final vindication of His claims to be God's King.
Notice too what we learn about Jesus' disciples. 16:7 has to be one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible. It may not seem that striking at first, but consider what it would have meant for Peter to hear those words. The last time we saw him, he'd broken down in tears having denied Jesus three times (14:72), the very thing that earlier that day he'd confidently promised Jesus that he'd never do (14:31). Likewise, all of the disciples had abandoned Jesus despite promising not to.
Here in verse 7 is wonderful forgiveness for the failed disciples.
Questions for application
- Why does Jesus' resurrection mean that following Jesus is worth it? (think back to chapters 8-10)
- How do you feel when you recognise you've failed God? Why is 16:7 so brilliant?