Mark 16:2-4: The Hope of Easter
The picture of the first Easter morning was bleak. The disciples had believed that Jesus was their hope and the hope of Israel. They thought He was the one who was going to save and deliver them from Roman rule and oppression. Three days earlier their hopes were dashed. Jesus, the one they had looked to, had been crucified. All hope was gone.
Perhaps you are in a situation in your life where you have lost all hope. You are at your breaking point. There have been glimmers of hope, but your last hope has died. Easter, as it did for the disciples, brings fresh hope into our life and situation.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James brought spices to Jesus’ tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. We read, “Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb? Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large” (Mark 16:2-4).
It’s significant to note it was “very early on the first day of the week.” Real hope is found early in the morning. That is why Jesus, “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). Elisha’s servant “had risen early” (2 Kings 6:15), ultimately to find God had brought deliverance to Israel. Joshua was facing his first great battle as Israel’s leader, and had risen early to seek the Lord when he met the “captain of the host of the LORD” (Joshua 5:13-14). If we will begin to seek the Lord early before our battle begins, God will bring renewed hope into our life and situation.
In our passage, the two Marys had risen early and gone to the tomb, not knowing who would even roll away the stone from the tomb. When they arrived, “Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away” (Mark 16:4). “Looking up!” Our situation may seem bleak and impossible, but I’m here to tell you that Easter – Resurrection Sunday – gives renewed hope. Where we have been hopeless and downcast, Jesus’ resurrection causes us to raise our heads and “look up” once again. As we examine scripture, the word look or looking can bring fresh new perspective into our lives. Let’s examine a few scriptures that deal with “look” or looking.
1. Looking Intently Into the Empty Tomb
Mary went to Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning and saw the stone had been rolled away. She quickly ran to tell Peter and John. They ran to see what had taken place. John being a little younger arrived at the tomb first. Peter followed closely behind.
John, “stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in” (John 20:5). The word is “blepo” and simply means to glance at something and indicates only that the object impressed itself on John’s eyes. He, didn’t examine what he saw and at this point, didn’t quite grasp what had happened.
“Peter came, following him, went into the tomb; and saw” (John 20:6). It goes on to express (verses 6-7) how Peter looked at everything in the empty tomb, the linen clothes, the handkerchief that had been around Jesus’ head, and he even noticed how it had been neatly folded, in a place by itself. The word used in verse six is “theoreo” and means to take careful notice, to contemplate, to behold with intelligence, to scrutinize over. Something caused Peter to puzzle over what he saw (like an empty cocoon retaining the shape or contour of Jesus’ body). How could the body get out of the clothes without unwrapping them?
Then John, “went in also and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). The word used here is “eido” and means to see with understanding and therefore believe, to get a mental picture of, to realize what has taken place. John understood the meaning of what he saw, that Jesus was alive and therefore believed that He was risen from the dead.
John initially looked in the empty tomb first, but only glanced at what was inside. It merely made an impression on his eyes. Peter went in afterward scrutinizing and puzzling over all that he saw. Because Peter so pondered over all he saw, John went in the second time, saw and believed. It’s those, like Peter, who look intently into the resurrection, the person of Christ and the Word of God that pave the way for others to see, understand and believe.
2. Your Blessed Hope
Paul wrote to Titus, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Paul was writing concerning the second coming of Jesus. This is our ultimate hope. When the Lord will return “to give you (us) who are troubled rest when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7). “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). Let’s eagerly look for His return with anxious anticipation.
Easter not only causes us to look to the resurrected Christ, but ultimately Jesus’ return for us. As we look to Jesus, we not only have the hope of His return for us, but also that He will gloriously appear to us in our situation. Notice, Titus 2:13 says, He is “our great God and Savior.” What a proof text of the divinity of Christ. As God, there is nothing too hard for Him – nothing in our life or situation He cannot handle. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). He is there to bring us salvation – both eternal salvation and salvation into our life’s situation. Jesus is our blessed hope both now and eternally.
3. Your Redemption Draws Near
Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). He had been talking about Jerusalem “falling by the edge of the sword, and being led away captive into all nations” (Luke 21:24), and “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26) . Everything may be coming in against you. Fear is gripping you on every side, your mind and your “heart failing them (you) from fear.” In the midst of it all He challenges us to “look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Your deliverance is on its way. Look up and lift up your head, victory is coming!
“There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer” (Romans 11:26). At Jesus’ first coming He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable (favorable) year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20). Your victory and deliverance is Imminent!
4. Your Help is Coming
The Psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills — From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD” (Psalm 121:1-2). Are you in trouble? Are you in need of help? Lift up your eyes to the one who alone can help. Our God is “A very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). “So that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me” (Hebrews 13:6)? “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)? “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
5. Looking Intently Into the Word of God
“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). The word for “looks into” is “parakypto” and means to stoop over and look into, to gaze carefully by the side of, to peer or to peep into, to bend over for closer look, investigation and examination of something.
If we will “look into” (parakypto), stoop over, gaze carefully into, bend over for a closer look, investigation and examination of the Word, the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to see wonderous things out of His Word (Psalm 119:18). We will be like the disciples, who Jesus discussed things concerning Himself after His resurrection and said, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us….and while He opened the Scriptures to us” (Luke 24:32)? Let’s do more than make passing glance into the Word of God, let’s look intently into it, bend over for closer look, investigation and examination of His Word. As we do we’ll be blessed in all we do (Joshua 1:8, Psalms 1:2-3).
6. Victory in the Battle
Joshua was facing his first major battle as Israel’s leader. The challenge before him was great and “he lifted his eyes and looked” and before him stood the “Commander of the army of the LORD” (Joshua 5:13-14). This was Theophany or Christophany, a manifestation of Christ in the Old Testament. He looked to Him and received the guidance and direction he needed for victory in the battle. As the “Commander of the army of the LORD” gave Joshua specific instructions on how to defeat Jericho and as Joshua followed those directives, Israel was given victory over their enemy and their conquest over Jericho was triumphant.
We too will find the needed prescription for victory as we look to resurrected Jesus. “Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice” (Hebrews 3:7). If we will listen carefully for His voice, give heed to His instructions and follow through in obedience, God will give us victory over our enemies and our conquests – like Israel’s, we’ll be triumphant! “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
“Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, So drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; Let them rejoice before God; Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly” (Psalms 68:1-3). “No weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17a). “When the enemy comes in, like a flood The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19b).
I Love what the angel told Mary, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:7). “Go, tell His disciples and Peter,” don’t forget Peter, make sure you let him know I’m coming for him and I’m anxious to see him. Remember, Peter had denied the Lord and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Peter was a broken man.
If you have failed and are broken, remember, as Jesus went looking for Peter, He is looking for you as well. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). “To this one I will look,To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My Word” (Isaiah 66:2b).
God is a God of restoration and so must we be. He leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one who has fallen and strayed (Luke 15:3-7). “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass (fault or sin), you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Restoration is the mandate of the church and must be its mission.
If you have experienced failure, Jesus is not condemning you, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). Jesus hasn’t forgotten you. He’s even now looking for you. It was approximately seven days later that Peter preached the first gospel message on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 people were saved, and the eleven stood with him in full support (Acts 2:14). We all “were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). Let’s search for, encourage and restore the fallen and broken among us.
8. A Successful Conclusion
As you look to Jesus, God promises to bring you through to a successful conclusion. The writer of Hebrews says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). “Looking unto” means to look away from other things and to fix our eyes on Jesus. There are many things vying for our attention, but we must turn our eyes away from them and fix our sights steadfastly on Jesus. He began our faith (Roman 12:3), and will finish it. Paul wrote, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it” (Philippians 1:6). “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
No mater what you are facing, He is faithful to finish what He began, and all He has called you to. The good news is, it doesn’t depend on us. He is the author and finisher of our faith. We are merely co-laborers together with Him (1 Corinthians 3:9).
Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus this Easter, the following year and beyond – until He returns. He is our blessed hope, our redemption (deliverer), victory in the battle, and He will bring us through to a successful conclusion. When everything is coming against us let’s look up, lift up our heads, and fix our gaze upon Jesus. He alone brings hope and victory. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).