Afraid with a Promise (Mark 16)

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Sermon Text

Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome fled from the tomb because they were scared out of their wits. Why were they scared? There were plenty of scary things happening that Sunday morning. But what was it that cinched their lips shut in fear?

None of the women should have been afraid. Jesus had cast seven demons from Mary Magdalene.[1] Having been removed from Satan's physical possession, nothing should have scared her into silence.

Mary the mother of James and Joseph had seen her nephew Jesus nailed to the cross.[2] She saw Jesus grow up. Being related to Jesus, she should have known these things would happen.

Salome was the mother of James and John. Having raised those two, nothing should have scared her. She asked for her sons to sit on Jesus' left and right hands in His kingdom.[3] Everything they put her through as they grew up should have prepared her for any shock.

Why were these three scared stiff at Jesus' tomb? First of all, “it was early on the first day of the week.”[4] Travelling alone was often dangerous for women. It was even worse around sunrise and sunset. They were travelling alone. Without a man's company, they could have been seen as very appealing for a bandit to strike.

As they were walking, their thoughts went to the tombstone.[5] It was a large stone. How would these three women roll it away? They weren't strong enough. Would the guards do it for them? They were stationed there to keep Jesus' disciples away from the tomb. Would they be harassed if they asked for help? If a bandit didn't harass them on the way, a band of guards who had been ordered to stay up all night would definitely harass them.

When they got to the tomb, the stone was already rolled away.[6] Who had rolled it away? Where was Jesus? Who took Him away? The questions swirled around in their mind.

When they peeked into the tomb, there was no Jesus. The grave clothes were lying there. Folded in place.[7] The only inhabitant was a young man dressed in a white robe.[8]

All these things would be enough to rattle anyone's nerves. But the angel's message scared the women the most. The message they had heard, but they hadn't listened to. “He has risen; He is not here.”[9]

Of course He's not there. He had said three times He was going to be killed and rise from the dead.[10] On Easter morning, there would be no corpse in the tomb.

The angel pointed the women to the place where they had seen Jesus laid. But no Jesus. Only grave clothes. Jesus doesn't need grave clothes. He is alive forevermore!

“For three long days the grave did its worst until its strength by God was dispersed.”[11] These women had seen Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus bury Jesus in this very tomb on Friday. Now, right around Sunday's dawn, He was not in the tomb. The grave had done its worst. But the grave could not keep Him in. “Death cannot keep its prey.” “He tore the bars away.”[12] “Up from the grave He arose; with a mighty triumph o'er His foes; He arose the Victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with His saints to reign.”[13]

The angel's message rattled the women. Jesus is alive?! How can this be? We saw Him die! And they had. There was no denying Jesus' death. The water and the blood flowing from His pierced side proved His death.

Even though two weeks before Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, no one could conceive that Jesus was able to do it for Himself. But He is the Lord of Heaven and earth. He is the Ruler of life and death. He is “the Alpha and the Omega … the One who was and is and is to come, the Almighty.”[14]

The women were afraid because they hadn't listened to Jesus before He died. Now, was it too late? Would He go on to find other disciples who would listen to Him?[15] But the angel tries to calm their fears. “He is going before you to Galilee.”[16] Jesus was coming home. And He would be waiting for them. But the women didn't tell anyone.[17]

Do you remain silent because you're scared to be called a Christian? Where is Jesus waiting for you? Do you tarry because you think He'll be disappointed with you? Do you wait and bide your time because you're too much of a sinner? Jesus knows all about your sin. He died for your sins. He rose from the dead to show your sins are forgiven.

Still think you're too much of a sinner? Listen to the angel's full message again: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is 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.”[18]

Have you denied knowing Jesus? Forsaken your Confirmation vows? You've done nothing worse than Peter. The angel specifically names Peter as one who was supposed to be in Galilee. Why? Jesus was prepared to forgive all three denials. He's prepared to forgive all your denials.

What do you need to do to receive His forgiveness? Get over your fear of rejection and judgment. Jesus will not reject you. He was judged for your sins. They no longer have power to frighten you. They have lost all their power. There should be nothing about Jesus that scares you.

He gives you a promise. He is waiting for you in your own Galilee. He is waiting for you. An old spiritual says, “Why do you wait, dear sinner? The harvest is passing away,[19] your Savior is longing to bless you; there's danger and death in delay.”[20]

What do you think you will gain by further delaying Christ's promise? You delay every time you break the commandments and find something else to be more important than worshipping your God with your fellow Christians. Jesus promises forgiveness for past sins. Strength to struggle in the present. Hope for the future.

Jesus forgives your denials. He forgives your broken promises and vows. He forgives your fear. In this assurance and hope, you have Jesus' promise. “He will swallow up … the covering that is cast over all peoples.”[21] “He will swallow up death forever.” “The Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.” “The reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth.”[22] Jesus takes away everything evil from you. Gives you His peace and salvation. And He gives it to you every time you enter His gates. Worshipping Him in His house. Gladly living out His promises we He renews them daily.[23] “Let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”[24] Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) Amen.


  1. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2
  2. John 19:25
  3. Matthew 20:20-24
  4. Mark 16:2
  5. Mark 16:3
  6. Mark 16:4
  7. John 20:6-7
  8. Mark 16:5
  9. Mark 16:6
  10. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34
  11. LSB #466.2
  12. Sacred Selections for the Church #155.3
  13. Sacred Selection for the Church #155.refrain
  14. Revelation 1:8
  15. John 10:16; 3 Nephi 15
  16. Mark 16:7
  17. Mark 16:8
  18. Mark 16:6-7
  19. Jeremiah 8:20
  20. Sacred Selections for the Church #623.4
  21. Isaiah 25:7
  22. Isaiah 25:8
  23. Lamentations 3:22-23
  24. Isaiah 25:9