#92: From Sad to Happy

One of my early childhood memories of being in church centers around a hymn I called the “Sad/Happy Song.” It began with a slow, somber verse:

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.

Then came a quick switch to the upbeat excitement of the chorus:

Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes!
He arose a victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with the saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

Even as a child, I loved knowing that each sad verse would be followed with the joyful words, “Hallelujah, Christ arose!”

Jesus’ followers experienced a similar transformation from sad to happy. Last week’s post left them hurting and troubled—but the dark Saturday following His death was about to be overtaken by the joy of Sunday morning!

Thanks for joining me for Knowing Jesus, our marathon study (almost two years long!) through the gospel of Mark. Today we begin the last leg of our journey as we look into Mark’s final chapter. Get your Bible!

Read Mark 16:1-8. Then check out these parallel passages from the other gospels: Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; and John 20:1-9.

Jesus had died late in the day on Friday—just before the Sabbath (Saturday) when Jews were forbidden to touch a corpse—so His burial had been hurried, incomplete. The women who had been at the cross followed Joseph of Arimathea to the tomb and saw where Jesus’ body was laid. But they had to wait till the Sabbath passed to return and finish His burial. They were up and ready before Sunday’s dawn, setting out as early as they legally could.

On the way, they wondered who would roll the heavy stone away from the tomb’s entrance. They apparently weren’t aware of the Roman guard stationed at the tomb or of Pilate’s seal on its stone, or those would have been among their concerns.

As it turned out, none of it mattered. The tomb was open when they arrived, its stone rolled back, its seal already broken. The mighty guard was gone; they’d deserted their post after having been frightened nearly to death (Matthew 28:4, 11-15). And instead of Jesus’ body, the women found at least one member of His heavenly host!

Mark mentions one angel inside the tomb. Matthew tells of one angel sitting on top of the huge stone at its entrance. Luke reports two angels appearing to the women as they entered the tomb. John joins Luke in describing two angels. Why the discrepancies?

First, eye-witness accounts seldom agree completely—especially after such an emotional and startling experience; the viewpoints probably varied depending on instant of arrival at the tomb, and who remembered what. And second, there may in fact have been several angels at the tomb; after the heavenly trauma of the crucifixion, the hosts of heaven may have had a hard time staying away! Never did a dawn’s dew smell sweeter than on this Sunday when Jesus—fresh from the shattered border of hell—arose, having disposed of mankind’s sin. This was history’s climax—the morning when a new world was born and everything changed for all people, for all time. I can’t imagine a single heavenly being wanting to miss a moment of it!

An angel greeted the women: “Don’t be terrified. You seek Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is not here. He is risen. See the place where they laid Him. Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see Him there, just as He told you.” (Did you catch the only disciple mentioned by name? Peter. “Go, tell His disciples and Peter.” Why was Peter singled out? I think the Lord was reassuring Peter that his denial of Christ wasn’t the end of the road. If Peter thought his failure unforgivable, he now knew that the Lord thought otherwise.)

The trembling women fled from the empty tomb, too afraid to speak to anyone on their way to the disciples. When the Eleven heard the news, they were slow to believe it. They thought they knew the definition of “possible” and a resurrection didn’t fit it—though Jesus had spoken about it many times.

Like the disciples, we deny ourselves a lot of joy when we cling to our concept of “possible” instead of His. Our self-imposed darkness only gives way to light when we open ourselves to the truth that “with God, all things are possible.” (Lk. 1:37) Then and now, fear gives way to faith—and sad becomes happy—when we accept the “impossible” truth: Jesus lives!

© Diane McLoud 2015

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