“[The women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (v. 8).- Mark 16:8
Christianity stands or falls on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This was certainly the view of the Apostle Paul. We see throughout his discussion of the resurrection of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15 that Paul viewed Christ’s being raised from the dead as absolutely essential to the gospel. If there was no resurrection, there is no gospel, and if there is no gospel, there is no hope for humanity.
Given the importance of the resurrection, it is no surprise that critics of the Christian faith often attack the resurrection accounts and defenders of the faith argue for their historical credibility. The four Gospels describe the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus differently, but the differences are not irreconcilable. Much good work has been done in showing how the accounts fit together, and it is good for believers to equip themselves with a basic knowledge of such things as we face a culture increasingly hostile to the Christian faith. We must be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15–16). That we might be so equipped, we will note one important factor that argues for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. In each gospel account, women were the very first witnesses of the empty tomb. This is noteworthy because first-century Jewish culture did not view the testimony of women as reliable. So, if someone invented the resurrection, having women be the first witnesses of it would not be the smart way to go about telling the story. There would be no reason to have the women be the first witnesses of the resurrection unless, in fact, they were the first to see the empty tomb and the risen Lord. The Evangelists include this fact because they had to. It is what actually happened, and they note the women’s presence because they were relaying history.
In due time, we will discuss the issues related to the ending of Mark’s gospel in more detail. Today, we note that the oldest manuscripts of Mark end with 16:8 and the women being fearful and silent. We know from the other gospels that they were not silent about the resurrection for long, but if Mark 16:8 is indeed the last verse Mark wrote, then the book concludes by encouraging us to ask these questions: Will we trust in the words of God through His messengers (the angel, in this case) that Christ has been raised from the dead? Will we proclaim the resurrection, or will we be silent?
Our actions tend to reveal what we really believe, so if we believe Christ has been raised from the dead, we must tell the world. And we tell the world by telling those with whom we have personal contact about Jesus and supporting the work of the church to make disciples of all nations. Are you sharing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection? Are you giving to and praying for the task of world missions?
Passages for Further Study