March 31, 2024


Passage: Mark 16:1-8

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.
6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
7 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.”
8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
— Mark 16:1-8, ESV

We assemble together on Resurrection Sunday, many of us supremely confident in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We believe He lived and died.  We believe Jesus Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed.  Of this we have no doubt; therefore, we have no fear.

Ironically, the opposite was true of the first Christians on the first Easter.  Think of what they experienced during the original Holy Week.  Their most trusted member, Judas Iscariot, had defected, dealt away Jesus’ freedom, and died by suicide.  Their top lieutenant, Simon Peter, was living in disgrace, hiding out after denying three times he even knew the Lord Jesus Christ.  Then Jesus Himself, their Lord and leader, the One they had followed for three full years, was crucified.  From near and far, they watched Him die.  They knew the place where He was buried.  And while they had no doubts about Jesus’ death, they were overwhelmed with them concerning His promised resurrection.

The ending of Mark’s Gospel focuses on three of these first followers of Jesus.  They were three outstanding women, carrying three ominous burdens.  They arrived at the tomb terribly depressed.  When they walked in, they were overcome with great anxiety.  Then, they left with such visceral fear they literally ran, the text says “fled,” to get away from the scene.


Depression is fear, a fear most often not your fault.  It can be psychological, circumstantial, brought on by the bad actions of another.  It can be physiological, hereditary, the product of an imbalance your parents inadvertently put into your genes.

Depression is a feeling of gloom combined with the fear it is never going to get better.  It is an awful thing, described all too well in an Emmylou Harris song, “One thing they don’t tell you about the blues when you got ’em, you keep on falling cause their ain’t no bottom.”

Mary Magdalene, another Mary, and Salome knew this feeling, this fear.  They had followed Jesus for most of His ministry.  They believed He was the Messiah.  They believed those who believed in Him would never die.  They also believed He was now dead, graveyard dead.

As they approached the tomb on Sunday morning, they expected to find nothing but the blood of Jesus drained from His lifeless body.  Their basket contained no breakfast for a sunrise service.  Rather they brought spices to further embalm what they believed to be His decaying flesh.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did a quick job of it after Jesus expired on Good Friday, but the women knew anything a man could do, they could do better.

The bottom line is they believed Jesus was dead, and people do not come back from the dead.  Sure, the Son of God had raised a widow’s son, Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, and perhaps a few more not mentioned in Gospel writ.  But they believed Him to be dead, at this point, and the dead does not raise the dead.

Read, understand, feel the temperature in the room.  These were fully devoted followers of Jesus.  Now they were fully depressed, believing Him to be dead.


Depression is the feeling there is nothing you can do.  Anxiety is feeling you’ve got to do something, but you don’t know what to do.  It is a fear from loss of control or lack of understanding.  It can come from receiving bad news, or being overwhelmed with good news, or any kind of unwelcome surprise.

Mary, Mary, and Salome, were surprised to find someone else sitting in Jesus’ tomb, where His dead body was supposed to be.  With the body of Christ they were prepared to cope, but some scary figure in the place where Jesus’ was supposed to be was too much to comprehend.  “They were alarmed,” anxious.

The scary figure, of course, was an angel, a messenger of God.  Angels must be scary, for their first words are always intended to calm people down, “Be not afraid.”  Another Gospel declares there were two angels. That’s double trouble, double anxiety.

The messenger’s message was the first message on the first Easter: “He has risen.”  He is risen, indeed.  But the Marys and Salome had not seen Him, yet.  Then, God’s messenger gave them a commandment from God: “Go, tell.”  Going and telling people about Jesus still fills Christians with anxiety, does it not?

Put your feet in their sandals.  Get ready to run.


If depression is fear of what you know, and anxiety is fear of what you don’t know, then fear is simply fear itself, which President Roosevelt famously said is all we have to fear.  Fear is literally the last word in the first Gospel.  As the women fled the scene, Mark concludes, “They were afraid.”

If you look at your English Bible versions, you’ll see more verses in chapter 16 after the 8th.  But in the earliest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, they’re not there.  It seems the best translation is an ending punctuated by the terror and tension of three women caught between fear and faith.

Perhaps Mark stops here because he wants you to stop here.  Feel the depression that death brings.  Experience the anxiety of a circumstance you cannot control.  Be fearful, reverent, about the important decision you are about to make.  You know Jesus died, you know the tomb is empty, but you have not actually seen Jesus with your own eyes.  Where is He?


“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (ref. Hebrews 11:1).  Faith sees Jesus, though not with the eyes.  Faith believes, Jesus Christ is risen.  He is risen, indeed!

Too bad the ladies didn’t have a leather-bound copy of the ESV Study Bible.  They could have flipped over to the other Gospels and found a fuller, rosier depiction of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But alas, they did not need it.

We know, from the other Gospels, that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.  The other Mary and Salome had already gotten out of Dodge.  She thought He was the caretaker of the cemetery at first.  But then she heard His voice, took a closer look, and knew, by faith and sight, it was Jesus.

Mary had faith, and called on His name.  Mary had faith, and obeyed His word to tell others.  Mary had faith, to get through future bouts of depression, anxiety, and fear that visit even the truest believers in Jesus Christ.

Faith will not exempt you from depression, but it will get you through it.  Our good deacon, Dr. Lan Burch, recently experienced the deep depression that often accompanies recovery from open heart surgery.  But because of his faith in a risen Lord and a praying church, he is here with us today, worshiping and serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith will not necessarily remove your anxiety.  My sweet wife, Andrea, has the spiritual gift of worry.  Yet every day she reads her Bible, prays, and serves the Lord by serving His church along side her pastor-husband.

Faith will not take away your fear.  My face turns flush red every Sunday because of my intense fear of public speaking, fear no one will listen, fear I could be wasting our time.  But God called me to preach, faith compels me to obey, so here goes my thirty-third Easter Sunday sermon.

Faith will not make some of your depression, anxiety, and fear go away.  Faith will not always give you health, wealth, and freedom from flying in coach.  Faith offers few guarantees in this life, but offers a resurrection to follow, if you believe, trust, commit.

Faith will take away your sins, your condemnation, any separation between you and God.  Faith will save your soul, grant you everlasting life, and make your present life meaningful and fruitful.  Faith will help you write your own ending to Mark’s Gospel, you just have to trust in a Savior you’ve not actually seen.  But He has seen you.  This is because Jesus Christ is risen.  He is risen, indeed!

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