“When the Sabbath was Past”
“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.”
“As God on the first day of the week drew the world out of that abhorred estate of nothing, and brought light out of darkness, so did Christ, on that day, draw his people out of an estate worse than nothing, and "brought life and immortality to light by the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).” That is how John Trapp began his commentary on the passage before us. It is bursting with rich gospel truths and practical spiritual lessons. Here are seven things set before us in this passage. May God the Holy Spirit write them upon our hearts.
1. The sabbath is past.
That is the first thing we read in this chapter. — “And when the sabbath was past” (v. 1). Without question, this means that the old, Jewish sabbath was past. It was now, Sunday morning, the dawning of the first day of the week. But it was not accidental that our Lord was raised from the dead on this particular day. The resurrection of Christ from the dead declares that the Old Testament law of sabbath keeping is now past and the day of grace has dawned!
Look at Matthew 28:1. This is a very remarkable verse of Scripture. In our Authorized Version it reads, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” A better translation would be, “And in the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the sabbath, came Mary.” In fact, Young’s Literal Translation reads, “And on the eve of the sabbaths, at the dawn, toward the first of the sabbaths, came Mary the Magdalene, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre.” This is what Matthew 28:1 means: — When the Lord Jesus Christ died at Calvary and rose again, the old sabbath of the law ended and the new sabbath of grace began.
Christ fulfilled the law for us. — “Christ is the end of the law.” — “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.” — In Christ we are “dead to the law.” Language could not be clearer. We are not under the law, but under grace. One of the most beautiful pictures of this is found right here in Mark 16:1. Here the Holy Spirit tells us that the sabbath is past.
We keep no legal sabbath day, because God strictly forbids it (Colossians 2:16-17); and we keep no legal Sabbath, because we keep the blessed sabbath of faith. Christ is our Sabbath. We rest in him. You cannot rest in him if you try to keep a legal sabbath; and you cannot labor under the yoke of the law if you rest in him. Either you are working, or you are resting. You simply cannot do both at the same time.
The sabbath is past, because “the Lord of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28) has rested from his works (Hebrews 4:10). All who come to Christ keep that rest by faith that was symbolized and typified by the legal sabbath of the law (Matthew 11:28-30; Jeremiah 6:16). We rest in him. He is our Sabbath.
“And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun” (v. 2). — The words translated here “the first day of the week,” as in Matthew 28, would be more accurately translated “the first of the sabbath.” As the first day of the world was called “the first day” (Genesis 1:5), so the day of our Lord’s resurrection is here called “the first of the sabbath.” As that day was the beginning of the creation of God, so this day, when “the Sun of Righteousness” arose with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2), was the beginning of the new creation of grace, the beginning of glorification, and the beginning of everlasting rest for God’s elect.
2. There is no power in all the world like love to make us bold and courageous.
A mother’s love will cause a timid, little woman to fight a huge, armed man in defense of her child. A husband’s love will cause him to leap into death itself to protect his wife. Well did the wise man say, “Love is strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.”
Yet, God the Holy Spirit here sets before us a love that exceeds the love of a husband for his wife. It even exceeds the love of a mother for her child. Here we see a little band of three women going early in the morning to the tomb of the Lord Jesus to honor him and take care of his dead body.
"And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun" (vv. 1-2).
Try to understand how significant this is. These women came in the early hours of the morning, before the sun was up, to the tomb of a man who had been publicly condemned as a common malefactor, one who had been despised and rejected by the entire nation, and was buried, with his tomb sealed, and his body under the guard of specially appointed soldiers.
What gave these women such courage, such boldness? These dear ladies had tasted the Lord’s pardoning mercy. Their hearts were filled with love for him who died for them. They felt a great sense of gratitude to him. They felt that they owed him a great debt of love, a debt they could never pay. They believed the Lord; and, believing him, they loved him. For Christ, they were willing to hazard their own lives. They were willing to do so, not because he commanded them to do so, but simply because they loved him. They could not do much; but they must do what they could. So they came to the Lord’s tomb.
Why do we see so little of this strong love for Christ today? Why is it that we meet with few today who are moved by such strong love for Christ that they are willing to hazard their lives for him? — So few who are willing to face any danger, make any sacrifice, and walk into raging storms and roaring fires for Christ’s sake? There is only one answer. It is that in this day there seems to be a prevailing, terribly low sense of debt and obligation to the Son of God. — A low sense of sin will always produce a low sense of grace. — A low sense of debt will always produce a low sense of duty. — A low sense of forgiveness will always result in a low sense of love (Luke 7:47).
It is the love of Christ which constrains believers to serve and honor him (2 Corinthians 5:14). It is the love of Christ experienced in the soul that inspires redeemed sinners to devote themselves to their Savior and to one another. Grace experienced causes gratitude to be exercised. Tasting the love of Christ makes people loyal to Christ. Faith makes men faithful. A sure hope in Christ causes saved sinners to live for the honor of Christ.
3. Most of our fears are needless fears.
As they walked to the tomb on that early Sunday morning, these women were filled with fears concerning things they thought they might face; but all their fears were needless. That which they feared did not come to pass. They expected trouble they never had to face.
"And they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (vv. 3-4).
How much like these fearful women we are! Most of our worrying and anxiety arises from things we fear may happen, but never do happen. We tend to anticipate troubles that never come to pass. We all tend to carry tomorrow’s troubles. But, usually, our doubts, and fears, and unbelief prove to be utterly groundless. Our Lord taught us better (Matthew 6:25-34).
How foolish our worrying is! I do not remember ever pacing the floor, worrying about anything that actually came to pass. Let us ever be confident of the Lord’s presence, provision and protection. Trust his providence. The lions we fear are on God’s chain. The dark giants that terrify us are just shadows of darkness.
Be not dismayed whate’er betide.
Beneath His wings of love abide.
Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you.
All you may need He will provide,
Nothing you need will be denied,
No matter what may be the test,
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you.
4. The angels of God are our friends.
"And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted” (vv. 5-6).
When Mary Magdalene and her friends came into the tomb, they saw an angel in the form of a man, and were frightened by him. But the angel quickly calmed their fears.
This may, at first, seem insignificant. After all, the Lord no longer speaks to men by angels (Hebrews 1:1-3). Angels no longer appear to men in visible form. But there is a day coming when we will again see them, hoards of them all at once. When Christ comes again to judge the world, he will come with his holy angels. But when we see them, God’s elect will have no reason to fear these majestic, holy beings.
The Scriptures tell us that the angels will gather together God’s elect from the four corners of the earth. The angels will gather the wheat into the barn and bind up the tares for the burning. Those whom the angels take shall be carried up to heaven, to glory, to honor, and to immortality. Those whom the angels leave behind shall be left to shame and everlasting contempt. The angels of God rejoice in heaven when Christ gathers in his sheep, one by one (Luke 15). The angels visit our assemblies to learn about redeeming love and saving grace (Ephesians 3:10). The angels of God are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14). The angels of God are our friends and companions in the kingdom of Christ (Hebrews 12:22-24).
I am sure we will never know, as long as we live in this mortal state, what great friends the angels of God are to us. But when we rise from our graves, we will see the angels themselves and be embraced by them as friends to our souls. We will spend eternity in the company of those blessed spirits.
5. The justice of God has been manifestly satisfied by the sacrificial, sin-atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, our all-glorious Substitute.
Hear the words of this angel to these women, and understand, child of God, that we now have nothing to fear, not even from God himself. — "And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him" (v. 6).
Our Savior’s name is Jesus, Jehovah who saves. He is Jesus of Nazareth, a real man, just like you and me. This man, who is himself God, was crucified, slain under the curse of God’s holy law, bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, and suffering all the horrid wrath of God against our sins as our Substitute!
That One who bore our sins in his own body on the tree is now risen from the dead, risen because he accomplished our justification, risen because justice is satisfied and the sin he bore in his own body on the tree he has effectually put away forever by the sacrifice of himself! The stone, rolled against his tomb to seal it by the hand of the law, was rolled away by the hand of God; and the Lord God himself declares to every believing sinner, “Fury is not in me” (Isaiah 27:4).
The risen Christ declares that believing sinners have no reason to be afraid of God. On the contrary, by faith in Christ, by the merit of his blood, God himself bids us come to him freely, even boldly, with “full assurance” of acceptance in and with his dear Son (Hebrews 10:18-22).
6. The grace of God is immutable.
Look at verse seven. Here is immutable grace, immaculate mercy, infinite, indestructible love. — "But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." — Tell his disciples who have forsaken him, and Peter who has denied him that he goes before them; and tell them that he will meet them in Galilee, just like he said he would. In a word, tell them that they are all pardoned, that all is forgiven. Because God’s grace is free, because he paid their debt, because he put away their sin, there is no breach between him and them!
This is not the way of men! I think that our views of God and his grace are weakest right here: – None of us have any idea how exceedingly willing he is to forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin! At this point, we all think that God is such a one as ourselves. What shameful unbelief! We forget that “He delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18-20). His forgiveness is free, full and forever.
7. He who is God our Savior is faithful and true – a God to be trusted!
Read verse 7 again, and you will see this clearly. — "But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." Our Savior’s name is “Faithful and True.” What he has promised, he will do. He will go before you, child of God, all the days of your life. He has gone before you into great sorrow, into the tomb, and into heaven! Robert Hawker wrote…
“The first thing the Lord Jesus had respect to, when he arose from the dead, was to send his Angel to comfort his disciples with the assurance of his love, while he informed them of his resurrection. His almighty power, by which he arose from the dead (Romans 1:4), and his altered state made no alteration in his love. He is still the same Jesus, and the same brother as before. Oh! for grace to have this always in remembrance!”
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