Death & Taxes
1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they could go and anoint him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” 4 Looking up, they noticed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away. 5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.’” 8 They went out and ran from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid. — Mark 16:1-8
In 1789, commenting in a letter on the nation’s new constitution and its hopeful permanence, Benjamin Franklin is said to have written, “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” He’s right. Here we are, two hundred thirty years later, and today is the dreaded day: tax day. If you haven’t already done so, I strongly advise you to file your taxes with the appropriate people or request an extension.
Like, now. Right. Now.
Come back and read this later.
For us two things are certain: death and taxes. We will all die, and we will all have to pay taxes.
In New Testament times, however, something else was certain: women didn’t testify. Their word didn’t carry any weight. They were considered useless witnesses in court. Men shared testimony, and even then only a certain kind of man.
Tim Keller, in his book King’s Cross (a commentary on Mark’s Gospel), wrote:
Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was highly antagonistic to Christianity and wrote a number of works listing arguments against it. One of the arguments he believed most telling went like this: Christianity can’t be true, because the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women—and we all know that women are hysterical…In ancient societies, as you know, women were marginalized, and the testimony of women was never given much credence.
You would think, then, that Mark would choose a different tactic to convince his readers Jesus actually did rise from the dead. In telling his story, he starts the whole thing off by listing three women—by name—who were first to the supposed empty tomb: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. Women. Three of them. By name.
Mark! You blew it! If you want anyone to believe this stuff, stick to the facts that people will believe! No one will believe this! No one in the first century world listens to women! Leave that part out and get to the part where men witness the empty tomb!! People are gonna think you made the whole thing up!
Or did he? Greek philosophers like Celsus thought this disproved Jesus’ resurrection. But if you think about it, doesn’t it do just the opposite? Doesn’t this show that if Mark and others were going to make this up, they would NOT have chosen to include women in their story? Isn’t the only explanation for including these women—three named women—is that this actually did happen? Isn’t Mark saying, “This is how it went down: I was there. If you want to know if my facts are right, I gave you names. Go ask the Mary’s or Salome. If I was making this up, I certainly would not have included women in my story. But I’m not making it up. I was there. This is how it happened. Jesus rose from the dead and is alive.”?
Mark would correct Benjamin Franklin. Three things are certain: Death, taxes…and Jesus’ resurrection.
- How does the fact that Mark included women in his account give you greater confidence in the certainty of Jesus’ actual resurrection from the dead?
- If Jesus is alive, and He is, can you think of three ways this impacts your life right now?
- “Tax day” can be hard. How does Jesus being alive—conquering death—directly affect your thoughts on either having to pay taxes or receiving a tax refund?
- Who in your life do you need to help understand the importance of Mark including women’s testimonies to prove Jesus’ victory over death?