Bible Study (Week 3) The end, the beginning Part 2

Week 3: READ: Mark 16:1-8

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It is time for the finale in Mark’s Gospel.  The story begins where the burial story ends, with women.  They prepared burial spices and arrived with no plan in mind how they will remove the large rock blocking the tomb. After sunrise on the first day of the week, the women discover the stone had been removed.  They entered the tomb.  What were they feeling at this point?  Did they hesitate in proceeding?  In biblical fashion, when a person encounters a messenger from God, they respond in fear.  As a result, these messengers begin with a greeting like: Do not be afraid (16:6).  As hard as it is to imagine meeting an angel face-to-face, I know fear I’d be gripped by fear.  What might shock me is if I did not mess yourself as well!

The body of Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified was gone.  What had they done with his body?  The person in the tomb now says the unthinkable: He has been raised (v. 6)!  It is interesting to note how Mark uses the name of Jesus of Nazareth in his Gospel. It is only used three times.  The first time happens when Jesus does ministry in the synagogue in Capernaum (1:21-28).  Jesus meets a man with an unclean spirit.  The unclean spirit cries out through the man: What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth (v. 24)?  The second instance occurred in Jesus final healing before he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (10:46-52).  Jesus is traveling through Jericho, about twenty-five miles outside Jerusalem.  On the edge of town sits a man who was blind named Bartimaeus.  When he heard Jesus of Nazareth was walking by, Bartimaeus shouted for mercy (v. 48).  These two stories serve as bookends to Jesus ministry (1:21-28– 10:46-52) followed by a bookend to the events of Holy Week (10:46-52-16:6).

As if it was not unnerving enough to have watched Jesus come under attack by the religious leaders, see him arrested, publically tried, then observe his tragic agonizing death from a distance and now his body is missing from his grave?  This is beyond belief.  The emotions are raw.  What did they do with my beloved Jesus?  Am I at risk to suffer like Jesus?  Who is this guy sitting here?  Everything in my brain says, Get out of here – run!

The women were told: Look, there is the place where they laid him (v. 6).  See for yourselves that the tomb is empty.  Either someone stole his body as a nasty trick or he is risen from the dead.  In Mark’s most ancient ending to the Gospel, there is no visual witness to the risen Lord.  This is one of the biggest leaps of faith in the Christian story.  History can verify that people die.  Historical tools cannot prove resurrection.  This requires trust in the story of the Jesus victory over sin and death.  Do you believe that this story is true?  The Apostle Paul wrote: …for we walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Mark was the first Gospel written, yet there is an older account of the resurrection of Jesus found in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.  While the four Gospels agree that Mary Magdalene was one of the women who first came to discover the empty tomb, Paul gives an account of what he has heard about the days after Jesus rose from the dead: …and that he (Jesus) appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve.

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  The point is that Christ has died for our sin and the sin of the world and he is now alive and has prepared a place for us in the eternal presence of God.  Yes Lord, I believe; help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)!

The women were given this charge: Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him just as he told you (16:7).  Jesus predicted that all his disciples would desert him but they were instructed to return and regather in Galilee in the days ahead (14:28).  Even though they walked out on Jesus at his moment of trial, he never turned his back on them.  Though Peter denied being a follower of Jesus on multiple instances, Jesus welcomed Peter back into his company of followers.  Jesus demonstrated loyalty, persistence and faith in his followers even when they messed up.  Likewise, Jesus pursues us and never gives up!

The women who had been with him at his death, burial and at the empty tomb fled in fear (16:8).  The women said nothing to anyone about the empty tomb.  Despite the charge to go and tell, they went and hid, keeping their lips sealed.  This appears like a hopeless ending to the good news of Jesus Christ.  If we put our trust in humans, as good as anyone of us may be, we will be disappointed at some point.  Like Peter, we deny our Lord.  Like the other ten disciples or the women followers at the empty tomb, we can be shy or fearful and keep our faith to ourselves.  Ironically, Jesus never gives up on us or on his people the church.

The story still continued.  Lives were changed.  The church was established.  God’s mission to reach the world with this story of love, forgiveness and a second chance through Jesus Christ remains to be told.  As followers of Jesus, this is our story to tell.  The messenger of God at the empty tomb says to you and me: Go and tell what Jesus Christ has done for you!

Soul Sower

Kathy B has worked at Grace longer than I ever will.  She worked alongside Pastor Smith, the Driver-Bishop’s and now me.  On my first take, I saw that Kathy had some rough edges.  Her words could be rather sharp and her tone could sound angry at times.  Some people have been put off by Kathy.  At the same time, I discovered a person who was fiercely loyal, always wanted what was best, and worked extremely hard and protected people she respected.  I wanted to be one of those people.  I am glad to say I am one of those people!

After ten years, I have seen Kathy, by the grace of God being changed.  She has softened yet is still fiercely loyal and protective!  It is rare to find a church secretary who will take the initiative to call up, text or email people she misses in worship.  It is a rarer thing for a church worker to go on their own time and visit people in the hospital or care center. I have been blessed to watch Kathy grow in her confidence in God.  With her heart she pursues the Lord and his ways.  The growth I see in this woman is pretty amazing – especially because she works alongside me.  Even if you are a kind Christian person, you must realize that is not always a picnic!

Life has not always been a box of chocolates (from the movie Forest Gump) for Kathy.  There have been heartaches, deaths, illness and that thing we call “family dynamics.”  In a church job, we walk alongside families and death often.  This does not take the sting away when illness and death knocks on your own door.  Through it all I see a woman of strong faith who courageously walks the walk of faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

The transformative power of the Gospel has work to do in each of our lives.  The change God is accomplishing in us is a life-time process.  I have seen some people who have made radical leaps of positive change but they are the exception to the rule. More commonly, we are changed gradually, one dial turn at a time.  God has more work cut out to do in my life and therefore I assume in Kathy’s life as well.  I thank God for what God has done and is doing in and through Kathy B.

Kathy is a soul sower.  She brings her gifts to the table of this staff and helps us all to deliver our work on time.  I see former staff members return to the office to continue conversation with Kathy.  One of them lovingly call her “mother.”  Where ever we come from in life, we all innately connect with certain people with greater ease, interest and passion.  Kathy is a soul sower in the lives of a number of people who God has put on her heart.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Discussion Questions

  1. What captured your attention when you read Mark 16:1-8?
  2. Women play an important role in the resurrection story. What does that mean to you?
  3. As you read vv. 7-8 and know that Jesus sends us as well to go and tell about him to others, what are your fears?  Is anything holding you back?  If so, what?  Why?
  4. God works in spite of our failures and shortcomings. The women said nothing yet the church of Jesus Christ was born.  Someone talked!  Do not be shy in answering: How have you seen God use you as a witness?