Raised for Restoration

So we have been going through the gospel of Mark and we have reached the end. But before I continue I feel like it would be helpful to clarify something about the end of the last chapter, chapter 16.

If you look at the end of Mark it might continue until verse 20. And just so we’re all on the same page here, most biblical scholars, using a science called textual criticism believe that verses 9-20 are a later addition.

You can do your own research but the evidence strongly strongly points to v.8 being the original intended ending.

But with that there was this growing dilemma for me. No other Gospel ends like this. Every Gospel has a joyful reunion with Jesus and his followers except for here in Mark. And it’s not even like this is a neutral ending but the followers of Jesus seem to be disobeying the angel and run away scared. And just like that it ends. And so we’ll address this at the end after we look at what the rest of the passage has for us.

Overview of Mark

So we started going through Mark in January and right from the introduction Mark states “This is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Or it can also be translated this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

And this is the only time in the Gospel of Mark that he tells us what he thinks. And what he does for the rest of the book is try to convince us of this by presenting Jesus’ life to us. Mark shows us through Jesus’ actions and words how he is the Messiah, the son of God.

He really is bringing good news. He is delivering people from demonic oppression. He is healing people. A paralyzed man can walk after an encounter with Jesus. A man with leprosy is cured. He is bringing so much hope to people. He’s doing amazing things like feeding thousands of people with barely any food. He calms storms with mere words getting the disciples to talk among themselves and ask, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

His teachings are with an authority and conviction that the people haven’t heard before like teaching that the Kingdom of God is not like the Kingdoms of the world. In the world you are great if people serve you but Jesus flips this and says that in the Kingdom of God you are great if you serve others. That the first will be last and the last will be first.

But not everyone loves him.

A lot of people just like the signs and wonders he does but aren’t taking his teachings seriously. And then the religious leaders don’t like him at all. Jesus is claiming to do something that only God can do and that’s the ability to forgive sins and they also hate the fact that he hangs out with “sinners and tax collectors” and the religious leaders get even more angry that Jesus calls them out on their religious hypocrisy and how they are more concerned with external behavior more than internal motives.

About halfway through Mark, one of his disciples, Peter confesses that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. But it’s clear that he has misconceptions along with everyone else about what that means. To Peter and the disciples the Messiah was going to be a political military King who will overthrow the Romans and deliver Israel from Roman oppression. But for Jesus to be the Messiah means that he is coming in the form of a suffering servant as it says in Isaiah 53, a King who will bring God’s rule by giving up his life. And the disciples don’t have any categories for that.

The Kingdom of God does not look like what they thought it would. They think that following Jesus is going to mean fame and gaining status and Jesus makes it clear that following him is actually more like dying.

It means carrying your own cross and rejecting sin, and pride, and selfishness and rejecting the desire to be the ruler of your own life.

And so in chapter 10 Jesus tells his followers I did not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many. Jesus is trying to prepare them for his mission for what the Messiah must do. Jesus repeatedly says that he will suffer many things and he will die and rise again. But the disciples still don’t get it and they respond with confusion and fear and they still have these different expectations for what Jesus will do.

So he goes on to Jerusalem with his followers. And the religious leaders are coming at him hard. Their challenging Jesus’ authority and they try to trap him by asking questions but he always responds in a way that they don’t expect, and it gets to the point where they don’t ask him any more questions. And they end up cutting a deal with one of his disciples who ends up betraying Jesus for money, and Jesus gets arrested, all of his disciples end up abandoning him and as Pastor Kevin preached on last week he was tortured and executed like a criminal on a Roman cross and yet that was nothing compared to the spiritual suffering that he went through, but it was part of the plan. And so the mighty Son of God, the one who displays so much power does not use his power for himself and dies what seems to be a powerless death.

Chapter 15, verses 1–8

And so to recap the end of chapter 15 after Jesus’ death we are introduced to 3 women by name, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They play an important role later. And then there’s this dude Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was a member of the council that had just condemned Jesus but it says he was himself looking for the kingdom of God. And so he goes asks for the body of Jesus because the sabbath is approaching which starts sundown Friday. The guard confirms that Jesus really was dead and Joseph takes the body and buries it in a cave tomb that he owns. And it says that the women saw where the tomb was. And that’s the end of chapter 15. So chapter 15 ends right before the sabbath.

Chapter 16

And the beginning of chapter 16 starts early morning the day after the sabbath. And the 3 women are mentioned again, each by name. And so these women have some spices to anoint Jesus’ dead body. It was a common Jewish burial practice during that time. It was like paying their respects with the practical element that the aroma from the spices would help the odor as a body decomposes. They were expecting a dead body,

So they’re filled with grief and sadness, they had just witnessed the brutal public execution of Jesus. They don’t even have a good plan to the point where they don’t even how they will get into the cave tomb which Mark says had a large stone rolled in front of the entrance. So they’re just walking and they see the stone is rolled away. Probably worried they go in, and then they see someone who is described as a young man wearing a white robe, who in the other gospel accounts is called an angel. And they’re startled but the angel says,

“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. 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.”

Zooming In

So we’re going to camp out here on the angel’s message in v. 6 and 7.

Notice that at the end right there in v.7, the young man says ‘just as he told you”. Jesus in Mark chapter 14 verse 28 was telling the disciples how was going to suffer and that they would all fall away but then he says “but after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

And so the first important thing to understand is this angel is bringing a message that is not his own. And he is reminding the women of what Jesus said and in turn telling them to remind the disciples of what Jesus said. This is not some new message that this angel is bringing. This is something that the followers of Jesus would be able to verify among themselves.

Another thing to notice. The message is a clear declaration of news. It is a clear, unambiguous message of what is going on. (This is not like The Sopranos)

There is no room for uncertainty of what an empty tomb means for the women… They are told straight up “The one you seek, Jesus of Nazareth the crucified one, has risen, he is not here.”

And right there you have the Gospel at its most basic terms. In 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul when trying to remind the Corinthian church of the Gospel summarizes it by saying “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” So here we have the first post-resurrection announcement of the complete gospel. And in this announcement there is a command. And in the command you hear the first implications of the Gospel. The angel says to the women, “go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him!”

So in chapter 14, all of the disciples denied Jesus and ran away when Jesus was arrested. But Peter not only does that and abandons him but then he denies him again after that.

So before all of this, during the last supper, when Jesus said that they will all fall away and deny him, Peter starts arguing with Jesus that no matter what he will never deny Him, and even going as far as saying “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.”

And so fast-forward to right after Jesus was arrested to the place where Jesus is being held and put under trial, and Peter not wanting to identify with Jesus but just nosy enough to be in the area and he is warming himself by the fire but we don’t know what’s really going on with him and there’s other people around and then a servant girl recognizes Peter and is like “wait, aren’t you one of this guy’s followers.” And Peter is straight denying it, he said “I neither know nor understand what you mean” I don’t know what you’re talking about. And it sounds like there was other people around and she’s like I’m pretty sure this dude is one of these guys Jesus was rolling with and so Peter hears this and he denies it again and is acting like he’s never even heard of Jesus.

Then they started putting pieces together and started realizing things aren’t adding up they realize that this guy is from Galilee where Jesus was from and where this movement started. And Peter has a Galilean accent (Puerto Rico) and Peter’s story is not adding up because Jesus is from Galilee and everyone in Galilee has heard of him, and this guy is saying that he doesn’t even know what they were talking about so they call his bluff and Peter doesn’t back down and based on how he’s reacting he’s done, he’s caught in a lie, and he is taking it to another level and it says that he’s invoking a curse on himself and that he’s at the point where he is swearing that he does not know him.

And he hears a rooster crow for the second time and it’s like a lightbulb going off and he immediately thinks about what Jesus said. “You will deny me 3 times before the rooster crows twice.” And then it says he broke down and wept. The pain of knowing what he had just done; of denying the one he had walked with closely for 3 years. Peter was there on the mountain with James and John, in chapter 9, when he heard the voice saying “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” And here he is— having just denied that he even knew who Jesus was… And yet the angel said “tell the disciples and Peter!” “Tell Peter”

Jesus is calling you by name. He knows you. He knows your brokenness. And he is not surprised at your sin. Look at Peter. Peter might have been shocked at his denial that he reached that low but Jesus wasn’t.

And so Jesus mentioning the disciples, and specifically Peter, is a clear picture of the radical nature of God’s grace. What we are seeing here are clear implications of the Gospel. Restoration to God.

1 Peter 1:3 (ESV): Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

There is this great passage in the book of Romans. It’s right at the end of chapter 4 but it talks about Jesus being raised for our justification. So being justified before God means that, when we put our faith in Jesus and his work on the cross, God declares us righteous before him, our sins are not counted against us because they were counted against Jesus. And instead of us taking the righteous wrath of God that we deserved for our own sin, Jesus takes it all upon himself on the cross. And so by Jesus being raised from the dead it’s God the Father, approving of the work His son Jesus did on the cross. God the Father receives us with open arms, not because of anything good we have done but because of who Jesus is and what he has done.

And as Pastor Kevin mentioned last week Jesus’ death and suffering gave us access and confidence. Access to his presence, that we can go to God the Father by the blood of Jesus and confidence, confident that we are secure in His love for us.

So the resurrection is the guarantee that our relationship with God can be restored.

But that’s not all, the resurrection is also the guarantee that God will restore the world.

Christianity’s hope isn’t that we’ll simply go to heaven when we die. It’s not that that’s a wrong statement but it’s just incomplete. The resurrection gives us hope in all those stories that Jesus has told about God’s kingdom, all of those prophecies of old in the scriptures proclaiming that there will be a time when all things will be made right, that there will be a world where there is no death, and where there are no tears.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection our final hope isn’t that we will escape our bodies and be in heaven but that we will have restored physical bodies and we will live in a restored physical earth and Jesus will be King.

One theologian explains “Heaven isn’t an escapist’s dream. The place where you go and play the harp while sitting on clouds. It’s not a place to be held out like a dangling carrot to make people better behaved, just like God isn’t an absentee landlord who looks down from a great height just to tell us what not to do. Heaven is the extra dimension, the God-dimension, of all our present reality; and the God who lives there is present to us, present with us, sharing our joys and sorrows, knowing there will be a day when his whole creation, heaven and earth together, will perfectly reflect his glory. There will be a new earth where Jesus will be on the throne.  An earth that will not have the decay of death, an earth that isn’t tainted by selfishness and sin and that is filled with God’s joy, love, wisdom, and justice.”

And so Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of that. It’s an indicator that just like God restored our relationship with Him through Jesus, He will also one day fully restore the brokenness of this world.

Revelation 21:3–4 (ESV):

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And so we are called to offer our lives to give glimpses of that hope and reality right now. We are called as followers of Jesus to be a people who are welcoming, the ones who give hope to the hopeless, to care for those who are suffering, to speak out against sin and injustice, a people that bring the Gospel to bear in all of life.

The Ending (v. 8)

And now the final verse in the book of Mark. The verse that has caused so much confusion and caused multiple additional endings.

There is an empty tomb and there is a declaration that Jesus has risen. Which is good. But there isn’t that joyful reunion with Jesus and his followers. This isn’t the happy ending that we expect, it is not the the grand finale that we’d want in a Gospel ending. Why would Mark end in this way?

There’s this aspect of abruptness is Mark’s style throughout, and just as Mark abruptly starts without giving a genealogy or giving a lot of the details that we’re used to about Jesus’ birth he ends like that too not giving us any instances of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and his ascension that we are also used to. So part of it is Mark being brief and straight to the point as he has been the whole time.

But another aspect of this ending is specifically the theme of fear and failure. All throughout Mark there is this theme of fear and failure with the disciples in response to Jesus. And really the final verse here caps off and emphasizes the failure of the followers of Jesus throughout the whole book.

And it’s so that we will know that our fear and our wrong responses to Jesus does not change who Jesus is and what he has promised. He is God. And he is good. No matter what we are feeling.

Even paralyzing fear would not stop God’s promise from happening that Jesus would see his followers in Galilee. We know from the other Gospels, that the silence and fear was not permanent and that these women have a unique place in history of being the first commissioned evangelists of the resurrected Christ. Women, in an age where they were even more marginalized than they are today, are chosen by God as the first humans to carry this completed Gospel message and the first hearers are men, the disciples.

Just because the women we’re immediately fearful and silent doesn’t mean that they stayed that way. Jesus, the one can handle the storm and calm the winds and waves can also handle our confusion, and our fear.

Do you have a hunger deep in your soul? Is there a thirst deep in your heart that nothing seems to satisfy. Jesus is calling out to all who would listen and he says “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger! And If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” 

The Table

And this brings us to the table. Jesus told his followers that they would see Him in Galilee, and though they had been with him and had seen him, He was inviting them to see him for who he really is, the resurrected Messiah, the Son of God. And just like He invited them He is inviting us to meet him right now, and see him for who he really is. Is your soul hungry for true food? Does your heart thirst for something that will actually satisfy? If you would say with us I want you Jesus, I need you, you gave your all for me and I give my all to you then join us in communion and as we sing and come, meet him.

Jesus the night he was betrayed took bread and wine and said as often as you gather together do this in remembrance of me.

Jesus’ body was broken for us. His body is the true bread.

Jesus’ blood was shed for us. His blood is the true drink.