August 28, 2016
A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Most of you will remember hearing your parents or grandparents tell you fairy tales when you were a young child. They often contain stock phrases, like the opening phrase, “once upon a time” and the closing stock phrase, “And they all lived happily ever after.” The purpose of a stock phrase like those is intended to create a sense of closure and well-being: Victory achieved, justice served, mission accomplished, love found. It is all summed up in the phrase, “and they all lived happily ever after.” The dragon was slayed, the moral compass of the universe was righted, and the prince and princess have been united in nuptial harmony as the king sits on the throne.
Now, even though these are fairy tales, it has a strong influence on how we think about real history. We like positive resolution. We don’t like things unresolved or left hanging. When you read Matthew, Luke and John you come away with a strong sense of completion—the historical equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Matthew recounts for us the Risen Lord in Galilee issuing the Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all nations…” The church is streaming forth to every ethnic group in the world. Luke and Acts triumphantly declare to the gathered disciples: “You are my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” John offers: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” These are huge, grand statements to reconciled disciples who are now preparing for a global mission. Satan is vanquished, the Faith of the Apostles is vindicated, Christ is on the throne, death is overturned, and the church is on the move!
However, our series is on Mark’s gospel. Mark does not have such a neat resolution. It ends abruptly with verse 8: “Trembling and bewildered the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” This is why we have four gospels, not one.
Mark, like the other three gospels, clearly proclaims the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is fully present. But, what we do not have at the cross or at the empty tomb is—from the human side—a triumphalistic ending, or any tidy resolution. This is really important to remember, especially today when the church is in such disarray. Brothers and sisters, hear Mark’s account of the Resurrection: Jesus is Lord even when we don’t know what’s going on! Jesus is still the Risen One even if we are scared and afraid! Jesus has still conquered death even if we have deserted him and fled. The gospel is God’s wisdom even when the so-called wisdom of this world can’t see it.
The gospel is bigger than any story we can tell. In a way, this is what makes Mark’s gospel one of God’s greatest gift to us. He reminds us afresh that we are witnessing God’s redemptive actions. He reminds us that we live in a world which could not save itself and couldn’t think its way to the gospel. Mark reminds us that God is at work, even when human institutions stumble. Mark reminds us that the gospel is much bigger than any story we can tell.
This is why the message from the angel is so important: “Do not be afraid! You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified—He is Risen!” This is the angel’s way of reminding us, even in our fears, that Jesus holds the keys of death and hell. Jesus has conquered sin and vanquished death. Through Jesus, sinners have been redeemed. The blood of the Lamb has made us more than conquerors!
Praise God for this good news. We serve a Risen Savior and He is greater than any of our fears!
This concludes this 30 week survey of Mark’s Gospel. I hope you have been blessed.
1. Do you need to remember that God has conquered sin and death even if we don’t always feel very victorious?
2. Does your church reflect through word and deed that Jesus is alive? If so, what are the signs of this? If not, what are ways this can be made clearer through the life and witness of the church?
The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.