Mark 16 is the resurrection story through the hand of Mark. He tells us another woman was with the two Mary’s we learned about in Matthew’s version. Salome was part of the trio of women who went early the morning after the Sabbath to the tomb. The women were wondering “who will roll away the stone for us” as they approached, but that had already been taken care of by the angel who was sitting there waiting for them. The angel spoke to them telling them not to be alarmed – a hard thing to not do – be fearful of an angel sitting on a large stone. But the words that really capture the magic of the tomb were these: “He has risen, He is not here. See the place where they laid Him”. Jesus arose. He was gone, nowhere to be found. Can you envision it – the amazing discovery of an empty tomb. The tomb was empty and He had overcome death. Oh how important that is to our walk as Christ Followers. It is the whole enchilada – Jesus power to be raised from the dead after taking our sin to the cross is central to our faith and eternity. Jesus then appears to some folks:
– “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene
– He appeared in another form to two of them….walking into the country
– He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table”
Jesus begins to show Himself and His resurrected body to those closest to Him. The 11 had not believed so “He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart”. Jesus expected more from the disciples. They weren’t really on the right page and He let them know.
Jesus then gives the great commission to the disciples. Mark’s version is a bit different but has the same underlying meaning: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”. Jesus goes on to tell the disciples the kinds of signs they would perform if they believe in Him:
– “cast out demons
– Speak in new tongues
– Pick up serpents with their hands
– Drink any deadly poison
– Lay their hands on the sick”
Do those things still apply to us today as a result of believing in Jesus? There are cults that believe they do – that worship with poisonous snakes and drink poison and on it goes. We know that in some cases those end with mass suicide because they were not based on faith but the teaching of a man on the wrong path. Our faith is not a license to do whatever we want. We need to be in step with God and obedient to what He wants us to do. Jesus is the same place as He went after this interaction with the disciples: “taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God”. He is there, and still our source of signs and strength. We just need to make sure we are plugged in and walking the way He desires. Before you go drinking poison or handling deadly snakes, make sure it is God’s plan – not yours!
Mark 15 gives us another look at the crucifixion of Jesus. He was brought before Pilate on trumped up charges. Mark tells us another reason why the Council wanted Him dead besides their desire to protect their turf: “it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered Him up”. They couldn’t stand the fact that people were drawn to Jesus rather than themselves. Envy is a powerfully destructive thing. Being more concerned about what people think of us than anything else will cause us to do very stupid things. We are warned about it for this very reason. Pilate asks the obvious question when they bring Jesus before him: “why, what evil has He done”? There was no reason. But Pilate falls to another temptation – being a crowd pleaser – as scripture tells us he was “wishing to satisfy the crowd”. Want to make bad choices in life – then let the crowd direct what happens in your life. We can’t live to please others – we must live for an audience of One – God Himself – and ignore the noise of the crowd. That is easier said than done – and I see over and over how people spend lots of time and money making sure they fit in with those in the crowd around them. Bad plan that will lead you away from God unless you have been extremely selective about your crowd. We can’t live that way and be truly effective as Christ Followers. It won’t lead us where we need to go or push us the way we ought to live. The crowd is not focused on God but almost always on their own needs. Be careful about who you are living to please and make sure it is an audience of One!
After Jesus is crucified, the “whole battalion” is called together to mock Him. Seems like overkill – Jesus hadn’t seemed to be much of a threat to run away or escape – but scripture tells us the entire battalion came together. They were there to mock Him as they “clothed Him in a purple cloak…..twisting together a crown of thorns…..salute Him…..kneeling down in homage”. They brought in the whole set of troops to mock Him together. Why so many were involved isn’t clear to me – but maybe they knew more about who He was than they wanted to let on and wanted to have lots of company involved – the whole crowd mentality again. Jesus was too beat down to carry His own cross so they “compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene….to carry His cross”. Can you imagine being in that place – just walking by minding your own business – and now you are carrying a heavy cross for a guy going to be crucified? Wow – talk about your day being changed. We don’t know much about Simon of Cyrene at all – just that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got drafted for the job. They crucified Jesus and those who did the deed “divided His garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take”. Death on a cross was slow and painful, so these guys had to do something to keep themselves occupied. They cast lots for people’s clothes. What a life. Jesus hanged there for about 6 hours before He gave up His spirit and as he died “the centurion, who stood facing Him, saw that He breathed His last, he said, truly this man was the Son of God”. It was obvious to the crowd that Jesus was who He had claimed to be. Not because of how He came down off the cross or did anything miraculous, but because of the way He died. He spoke to God as His Son. He carried the weight of the world’s sin to that Cross and it died with Him there. Jesus bore it all. And because of that sacrifice of self – the willingness to be obedient to God’s plan and set us free forever from the wages of sin – we have the opportunity to be free indeed today. Jesus death paved the way for God’s grace for us. All we have to do is receive it. Thank you Lord for being willing to die on that Cross for me!
Mark 14 gives us another look at the events just prior to the crucifixion. Jesus has a couple of his disciples go to prepare a place for them to have their last supper together. He sends them off with some very specific instructions of what to do: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us”. I can’t imagine being one of the guys sent ahead to prepare. Sure Jesus…..we are going to walk into a city and be able to spot this guy carrying a jar of water who will just happen to lead us to the place we are to go and when we tell the master of the house we want to use his place he will take us there. But guess what – it happened exactly as Jesus said. They went…they saw….they followed his direction…they prepared. The group met and ate and drank and shared together for the last time. Jesus tells them this night that “after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee”. I am not sure they were listening because they had just been told that one of them would betray Him. But it will be an important statement after the resurrection – another prophecy or foretelling of the truth that they will come to remember.
You’ll remember from our study of this section in Matthew that Jesus took the three disciples in His inner circle – Peter, James and John – with Him to pray. They didn’t – they fell asleep. But beyond praying for the events to come, Jesus gives us a deeper glimpse into why prayer is so important. Check out what He says: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Prayer is one of the ways we can deal with temptation. Scripture is clear that we will be tempted. The enemy is focused on tempting us to cause us to sin. But here Jesus tells us to watch and pray so we don’t fall to temptation. It is a key weapon in our walk toward holiness – along with the Scriptures – to doing battle with the enemy. Jesus asks these three to pray and prepare for what was to come. Unfortunately they fall asleep instead – but we see the principle here. Are you spending time in prayer? It is a spiritual discipline we all need if we intend to walk with Him. One last thing Mark captures here that is different: “And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked”. Could it be the first streaker? I had never caught this little sentence before, but it is certainly interesting. Pray much – it is key to our ability to deal with temptation and to experience the power of God in our lives!
Mark 13 gives us a glimpse of Jesus telling His disciples about the coming of the end times and the end of life as we know it on earth. They are looking at some of the great buildings of their day, and Jesus gives them a very graphic description of what is to come: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”. Are you getting the picture? When He comes again, when this life on earth ceases to be as it has been, it all changes and is destroyed. We spend our entire lives building and accumulating stuff that will be gone in an instant when He comes again. There are a number of things that will happen first, and we would do well to know what is to come: “wars and rumors of wars….nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…..earthquakes…..famines”. Any of that sound familiar to you? There is a very specific set of things that will happen before our Lord returns, but we are definitely moving toward that day. Will it be a cakewalk? Absolutely not. “You will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them”. It is not going to be a painless and enjoyable time for Christ Followers to experience. Yet it is what is to come. But before it can occur, Jesus tells us “the gospel must first be proclaimed to all the nations”. God will not rush on this. His will is that none should perish but all have the opportunity to find eternal life through Jesus. So there is a lot of work to yet be done. There are many who have not yet heard, and that message must be spread to all.
Jesus goes on to tell us “in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now”. There have been some pretty horrific things occur over history. Lots of them actually. But scripture tells us that we haven’t seen anything yet. It is going to get rough for sure. “False christs and false prophets will arise…..to lead astray”. There will be people who come telling folks things that are not true preying on their fear. We need to know scripture clearly so we can identify what is false. We need to be able to recognize truth and know what is of God versus simply from an impostor. Jesus tells us to do a few things: “be on guard…..stay awake”. Two simple rules we need to heed as we watch for His coming. We must be careful not to be led astray by those who are trying to keep people from the Father. We need to guard our faith. It isn’t as simple as just believing and then sitting and waiting for Him to come again. We need to be diligent to protect our faith by prayer and fellowship and study of His Word. We need to work at being a strong Christ Follower. We also need to stay awake and pay attention, because the attacks will come when we least expect them and from places we would not look for them to originate. We need to be alert. We need to watch and pray and be ready for God’s timing. Are you ready? Have you put your life in order and know where eternity will be spent? It is time. Get things right with God!
Mark 12 gives us another view of some of the parables that Jesus taught, and His interaction with the religious leader’s attempts to trap Him. Their motives were evident: “to trap Him in His talk”. Words matter and how we respond and answer is important to consider. People do try and get us to say things that are inconsistent with the way we live or act. The leaders knew that Jesus was “true and does not care about anyone’s opinion….you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God”. Does that describe the way you live? Do you stay true to the truth without regard to what people think of you? Or are you swayed and water down the truth so it isn’t quite so abrupt and sharp? Sometimes that is our tendency – to take the edge off the message of truth so it is easier to receive. We allow what people around us think to cause us to adjust what we say and how we act. We don’t want to offend them after all. Right? That isn’t how Jesus taught. With Him it was straight truth all the time. Never watered down or sugar coated. Just the truth. I love how He deals with the religious leaders when they ask the questions about the seven brothers. “Have you not read in the book of Moses”? C’mon people – God has already written the answer to your question in His Word. Don’t you read the Book? “He is not God of the dead, but the living”. Jesus teaches so matter of factly and makes it so obvious to those who question Him just what scripture says.
One of the religious leaders asked the question about the greatest commandments. After Jesus answers He says to him “you are not far from the Kingdom of God”. Jesus knows this guy has the head knowledge, but it hasn’t yet made it to his heart. That is the longest foot in life – the time it takes to move our head knowledge of the Savior to become part of our heart – where we make it our own and receive God’s gift of salvation by grace. The religious leaders are described by Jesus this way:
– “Walk around in long robes
– Like greetings in the marketplaces
– Have the best seates in the synagogues
– Places of honor at feasts
– Devour widows houses
– Make long prayers”
Does the word “show” come to mind here? It is all about the show. They want to be seen and put in a place above others. Not Jesus’ way at all. He ends with the story of the widow who “came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny”. Hardly worth the time to drop them in the offering box, right? Not in God’s economy. Giving is not about the amount – it is about the motive and the heart. Jesus says it this way: “the poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box….they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had to live on”. Do you see the difference? Most give from their abundance, few from their heart. How do you give to God? He gave it all to you – it all belongs to Him. Do you give til it hurts? Or just what is in excess? He knows our heart. It matters how we give!
Mark 11 gives us another look at Jesus coming to Jerusalem. He sent a couple of the disciples ahead to prepare and bring back a colt for him to ride. Jesus warns them that someone may challenge why they are taking the colt. “Why are you doing this” is the question they were told to expect. He was right on and it is what the people there asked. Because they were prepared, “they told them what Jesus had said and they let them go”. Good outcome because of the right preparation. That is true in so many aspects of life. A little preparation goes a long way to guarantee success. Jesus prepared His team well. He continually told them what to expect and they were ready for it before it happened. Are you prepared for life? Have you read the letters that God wrote for you as a Christ Follower so you can know what to do? We need to be in the Word and prepared for whatever life throws our way. We need to know God’s plan for us – the destination He wants us to achieve, and then walk in obedience to get there following His direction.
Jesus comes into the temple and finds things a bit out of whack. They are selling things and changing money. Jesus says it is not to happen and causes quite a stir. But He goes further – “He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple”. It wasn’t just about the selling and changing money – it was also about how people treated the temple. It was a place of God – a place of worship – and not something to be used for personal gain. In fact, Jesus defines how it should be used: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations…..but you have made it a den a robbers”. Would you call your church a house of prayer? Is that the main thing that happens there? Does prayer actually happen much at all? Far too many churches are not used for prayer. We have filled them with lots of programs and activities and prayer is more of an afterthought – something we do because we are supposed to – not the defining quality of the church. Jesus tells us how that prayer should be too. “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses”. Did you catch that? Relationships need to be made right through prayer. If we know there are any relationship issues – we need to deal with them. We need to forgive. There is no more powerful thing in life than forgiveness. It is the way we set others free and are set free ourselves. It is the core of what Jesus came to teach us. We need to forgive, we need to pray, we need to come to the Father continually!
Mark 10 gives us some insight into how Jesus trained the twelve. They have been with Him for some time, and have seen His miracles, heard His teaching, been with Him through it all. He has battled with the religious leaders and spoken truth at every step of the journey. He has just had a heart to heart with the rich man who thought he was good enough to get into heaven based on what he has done. But Jesus points out that it isn’t trying hard that gets us there. It is total obedience. It is dealing with every aspect of our lives and surrendering them all to the will of the Father. In this guy’s case – it was his stuff. Considering that the twelve have heard Jesus preach and teach hundreds of times before – I am a little surprised that they still react like this: “and the disciples were amazed at His words”. They had heard them for years, yet they were still amazed. How can that be? Because God’s truth is a never ending source of wisdom, guidance and direction. Jesus continues to teach all the way to the Cross. “And taking the twelve again, He began to tell them what was to happen”. Now the stakes are going up. Jesus is letting His troops in on what is to come. Did you see the list?
– “Delivered over
– Condemned to death
– Delivered to the gentiles
– Mock Him
– Spit on Him
– Flog Him
– Kill Him”
Not a list I would likely sign up for. How about you? Yet Jesus did. He knew exactly what was to come, and He chose to obey the Father through it all. The good news is the last part of what He shared with them…..the rest of the story: “and after three days He will rise”. Easter morning! Jesus did arise. That is the joy in this whole prophecy. He endured the Cross for you and me, paying the price of our sin, and conquering death!
It wasn’t long after Jesus paints the picture of the future that the sons of Zebedee – James and John – get into an argument. They want to have Jesus “grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory”. So Jesus has just painted the future and it doesn’t look to be a very fun path. James and John are thinking about what? Themselves and where they fit into all this. They have missed the point. Jesus tells them how those seats will be filled: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all….. Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. How does one become fit for the Kingdom – by becoming a servant to all. It doesn’t sound like what we hear on TV and the radio today at all. But Jesus shows us through His life that the way we become like Him is we become a servant – focused on others – not self. We serve as a slave of all – not to be served – but pouring our life out for others. Do you live that way – with reckless abandon to your own interests because you are completely focused on others? Oh that we would understand the lessons that Jesus has taught us. We need to serve rather than be served. We need to put our focus on others first. Are you living like Jesus?