The final instalment of our look through Mark and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus…
‘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. (Mark 16 1-8 NIV)
Mark’s gospel has a rather strange ending. You may notice in your Bible that there is a note after verse 8 saying that the early manuscripts don’t have verses 9-20. I have no idea whether Mark wrote those extra lines or not; it really doesn’t bother me one way or the other but I love the jarring halt of vv.1-8 above.
It can be easy to skim past this bit onto the exciting revelation of the risen Jesus and Mark’s version of the ‘Great Commission’ but I want to stay in that very ‘real’ place for our final conversation about discipleship.
So what do we notice about the disciples here?
Well, I’m a big believer in stating the obvious when reflecting on a Biblical text so let’s start there.
The disciples aren’t there. Instead we meet three women.
Yet again, God is not picking the obvious people in key moments. What stands out about these three women? One who has been forgiven much and so loves much; one who, when she was a teenager chose to be faithful to God in the most bizarre and culturally shocking way; and Salome, someone we don’t know lots about but we know was a committed follower of Jesus who provided for him out of her own resources (cf Mark 15:40-41). These women have encountered Jesus in different ways but responded with commitment and faithfulness – and those qualities are still shining through even when things look and feel as bleak as they can possibly be. So impressive. Such an example.
Something I see in Scripture over and over again is how when things seem bleak and God is nowhere to be seen, the Kingdom of God is actually at its strongest; when that’s combined with faithful obedience in spite of the circumstances, things often happen.
These three faithful and obedient, but heartbroken, women are met by an angel with stunning news that they just can’t get their heads around. News that is going to transform them and potentially every person they meet for the rest of their lives.
But they were scared and confused and didn’t go because it was all just too big-an-ask for them in that moment.
Do you think God didn’t know what their initial response would be?
But He chose them nonetheless. Interrupted them, called and commissioned them to go and tell people, to show people and to be the Good News which reveals that Jesus is alive – that he can heal, save and transform lives.
And He’s chosen, called and commissioned you too.
Soon after, in Acts, we encounter Pentecost and the provision of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit that rests upon you. Think about that for a minute. Read Acts and then just think about that. Paul points out in Romans 8:11 that the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead that day is the very same Spirit that rests on you. Think about THAT!
Sometimes as Christians we get into the habit of using language that is meant to help talk about something that is hard to convey – we use language that is helpful in some ways but not in others. To truly get what discipleship is we need to learn to speak differently at times.
We don’t invite Jesus into our lives – he invites us into his.
We don’t need to be filled with his Spirit each Sunday to be able to live for him we just need it the once and then to be reminded regularly that when we said ‘yes’ to Jesus he bound us to himself by his Spirit. THAT Spirit.
Do you think those incredible women in Mark 16 would have felt differently if they could have read on a few verses? Do we sometimes look at our lives and think how are we supposed to see God’s Kingdom come in my life, let alone in those around me!?
We’ve looked at all sorts of things over the past year – how discipleship requires participation but it doesn’t require a massive skill set or vast experience. It requires us to love God and to choose faithful obedience in the everyday decisions and to journey together not on our own. And it requires the grace of God – the giving of forgiveness when we inevitably don’t do so well; and the giving of his Spirit. THAT Spirit to pick us up, dust us down, renew us, restore us, transform us bit by bit, and say – ‘Let’s go’.
PS – One last thing before I go, if there was only one resource I could point to on this stuff it would be LICC’s “Fruitfulness on the Frontline”. Check it out and see if it can help you and your friends in figuring out what all this might look like for you.
I’ll be praying for you guys and I hope you might do the same for me as we part company. God bless you and may you hear His call, His commission and know how much you are loved by Him as you take your next step, and then the next, and then the next…