We are at the end of our 9-week series from the Gospel of Mark. Find the sermons in this series here.
As we conclude this journey through the Gospel of Mark, we arrive at both ending and beginning. This selected text includes a brief excerpt from the drama of Jesus’ arrest. We surely could not imagine something more dramatic! A mob with swords and clubs shows up and—after Judas gives the pre-arranged sign—arrests Jesus like a criminal.
I imagine the emotional environment to be visceral. A bystander draws his sword and cuts off someone’s ear, escalating the tension. Jesus chastises those who have come to arrest him when suddenly all the disciples flee! But it seems that mob mentality has taken over, and one young man is only able to escape by slipping out of his clothes that the mob had already taken hold of.
We know the story that follows. There’s a hearing adjudicated by the high priest and observed by the chief priests, elders, and legal experts. It seems clear that these religious leaders have an agenda, as false testimony is allowed and Jesus barely utters a word before more drama ensues. Outside, Peter denies knowing the one he had already identified as the Christ. Jesus is then taken to Pontius Pilate, who questions him and ultimately sentences him to death. After the brutality of flogging and the agony of death by crucifixion, Jesus is hastily wrapped in a linen shroud and buried in a tomb carved from rock before the beginning of the Sabbath.
But this isn’t where the story ends. When the world is at its darkest, the sun begins to rise. Just as Jesus has defied social norms throughout his life, he even defies death.
Mark 14:50-52; 16:1-8 (CEB)
50And all his disciples left him and ran away. 51One young man, a disciple, was wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They grabbed him, 52but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked.
1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. 3They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) 5Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. 6But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. 7Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” 8Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Consider these questions:
- How have you envisioned the scene of Jesus’ arrest? Most movies offer a well-staged depiction, hardly illustrating the chaos and fear. The actual event must have been much different. What do you think this was like? What would you have seen? What sounds would you have heard? Which of your senses would have been most heightened?
- Consider the in-between time. With the crucifixion and burial of Jesus on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday, what do you think that Saturday felt like emotionally? What do you think the Jewish leaders thought and felt, especially after hearing that the curtain in the sanctuary had been torn? What do you think Pilate thought and felt? The Jewish people in Jerusalem? What do you think the disciples were thinking and feeling? What about Judas?
- This story of resurrection—I hope—has power for you. It surely does for me. Explore what the resurrection means to you. Is this what compels you to join in Worship on Sunday morning? Is this what reminds you to pray for a few minutes before a meal? Is it something more? Is it significant, a large part of your life and your being? Why?
Post-Worship Update on 9/24
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Even though this text is largely concentrated around the Easter text, this conclusion to the sermon series was a bit different. Rather than taking an overtly celebratory tone, this message attempts to hone in on the way the Gospel of Mark concludes. It feels incomplete. It leaves us wanting.
Perhaps that’s an important message in all of the Gospels. Once we have experienced the presence of Christ within us, don’t we want this experience to continue? Yes, it is difficult at times. But when we hear the still small voice, when we feel the strange warming in our heart, and when we respond, do we not experience God’s presence within us?
Even so, perhaps there are times that we run and hide. Perhaps there are times that we are terrified and we cannot help but lock ourselves away. This was surely true of the disciples.
But I hope we can also acknowledge that sometimes we show up, even in our fears and our vulnerabilities. We show up with meager spices and oils—simple tools to do what we know we are called to do—and we are met with both awe and comfort: do not be afraid.
Consider these questions:
- In Mark 14:50-52, the disciples run away. Consider a time when you ran away from your faith. Why did you run? Where did you run? What fear motivated you to run? Were you able to surpass that fear? If so, how? What did you learn about yourself from this experience? What did you learn about God?
- In Mark 16:1-8, three women go to the tomb where they know Jesus had been put to rest. What do you think they must have been feeling? What do you think they expected to find? Why do you think they went? When is a time you’ve faithfully attended to something even when you were afraid?
- Consider the entirety of this series on the Gospel of Mark. What did you learn? What was familiar? What was unexpected? How do you feel God calling you to respond?