Mark- The Gospel of Action - The Final Act: Mark 15:37-16:20
April 8, 2020, 12:00 AM

Mark: The Gospel of Action

The Final Act – Mark 15:37-16:20


In the closing verses of Mark we have the final act of Jesus. As we discussed last week Jesus was rejected by all walks of life, becoming sin, he even felt forsakenness by God the Father. He fulfilled perfectly the prophecies spoken and written hundreds of years before, which foretold of his being scorned and pierced on our behalf.

But in His final act even as He was forsaken there were myriad examples of enlightened hope. As Paul shared in Ephesians and in the Corinthian letters, we have been made privy through Christ’s divine revelation to the mysteries of the gospel. He has predestined those of us who have believed on Him. It is His work in us that has brought us to faith and in fact it was His work more specifically on the cross that provided the path toward enlightened faith. For what is foolish to this world has been revealed as the truth which provides Hope for all mankind - The hope of salvation and purpose found only in Christ Jesus and in a relationship with Him – our creator, savior, redeemer and eternal King. Immediately even in the story of Jesus death we see this miracle of enlightenment fleshed out in the lives of various witnesses. While last week we focused on those who had rejected and forsaken Christ, today, at least for the moment let’s consider those who had their eyes opened.

Mark 15:37-47 (NIV)
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"

Consider the events here. It says that in the moment when Jesus breathed His last breath the curtain of the temple was torn in two. The curtain referred to here was the curtain in the temple which separated man from God. This curtain shielded the holy of holies. It was the place where God dwelt and only the High Priest was able to enter this place once a year to make atonement through sacrifice on behalf of the nation. This was a fearful responsibility. The Priest would have to be ritually clean before he could enter to make atoning sacrifices before the Lord. Jesus kept preaching a communion with God – a relationship with Him. He spoke of God with reverence, for sure, but also with familiarity – He referred to God as Abba or daddy. Is it any wonder that the religious leaders, who in their ritual and liturgy, found Jesus message difficult? There understanding of God was that of distance, fear and perfunctory regulation. Jesus came to build a bridge to God. He traveled the distance created by man’s fallenness and became “God with us” – Emmanuel.

I have pondered this a lot. Relationships take work don’t they. One of the hardest things to work on in a relationship is repairing the foundations of trust. Early in my marriage to my wife I made some terrible decisions which led to mistakes that I am not proud of. It took a lot of work on Sarah’s and my part to heal those wounds. Building or rebuilding the foundational trust in a relationship is an on-going, life-long work, because in this fallen world we have been predisposed as people to not trust due to the incredible hurts and disappointments that I am sure we have all faced.

In the garden of Eden when man sinned we broke that foundational trust, the bond in our relationship with God. Last week we talked about the fact that he was forsaken by all. This did not just happen at the cross. God was forsaken, denied, rejected in the garden. When we forsook Him and His precepts we separated ourselves irreparably from Him. And all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put this relationship back together again.

We have created this great chasm between us and Him. A barrier was placed between us blocking our relationship with Him. But Jesus the offended, knowing that we could never do the work ourselves to repair the damage done humbled himself for the offender and tore this barrier away.

Do you think you could have removed this barrier on your own? Go to Pentateach and study the myriad laws and rules and then live them out perfectly. You can’t do it! None of us could born of sinful man – but Jesus immaculately conceived in the womb of the virgin by the Holy Spirit of God lived perfectly, became sin and died on our behalf resurrecting a bridge in the resurrection of His own body, which gives us once again access to a relationship with God.

As Jesus in His Final Act laid the foundation and constructed the body of this great bridge to us the symbol of separation between God and Man was torn in two.

Immediately Jesus began escorting individuals across that bridge – The Centurion’s eyes were opened.

The Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary says…”The Roman officer had accompanied the soldiers to the execution site. Undoubtedly, he had done this many times. Yet this crucifixion was completely different—the unexplained darkness, the earthquake, even the executed himself who had uttered words of forgiveness (Luke 23:34). The officer observed Jesus’ alertness throughout the crucifixion and his relatively quick death. This Gentile Roman officer realized something that most of the Jewish nation had missed: “Truly, this was the Son of God!” Whether he understood what he was saying, we cannot know. He may simply have admired Jesus’ courage and inner strength, perhaps thinking that Jesus was divine like one of Rome’s many gods. While the Jewish religious leaders stood around celebrating Jesus’ death, a lone Roman soldier was the first to acclaim Jesus as the Son of God after his death.”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.
41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

Jesus disciples had all abandoned Him, of course John’s gospel has John at the foot of the cross, but Mark focuses on the faithful watch of these woman, whose eyes were opened before the final act of Christ began on the cross. Mary Magdalene whom, in Luke 8, we are told was delivered of several demons by Jesus – was turned from the depths of darkness to His radiant light. Another woman named Mary who is not to be confused with Jesus mother or Mary Magdalene, but whose sons apparently were very prominent within the early church, and finally there was Salome who was the mother of two of Jesus disciples James and John, whom Jesus called the Sons of Thunder. And it says many other woman followers were also there. They stood there in Jesus last moments, in quiet defiance of the powers that be and in support of their Master, Jesus as He hung there. The men were hiding, but these woman stood faithfully by eyes opened to the truth.

42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached,
43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.
44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.
45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

We are told here that this man of the Council, the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee who himself was awaiting the coming of the Christ put his reputation and his status on the line coming out of the closet as a dissenter to Jesus crucifixion and an admirer of His teachings as he came forward to honor Him with a proper burial.

Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us that…”he took courage and went to Pilate boldly, a description unique to Mark. His action was bold because: (a) he was not related to Jesus; (b) his request was a favor that would likely be denied on principle since Jesus had been executed for treason; (c) he risked ceremonial defilement in handling a dead body; (d) his request amounted to an open confession of personal loyalty to the crucified Jesus which would doubtless incur his associates’ hostility. He was a secret disciple no longer—something Mark impressed on his readers.”

John 19 tells us that he was joined by another of the religious leaders Nicodemus who had had an encounter with Jesus late in the evening, when Jesus told him that, “You must be born again.” Perhaps this statement though blurry at the time was beginning to possibly come into focus as these men, recognizing the special authority and power of Jesus the man, Jesus the teacher, Jesus the prophet, Jesus the professed Christ. They wanted to honor Him by quickly claiming His body for proper burial before the Sabbath came at Sunset that Friday evening, so that rather than His corpse being picked apart by wild beasts and continually scoffed at upon the cross as it rotted in the days ahead, He would be laid in a rich man’s tomb, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

But wait…

Jesus revelation of Himself and the power of His final act was only just beginning

Mark 16:1-20 (NIV)
1 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.
2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb
3 and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 "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.
7 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.'"
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.
10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.
11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.
13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.
20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Jesus revealed Himself in His resurrection to Mary Magdalene, His disciples and to many others who followed Him. He is still revealing Himself to those who would have their eyes be opened.

Now we turn to our part.

Ghandi said – “I like the Christ, but not the Christian.” Perhaps we have failed a bit in our part of this Gospel – the final act.

Jesus final act began that Friday in His brutal death (Preparation Day), was culminated in His miraculous resurrection and is still in progress through the commission of His Church. He has called His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” This commission will bring about the fruition of this incredible redemption story. The Gospel has not ended, but is still being played out in the hearts and lives of people all over the world.

The importance of this commission is grave, as the consequences have an incredible finality to them. “He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” This is the contrasting fruit of our choices. Receive His revelation and have everlasting life or forsake His truth and be condemned to eternal death.

Jesus has not only made Himself known to His followers, but He has empowered them, coming to live in and through their lives. Equipped for whatever opportunities that may come. “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

  1. me just give a side note here about the descriptive versus prescriptive nature of these writings. Jesus has given us power over our circumstances not so that we can showcase them for exhibition, but so that we may demonstrate them in times of opportunity and circumstantial need. We need not rent out a convention center and line up a following to make a spectacle of these powers. Healing crusades/ Pentecostal circuses like the fire-breathing man. While these statements are prescriptive of the power and provision of God for us and through us in our daily walk of faith and mission, the language here is more descriptive possible scenarios and circumstances that could happen, some of which were based on actual experiences of the apostles and followers in the early church.

This isn’t a prescription for us to orate loudly in tongues that do not edify the body, to do snake charming or to tempt our fate with poison. It is not a magic show. No, God has revealed Himself to us in His final act so that through us He may bring this final act off of the podium, down from the platform and into the highways and byways of life. God does not wish to build another barrier in our churches, but to give people all access to Him. So that, in the course of our everyday lives as we preach this Good News we will be equipped with the power and the tools necessary to back up our statements about who God is and How His great mercy can change lives. The lives of those woman were changed, the Centurions eyes were opened, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus stood against their culture for this “Born Again” message and the Disciples who were all martyred for this mission changed the world with it. It is a potent message – It is a Gospel of Action - a revelation which has the power to enlighten or repel people – to set them free or leave them with no excuses in their rejection of it. Let’s be a people of action and do our part to finish this final act of Christ among the people of the World – the People of His affection.

By Carl Friedel

Post a Comment