Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Mark 16 - Jesus is alive!

Every other religion has a dead guy.  Christianity has Jesus who came back from the dead.  Without this fact, Christianity crumbles and is the same as any other religion or belief system: man-made.  But if the resurrection of Jesus is real, then he's telling the truth and God has done something to save us all into a relationship with him that outlasts this broken world.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:14... And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead (and the evidence for it) changes everything and demands a response from each of us!  

Mark 16

We see the dedicated women again first thing in the morning, going to attend to Jesus' dead body.  God gives great dignity, value and worth to women in a sexist culture by letting them be the first to discover the empty tomb (v4).  They're also the first to see Jesus alive again after he died (v9).   

The stone that blocked the entrance to Jesus' tomb would have taken five men to move it.  It was very secure.  The three women would not have been able to move it.  It's also one of the facts that scuppers what's called the 'swoon theory' that says Jesus only fainted on the cross and later escaped from the tomb.  A half dead Jesus is definitely not going to move a stone that big!  Oh and then there's the guard to take on and the fact that Romans were expert killers in the first place and the challenge of convincing everyone he's really risen from the dead and in no need of urgent medical attention and... well you get the idea.  You can look at the article I've done on the evidence for the resurrection for more about that.   

The women are surprised and worried when they see the tomb is empty and a shiny white man (an angel appearance I think) sitting casually by the entrance.  The angel's message is simple.  Jesus has risen from the dead just as he said he would (several times actually).  He tells them to tell the disciples and especially mentions to tell Peter, presumably because God really wanted Peter to know Jesus had risen and that Peter's earlier denials could be forgiven.

And then we have a slight ending issue.

The first ending we have is verse 8 where Mark finishes quite abruptly (in true Mark style) by telling us the women ran off scared.  Not much of an ending in some ways but Mark has been fast and urgent throughout his gospel and has missed out lots of details that the other gospels will include later.  He's just bashing out the essentials.  Just enough so people can be sure of what happened and trust and follow Jesus who rose from the dead.

The second ending we have is not found in the earliest manuscripts.  We don't have the original stuff Mark wrote - only copies of copies of copies.  The earliest copies are the most reliable and so that's why we have the little note here in our Bibles explaining this alternate ending.  It's possible that someone added it in to round things off based on other details they knew to be true.  There's nothing significant here that's absent from all the other gospels (Jesus appearing to people, commissioning disciples to tell the good news, ascending into heaven) but it's possible that Mark wasn't the one who wrote it.  None of this affects the historical reliability of the gospels.  The Bible scholars aren't trying to hide anything but explain the facts just as they are.

And so we have, in this alternate ending, three big things going on...

First, we have mentions of appearances of Jesus alive after he died.  The women see him first (more details in John 20:11-18), then two disciples on the road to Emmaus (more details in Luke 24:13-35) and then the rest of the group (again more details in Luke 24:36-49).  People were seeing Jesus alive again, walking and talking with him, eating meals with him, touching his scars.  He was really back from the dead and truly alive. 

Second, we have Jesus telling his followers to tell this great good news to everyone.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is indeed good news.  It means Jesus really is God and that he really was dying on the cross in our place for our sins so we could have forgiveness (Mark 2:5), friendship with God (John 15:15), life to the full (John 10:10) and life forever (John 3:16).  Keeping this life-saving good news to ourselves is the worst kind of selfishness.  Jesus wants everyone to know!

Third, we have the ascension of Jesus up into heaven, which, as far as I can tell, means he physically started floating up into the sky!  Very weird, but having seen him come back from the dead, flying is really not that big a deal!  Besides, Jesus had told them he would have to leave them so that the Holy Spirit would come to live in them (John 14:15-17) and I guess he wanted to make it clear that this time he was really leaving.  Having had God with them, they now had a big job to do and they needed God in them.  And so do we!

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