Mark 16

Readings for this week April 22 – 26
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Day 1 – The Ending is Ours

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 16:8

“The third and especially most striking feature of Mark’s version is that he does not narrate any appearance of the resurrected Jesus, but simply refers the women forward to appearances in Galilee (16.7). With that Mark seems to have decided that his story, the gospel, has been fully told, and, somewhat surprisingly, he rounds of his Gospel on a note of pathos…[T]he description of the women’s state is carefully chosen: ‘trembling’ (tromos) can describe a consciousness of human inability which rests all the more on God’s enabling, as in the other NT occurrences of the term; and ‘astonishment’ (ekstasis) elsewhere denotes amazement among onlookers of a signal miracle as well as a trance in which divine revelation is received. And apart from anything else, Mark would have been well aware that he was writing for audiences who had responded to the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ and who knew the basics of the story, even if only in confessional form (1 Cor. 15.3-5). The hints that Mark himself gave in Mark 14.28 and 16.7 were clear enough; 16.8 was not the end of the story. So we probably do most justice to Mark by recognising that he intended to finish as he did, precisely because he and his audiences knew well that the pathos was by no means the end of the story; it had more the character of the numinous pointing forward to the further revelations to come. In other words, Mark may deliberately have wanted to end as he did because he saw the story as continuing in the spread of Christianity, and wanted his audiences to experience the continuation of the story in their own lives.”

-James D.G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity, Christianity in the Making Vol. 3, pp.243-4.

Question to Consider
What do you think of this solution to the ending of Mark conundrum?

Prayer
Lord God, help me see my life as a continuation of the life of the one I call Lord and Master. Help me live this life I have in your service. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Summary of Faith

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 16 (shorter ending)

Some scholars are convinced that the original ending of Mark has been lost, accidently torn off from a very, very early manuscript copy of the gospel so that all subsequent copies made from this damaged scroll were missing the ending. Others, long afterwards, perhaps in the second or third centuries, tried to correct this accidental loss by writing a couple of nice tidy summaries of the end of the story, the longest summary of which seems to have borrowed random elements from the resurrection stories found in Matthew and Luke and strung them together. Other scholars believe that Mark intended to end his gospel abruptly at the end of verse 8; for them, having included numerous instances of Jesus swearing people to silence and secrecy, it makes sense for Mark to end his gospel with another example of people being silent and saying nothing.

The shorter ending (it has not been given a specific verse number) is not written in the same style as Mark wrote, suggesting the person or persons responsible for it were not interested in trying to make people think Mark had written it. They were simply trying to sum up what they thought was left to say, hence why this verse is more of a programmatic statement of faith, a general, somewhat abstract summation of the Christian faith, focusing on the events that occurred after Easter. This is their short summary of the significance of Jesus and the meaning of the Easter story – for the whole world.

Questions to Consider
If you had to write a short summary of post-Easter faith, what would you write? What would you include and emphasise? Why?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may my life be a lived-out summation of the significance and meaning of Easter for others to see. May the love of the cross be seen in all that I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Resurrection Appearances

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 16:9-14

The resurrection is ridiculous; it is something unusual and unexpected.  It is completely new, unprecedented and, as unbelievable and outrageous as it is, real. Yet one of the problems that people have with the resurrection of Jesus is that the moment of resurrection itself is never seen. How could it be? The dead don’t return to life. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous. There were no eyewitnesses to the moment of the resurrection itself. The very moment when Jesus was raised to life is lost to us. No one knew to be watching. And everyone knows the dead, once dead, stay dead. Anyone claiming that the normal course of human events involves people coming back to life is wrong. They don’t. It is not common human experience for this to happen. We all do (and will) die.

Yet the biblical witness is clear: Jesus appeared to a combined total of over 500 people after his resurrection, women, men, disciples named and unnamed, groups as small as two or three and as large as many hundred. In an age where people only believe what they can see and verify for themselves, the ridiculous idea of the resurrection might seem problematic. The age of proof (which seems to be different for each individual these days) requires full verification. But there is really no problem here. The gospel writers were very comfortable with simply recording the events and stories of those who saw the resurrected Jesus, spent time with him and talked to him. And as anyone who genuinely wants to have a relationship with the living Christ can do so, people can find out for themselves.

Questions to Consider
What is ridiculous about the resurrection for you? What is sublime?

Prayer
Loving Lord, thank you for the resurrection. Thank you for vindicating your son and given us new life into the bargain. Help me to use it well. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Our Task

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 16:15-18

This is the very end of what Jesus has to say. Though the passage may be an ‘add-on’ of whatever stripe, it still contains the words of Jesus, cribbed from other portions of other gospels as a summary of his final commands to his followers. We might be familiar with the longer “Great Commission” from Matthew 28:16-20, but the task is related in much the same way here.  The work Jesus calls us to is to serve the world as he did, sharing our faith both as individuals and as a community. His directions are clear: go out into the world, share the good news, and invite people to be baptised into God’s renewed eternal community. It’s a huge task but it starts with something pretty simple—telling our own story just as it is.

As we take on this responsibility we need to remember that growing the community of faith is beyond us. Way beyond our means and abilities. Human strength and effort, no matter how many of us are involved, will never be enough. Is this an excuse to walk away? No, rather our lack of ability needs to drive us to deepen our reliance on God. Only God can bring about spiritual change in the lives of individuals and societies. The miraculous, empowering, wonder-working power of the Holy Spirit is needed (whether involving snakes or not!). After all, he has started that change in us. It is that same power that works through us, and with his
help nothing will overwhelm us.

Questions to Consider
How would you write a one to two minute summary of your own journey of faith in Jesus? How could you share this with someone?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I am yours before I am my own and yet my own story is one of the tools you want to use for the spread of your kingdom. Help me to be a tool fitted to the purpose of your hand for your kingdom. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Ascension

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 16:19-20

Birth, ministry, crucifixion, death, resurrection. That’s the sequence – or at least the sequence as we usually remember it. But there is also the ascension, the poor cousin of the family, the one often forgotten, largely because we don’t know what it means, and can only barely say what it is. Jesus ascends to Heaven, and waits for us to follow him. Right?

In the bible, heaven and earth are the two halves of God’s good creation. We use that phrase ‘heaven and earth’ to show that everything in our world, whatever it is, has another dimension to it that exists right alongside the more ‘traditional’ dimension we see. When we talk about ‘Heaven’, that is God’s space; the earth is our space. Too often we think of heaven as a place of spiritual bliss we go to once we die and escape this earth. But God’s plan does not involve an exchange of one location for another, but the fusing and joining of heaven and earth together into one reality, in the ultimate renewal and restoration of all creation. So Jesus being lifted up was not a sign that he was travelling to the far reaches of our universe somewhere; nor was it a sign that his bodily life was now over and his ‘spirit’ was now free to drift up to Heaven and live forever in disembodied bliss, waiting for us to join him. His ascension was the moment at which he returned to ‘God’s space’, to ‘God’s dimension’, to await the time when we would be ready for him to return on the day when God’s dimension and this present world’s reality are brought together into one.

Questions to Consider
What is your understanding of ‘heaven and earth’? How does this understanding impact how you reach out to the unreached?

Prayer
Lord God, I thank you for the vision of restored, joined creation that you have placed before us and are bringing into being around us. Help me play my part in the regathering of all things back to you. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)