In September last year we began a sermon series in the gospel according to Mark. Last Sunday (Easter Sunday) we finished it. And Mark's gospel has a strange ending: 'Trembling and bewildering, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid' (Mark 16:8). In fact, it's such a strange ending that a number of scribes in the early centuries tried to add a few paragraphs of their own, which appear in our Bibles as verses 9 to 20. These verses aren't included in the earliest surviving manuscripts of Mark's gospel, which is a sure sign that they're not original. Mark himself wanted to end at verse 8...


NB. There are only two places in the whole of the New Testament where something substantial got added later - the other is John 7:53 to 8:11. Neither of these two additional passages represents a shift in what Christians believe, and both are highlighted very clearly in our modern Bibles. We don't need to be concerned by these additions. In fact, the remarkable thing is how little variation there is between different manuscripts of the New Testament, and how carefully the text was copied.


Having seen that Mark's gospel has a strange ending, the question we need to ask is why? Why does Mark's gospel have such a strange ending? One answer to that question is that it it is historically honest. If Mark was writing a fairy-tale gospel this is the point where Mary, Mary and Salome burst into song accompanied by the angel. Only someone wanting to record facts would dare to give us such an anticlimax: ...the women ... fled ... they were afraid.'



Actually, this isn't the first time in Mark's gospel that the followers of Jesus have responded to him in fear. In Mark 4:35 to 6:6 we saw that a fear of Jesus can be very positive - it's an acknowledgement of how awesomely powerful he is. The Jesus who stops the storm isn't merely a 'mate' but a Messiah. The resurrected Christ isn't someone you take lightly but a King at whose feet you fall. It's right to fear Jesus in the same way that the whole Bible tells us that it's right to fear God. But we've also seen that a fear of Jesus can be very negative - it can combine with unbelief. When the residents in the region of the Decapolis saw the awesome power of Jesus they begged him to leave them alone.


And so how should we understand the women's response of fear at the resurrection? It seems that their fear gives rise to two negative responses. Firstly, they 'fled' from the tomb. The word 'fled' isn't a positive word in Mark's gospel. In 14:50, when Jesus was arrested the disciples 'fled' (along with a naked young man). Or in 5:14 the same word is used to describe the residents in the region of the Decapolis. Secondly, they 'said nothing to anyone' despite being told by the angel to tell the disciples and Peter (16:7).


We understand that the women were afraid - it would be strange if they weren't. The news that Jesus has defeated death should make all of us tremble. But what they do with their fear seems to be negative. We should see fear and joy, and we should see them telling the disciples and Peter. And of course we read those reactions in Matthew, Luke, John and Acts. But we don't read them in Mark. Instead, Mark writes chapter 16 verse 8 and then puts his pen down. He wants this strange ending. And I think it's because he wants us to respond differently to these women - to resolve to respond to the resurrection with fear and joy. And Mark wants us to say something - or to tell the ends of the earth that Jesus is alive. Mark wants us to ask the question: how will we respond to the resurrection?

On Sunday morning we're starting a sermon series in the gospel according to Mark. It would be brilliant to pick up your Bible and read Mark cover to cover. Even better, read it from cover to cover twice. Or read it once for yourself, and then listen to a good audio Bible (The Complete NIV Audio Bible: Read by David Suchet). Don't worry about understanding all the details; the aim is simply to increase your familiarity with Mark and to help you notice some of the big repeated ideas.



When you've read Mark cover to cover, just for fun, here are a few quiz questions*


1. Who calls Jesus the 'Messiah' or the 'Son of God'?

(there is more than one correct answer)


2. Complete the verse: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must...'


3. The number twelve crops up a few times in Mark.

What different things are there twelve of in Mark's gospel?


4. Which of the following is not found in Mark's gospel?


(a) 'But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.'

(b) 'Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.'

(c) He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them.


5. List all the animals mentioned in Mark's gospel (more than you think!)


*quiz questions are from the book Dig Deeper into the Gospels

This is the third story for families based on the next passage in the gospel of Mark. Each story is short - 200 words or less. Each story is simple - I've tried to use language that a 3-7 year old can understand. I've also included a few questions at the end to try and help move the conversation between parent(s) and child(ren) towards the point of the passage for us today.



Follow the King based on Mark 1:16-20 and Mark 2:13-17:


There were two brothers called Simon and Andrew. And they were fishermen (which meant they were very smelly!) But Simon and Andrew had seen that Jesus was a really powerful King. And so when Jesus called to them one day, Simon and Andrew listened. Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me!’ And they did. Straight away.


There were also two brothers called James and John. And they were fishermen too (which meant they were very smelly too!) And James and John had also seen that Jesus was a really powerful King. And so when Jesus called to them one day, James and John listened. Jesus said them, ‘Follow me!’ And they did. Straight away.


But then there was Matthew. And Matthew wasn’t a fisherman. He was a tax collector. And he was a very, very greedy man. But Jesus was a very, very forgiving King. Matthew had seen that Jesus was a very, very forgiving King. And so when Jesus called to him one day – Matthew listened. Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me!’ And he did. Straight away. And so Matthew was also friends with King Jesus – and that was good news for him too.


Questions:

Why did Simon, Andrew, James, John and Matthew all follow Jesus?

What type of King is Jesus?

Why is it good news to follow King Jesus?

Sunday at 10:30am

Mangotsfield Primary School

Emersons Green

Church Farm Road 

BS16 7EY

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