Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Challenge to Fulfill

Thoughts on Mark 16:1-8, 15

A New Day (16:1-2) 
 As chapter 15 closes, we see that the evening had come! The Lord Jesus had been crucified upon the cross and His body had been taken down and prepared for burial. Then He was placed within the tomb. The sun had set on that day and that chapter of the Lord’s life! Chapter 16 opens with this faithful women desiring to come and anoint His body. But notice verse 2, “Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.” This marks a new order of things! A new day was dawning and now there is a new beginning for all those who come to Christ by faith as pictured for us by these women! 

Obstacles Removed (16:3-4) 
When the women came to the tomb, the first thing they noticed was that the stone was rolled away from the tomb. They came concerned and worried about that stone, wondering along the way “who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” The women arrived on the scene heavy hearted and downcast, and suddenly "Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.” This is the key to victory in our Christian life! If we are looking down at the problem or around at our circumstances we are not going to enjoy the victory that has already be won! The key for them and for us was to continue to move forward by faith and to look up! They had no strength and no ability to move that obstacle and neither do we, but we need to look up and see that God is in control! Matthew tells us that an angel rolled the stone away and sat on it. It was not rolled aside in its grove in the regular way so as to be rolled back again to shut the entrance. No, it was hurled out of its groove by some tremendous power, thrown flat upon the ground in front of the tomb, thus making a seat for the angel who waited until the women drew near and then went inside the tomb. This is what the Lord can do with every obstacle we face in our Christian life if we are willing to move forward and trust Him!

Empty Tomb (16:5-6) 
What did they see in the empty tomb? They saw "a young man" dressed in a white robe who was obviously an angel sitting there. Luke and John inform us that there were two angels in the tomb (Luke 24:4, John 20:12). Mark and Matthew focus on the one angel who was probably the spokesman. "Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed" (v. 5). The women saw the angel and were "amazed," "alarmed" or "dumbfounded." The compound word (exethambēthēsan) expresses strong emotion of overwhelming distress. These women were terrified (tromos), trembling with fear, which becomes the dominant idea in verse eight. 

As they entered the tomb, what was the message: “And he said to them, 'Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; Behold, here is the place where they laid Him" (Mark 16:4-6). As they continued to move forward by faith there were words of comfort for them. This is the theme here at the end of Mark. The gospel of Mark ends with the emphasis on faith, not unbelief. The Lord desires to bring us to this point. If we look at the end of the chapter we see the ascension is linked with faith (16:19-20). In Luke the ascension is linked with love and hope, but the Lord is drawing us into a place of faith!

Commission Given 
We hear much of the Great Commission, but we here have three commissions. 

Commission to the Baffled Believers
The angel told these women to, "Go tell his disciples" (Mark 16:7). Today we have this same message to baffled believers! These disciples were bewildered, puzzled and over-whelmed; much like the church is today! Jesus had died, their dreams had faded; their hopes had vanished. They didn't know what to think. They couldn't put it together. Some had gone back to their old pursuits, shaking their heads. They were trying to live on the memory of a dead Christ and when that is all you have, you can become confused as to your purpose. 

Today Christians are confused, mystified, befuddled. Some are so weighed down with their own problems that they cannot help others. Some are chasing fads and isms, while others are just trying to hold old to what they knew in the past! Vance Havner used to say, “Some have made the Gospel a funeral and others have made it a frolic, and both have forgotten that it is a feast! Some freeze and some fry!” 

But we have a message for a baffled believer: "Go tell His disciples that He is going on before you!" The message is simply Christ. We need a new experience of the living Christ. He is not behind us in a tomb; He is ahead of us (16:7). 

To quote Vance Havner again, “Consider the appearance of Jesus to Mary in the garden. First, there was MISERY: "Woman, why do you weep?" How many miserable Christians there are today! There was a MYSTERY: Mary didn't know where to find her Lord. So many today are out of touch with Jesus, not living in vital communion. Then, when Mary recognized Him, she called Him MASTER. The cure for the MISERY is to see the Master and acknowledge Him. But there was also a MISSION: "Go to thy brethren and say . . ." When we meet the Master, He commissions us.” 

The Believers today need to see the Lord! "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." When we see Him we will quit looking at ourselves and one another! The baffled believer needs to see Him going on before. He is our Joshua, our Leader. When we were kids we used to play “follow the leader” now everybody wants to be the leader! But Christ is the author and finisher of our faith! He is the Head of the Church. 

Commission for the Back Slidden Believer
The second commission given to these women is "Go tell his disciples and Peter.” Peter had failed the Lord by denying Him! The Lord wasn’t finished with Peter because he had failed. Failure is never final! The Lord is looking to restore the fallen! It has been said that “the Church is the only army that shoots is own wounded!” More often than not this is true. When someone has fallen we forget Galatian 6:1-3. But the Lord wants to restore us! In Psalm 23 we read “He restores my soul” This is a shepherding term. It has to do when a sheep is cast down, on its back and not able to get up, the shepherd comes and restores the sheep! This is what the Lord does for each of us when we fail or fall! This was the message to Peter and it is completely fulfilled in John 21! 

Commission to a Blind and Lost World
We have a third commission, the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples. And that message is Christ. He is the Center: "All power is given unto me; Lo, I am with you always." Someone has illustrated it this way: “The world is the Circumference. In His interview with Peter He was the Center: "Do you love ME?" But there was also the Circumference: "Feed my sheep." In geometry we use a compass. One prong is stationary, fixed. With the other we describe our circle. Christ is the fixed Center, the same yesterday, today, forever. From that Center we make the sweep of the whole world as our circumference.”

We have something backing us up, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." That is our resources. In Matthew 11:27 the Lord Jesus could say, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father . . . Come unto me.” In John 3:35-36 He could say, "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. He that believes on the Son has everlasting life.” Here we have the Great Commission: "All power is given unto me . . . Go." Put them together and we have, "All things are mine: Come, Believe, and Go." And that is the full Christian experience. 

There is not only something backing us up, there is something before us: "All the world." And we also have someone with us: "Lo, I am with you." And let us not forget that our message is Christ Himself. Notice back in Mark 16:19-20, as they went out to preached the Lord worked with them! Today we don’t not have the signs and wonders that the early church had, because we have the fulfilled promise of the indwelling Spirit of God and now our lives should be the sign to the lost world! How encouraging it is to know that the Lord is working in us (Phil. 1:6, 2:12-13) and He is working for us (Rom. 8:28) and that He is working with us! 

In closing, notice back in 16:2 it was as they came to the tomb and when they looked up things started to happen! It was when they responded by faith and went out quickly (16:8)! The early part of this chapter is marked by unbelief, but the Lord brings them to a place where faith is exercised and it is by faith we please God (Heb. 11:6)!

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