Guest Post: Mark Fifteen & Sixteen by Drew Bontrager

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Drew Bontrager has provided his reflections on Mark's fifteenth and sixteenth chapter.

Drew is the husband of the beautiful and driven, love of his life, Courtney. She is a fighter and he loves her for that. He is passionate about his marriage, family, the local church, and basketball. Drew is a staff pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, IN. He also wanted to communicate that he is very honored to have met Jeremy at Bethel Seminary, a friend whom he deeply respects.

What do these chapters tell us about who Jesus is?

I love this question because the way we answer it has everything to do with how we know God and live our everyday lives.

The entire narrative of Mark is driven to the climactic conclusion of chapters 15 & 16. More than any other Gospel, Mark is “passion” driven (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). You find yourself asking the question, where are we going? Jesus is doing all of these great things: miracles, healings, and teaching. But what’s next? Something big is going to happen.

So what happens? Jesus dies a gruesome death, execution on a cross. And then three days later, the miraculous and soul-shaking event happens: Jesus resurrects from the dead.

They say (whoever “they” are, people who are smarter than me) that the most important parts of a story are the beginning and the end. In this case, the ending is the grand finale. Just when you thought the game was over, Jesus pulls it out in OT! In all sincerity though, the resurrection is the essence of Mark’s story, the crux of our faith, and our blessed hope.

Jesus overcoming death means only one thing: Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. Everything Jesus did, said, and is reflects the character of God (Col. 1 & Heb. 1). Jesus is supreme. God looks like Jesus, the Kingdom looks like Jesus, and the Church should look like Jesus. Why? Because His resurrection demands it.

What do these chapters tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17).  

One of my former undergrad professors used to say, “Show me the bones of Jesus and I am no longer a Christian.” That thought has always stayed with me because it identifies the grit of our faith; the resurrection changes everything. Without the resurrection, everything else about Christ would be meaningless. Without the resurrection, being a follower of Jesus would be relegated to following a celebrity on Twitter.

As a follower of Jesus, my faith and daily life is challenged when I am confronted with His resurrection. What do I believe? Is Jesus Lord of all? Does the same power that raised Christ from the dead operate within me? And how does that relate to my Monday-Saturday, marriage, job, or finances? This may have been similar to what Paul was describing when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).

Here are two thoughts that may answer some of my questions that perhaps you also share…

Our Future is Bright

Jesus’ power over death guarantees our future victory over death through resurrection. In the face of death, the one thing we all assume and fear, the Christian believes that just as Jesus rose we too shall rise. This is our blessed hope, our eternal life.

Our Present Should Reflect Our Future

Sometimes the present is all the more pressing than the future, and the resurrection has just as much to say about the here and now than it does about eternity.

Consider the disciples. They spent their lives with Jesus. Then Jesus gets arrested and executed. On cue, the disciples scatter. Consistent with the theme in Mark, they were despondent, terrified, beaten, hiding for fear of the Jews (Mk. 16:8). I’m sure they had questions like, what do we do now? What next? Who do we trust?

Their future was uncertain and marked by death and defeat, so their present mirrored it. Then a miracle happened, Jesus appeared to them in His resurrected state (Mk. 16:7). Astonished, full of awe, and impassioned the disciples launched the Church, preaching the resurrection.

They were terrified into hiding and paralyzed by fear but all of a sudden they were ready to go to prison or even die for preaching Jesus’ resurrection. What happened? The resurrection changed everything. Hope of a future and life made them bold in their present.

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19). Our hope in Christ is rooted in the resurrection and it transforms our here and now. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that lives inside of us. Meaning in Christ, we have hope, power to engage in the mission of God, power over sin, and access to an intimate relationship with God.

What in particular stands out to you from these chapters in Mark?

The resurrection promises that Jesus is with us in the here and now, in our everyday lives. I see this message as being central to the final message of Mark…

The angel that spoke to the two ladies in the empty tomb gave them the command to, “Go, tell the disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you’” (16:7).  

…and Peter

The messenger from God singles out Peter because he is a prime candidate for the grace of God. Peter, like most of us, has experienced many failures, most notably his shameful denial of Christ. But here’s the deal, where Peter fulfilled a prophecy (Mk. 14:27), Jesus fulfilled a promise to restore (Mk. 14:28). In full view of Peter’s past, present, and future failures, Jesus hung on a cross for him, sought him out, and appeared to him (Mk. 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:5). It is a beautiful picture. Even though we often fail Jesus, He does not reject us, but pursues us.

Galilee

Not only was Peter forgiven, but he was also restored into the mission of God. Throughout Mark, Galilee was understood in the context of Jesus’ mission (1:14, 28, 39; 3:7; 15:40-41). The promise of Jesus appearing to them in Galilee was a promise of restoration but also mission. Peter was given a second chance and a future.  

Full of fear and wonderment, the ladies that the angel spoke to “fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (16:8). Peter blew it. The ladies were full of fear and did nothing they were told to do. This seems like a weird way to end a story. Looking a little closer we see that the emphasis is on what happens between verses 7 and 8: Jesus appearing to Peter and the disciples. The emphasis is on Jesus.

I love Mark 15 & 16 because it communicates to me that anxiety and failure in this life are real, but Jesus is at all times waiting for us to remove fear and give us a second chance and a purpose.