26 December 2021
Book: Mark

Salvation Dawns: Conclusion

Speaker: Jonathan Pugh

Bible Passage: Mark 16:9-20

Which story are you telling the world? Is your story one of defeat, hopelessness or of the risen Christ whose salvation dawns for each of us?

  • Series: Salvation Dawns
  • Discussion Guide: None this Week
  • Recharge: None this Week

Salvation Dawns: Conclusion

Matthew 28:8-20

 

Today is the last Sunday of the year and the last Sunday in our long study of the Gospel of Mark. We have seen the greatest event occur in what we believe as Christians…the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Last week we left with a bit of a cliffhanger in the reaction of the women who had come to the tomb of Jesus to try to properly anoint his body. Instead of finding a dead body, these women found an empty tomb with an angel giving them explicit instructions.

 

Mark 16:6-7

6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 

7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 

 

But, as has happened so frequently with followers of Jesus in Mark, the women did not immediately have the response of faith and obedience that we would hope for.

 

8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 

This is a very peculiar ending because almost all Bible scholars agree that these are the last words that we possess that came from the pen of Mark. If you have your copy of the Bible with you today, I want you to read what is written following Mark 16:8. You should pay attention to the footnotes that will read something to this extent.

 

The ESV Bible says “some of the earliest manuscripts do not have 16:9-20.” The NIV says “the earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20.” I have also included a picture of the notes from verse nine from the UBS Greek New Testament, which is the text from which most of our translations of the Bible derive.

 

To understand what these notes are all about we need to understand how we came to have the Bibles that we hold in our hands. For no portion of Scripture does anybody today possess the leather upon which the original books of the Bible were written. What we do possess are thousands and thousands of copies of copies that are found everywhere from northern Africa to the Middle East to Northern Europe. 

 

In the early 1500s with the Reformation when the Bible was placed back at the center of the Christian faith, scholars starting with Erasmus of Rotterdam thought that it was vitally important to have as accurate of a Greek New Testament as we could that wasn’t corrupted by anybody’s agenda. Prior to this, almost all copies of the Scripture were based on the Latin Vulgate that was translated by Jerome about 1,000 years earlier and centered in Rome. 

 

What Erasmus did was he collected all the Greek manuscripts, many of which were 500-1,000 years old that he could get his hands on, and he compared them to ensure that the Greek NT that he produced was as close to the original as could be conceived. Now, you say, how can he be sure of what’s original and what are scribal differences or errors in copying? The answer is that Erasmus began the process of comparing copies that belong to different families. That means copies that came from practically different ends of the Christian world. 

 

What he would find is that there was absolute agreement on something like 99% of everything found therein. And when there are differences, you compare the copies in such a way as to ask “which option is original, and which one was changed later.” One rule that can be used to find out what is original to a passage is to ask which manuscript is earlier or reflects an earlier copy. The earlier manuscripts as a general rule will be truer to the original, so they carry greater weight when they are compared.

 

When we come to Mark 16:9-20, we find that the earliest manuscripts as well as the manuscripts from different families (Egypt and Palestine) end at Mark 16:8. The families of texts from what is modern-day Turkey, which is given priority in the King James Version of the Bible, are the most reliable ones that have an ending to Mark, so that is why you will find the ending in the King James Version.

 

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/41-85/the-fitting-end-to-marks-gospel

Also, read extensively in Chapter 14 of The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright.

 

I am including some good articles to read about the ending of Mark in my notes for today, but I want to get straight to what this means for what I am preaching today. I want you to realize that this is one of only three places in the entire NT where there is a real and legitimate question as to the text that you hold in your hands was part of the original Scripture. 

 

It does not undermine ANY doctrine of our faith, as I will explain in a minute. The NT has something like 20x the amount of manuscript evidence for its truthfulness from any other book in the ancient world. It’s not even close if there were a competition as to which ancient text has the most testimony as to its accuracy. You can literally read the footnotes of your Bible and plainly see every single place where there is a question.

 

Scholars (including conservative, Bible-believing scholars) seem to have a consensus that the ending of Mark was added in the second century because for some reason the second-century church didn’t find Mark 16:8 to be a satisfactory ending.  

 

That is close enough to the first century that it likely does reflect things that Jesus actually did and said that the apostles passed on to the church, but we cannot treat it with some weight and authority of actual Scripture, because it was almost certainly not penned by Mark, who gave one of the authoritative accounts.

 

The good news is that God has not left us to guess what happened after Mark 16:8. In his providence, he gave us four Gospels. Three of those Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, have shared as sources many of the same eyewitnesses. This is why they record most of the same events and teachings of Jesus with much of the same language. The most closely related Gospel to Mark is the Gospel of Matthew. You find many of the same things being said at the end of the books.

 

  • Jesus tells the disciples before he dies that he will meet them in Galilee
  • The report of the crucifixion and who was there is almost verbatim
  • The same people are seeking to honor the body of Jesus after his death
  • An angel appears to the women at the tomb before anybody knows anything about the resurrection
  • The women are told to report what they saw to the disciples
  • The women are told to reiterate Jesus message that he would meet the disciples in Galilee
  • The women respond with fear at first

 

We can’t know for sure what the true ending of Mark is because we don’t have it. But we do have an authoritative account of what happened after the women left the tomb. It’s entirely possible that what we find verses in Matthew 28 that are identical or almost identical to what would have been the ending of Mark. And it’s the authoritative living word of God, so let’s dive into those verses to find out how Jesus would have us respond to his resurrection today.

 

 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 

9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 

12And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 

13and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 

14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 

17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

The ultimate act of Jesus’ authority is his resurrection. 

 

Do you remember playing HORSE? Making a shot is one thing, but it’s not always the point. Saying how you’re going to make the shot is how you win…how you gain authority. (think about the old Jordan vs. Bird commercial) And Jesus made the ultimate called shot earlier in his ministry.

 

Mark 10:33-34

33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

 

But calling a shot does not mean anything. I can tell you that my next shot will be a hole-in-one when I play golf. But you know that call has no authority because I can’t back it up. Jesus not only said that he would raise up. But the point is that he holds ultimate authority because he actually did it. There are three truths about the authority of Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28:8-20. The authority of Jesus’ resurrection gives us access to a personal relationship with the living God.

 

8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 

9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 

Last week we were left with women who were startled, terrified, and failing in their faith. They disregarded the angel’s command and “said nothing to anyone” This week in Matthew, we have the exact opposite reaction of at least two of the same women. The question that we should all be asking is “What Changed?”

 

Now put yourself in the shoes of the women for a minute. 

 

  • They came to see the body
  • They had no guarantee of success
  • They knew that guards and a stone stood between them and honoring their beloved savior
  • BOOM! Guards are laying as dead men. The stone is rolled away. And an angel appears. What in the world do you do with that?

 

It likely took some time of recovery for them to process what they just saw. But then they remembered what Jesus had said! The astounding thing is not simply that a body was not in the tomb. The women’s faith came into focus once they realized JESUS told us this would happen! 

 

This isn’t luck. This is a display of His authority. But one other thing convinced these women that what the angel told them was indeed true. Verse 9 is what changed. Jesus. The resurrected one met them. And they had the opportunity to worship him live and in person. The fact that Jesus is alive allows the women to know him personally and to worship him. It is only through the personal act of worshipping Christ that their fear melts into faith. 

 

That their paralysis turns into action! They go and proclaim “Jesus is alive!” But we see that not everybody who witnesses the resurrection is a worshipper. The authority of Jesus’ resurrection divides the world between worshippers and opponents.

 

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 

12And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 

13and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 

14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

 

The women who encountered the risen Jesus outside of his tomb became the first people in history to proclaim the joy of the resurrection. Their message was as simple and pure as one could imagine. “Our Lord, whom we love, is not dead, he is alive. And that means everything he ever said must be totally true.” As we will see. God intends for his worshippers to be his proclaimers.

 

But it would be quite astounding to assume that everyone just accepts the story that Jesus is raised from the dead. After all, this just doesn’t happen. The definition of the dead is that you can’t come back to life. It’s unnatural. Unscientific. In other words, it requires faith. But that is for us. We have to examine the accounts of the resurrection and apply standards of truth to them and say “is it more likely than not that people are telling the truth about the resurrected Jesus?” I think the evidence is logically and overwhelmingly compelling. But that doesn’t close the case.

 

Many people, even if they witness the events for themselves, will not be convinced. Because faith is often a preconceived determination that we make that either something is true or it cannot be true. It’s those who have determined that no matter the evidence, even if Jesus rose from the dead, that he cannot possess the authority of God who is his opponent.

 

John MacArthur makes the point that God used even the stubborn unbelief of the religious leaders and the Roman guards to ensure that the Good News of Jesus is put forward by those who loved him. Why would a story even need to be concocted if there weren’t a reason to believe Jesus is alive. I mean, dead people just stay dead. Even conspiracy theories today don’t claim that Elvis or Tupac defeated death….they just said that they didn’t die yet (And those are easy enough to prove or disprove….show us Elvis or Tupac and we know that they didn’t die.)

 

Do you remember way back at the beginning of Mark when Jesus began to encounter evil spirits? What was their typical response? To tell the truth about Jesus. “We know who you are. You are the Holy One of God.” And how did Jesus respond? By telling the evil spirits to be silent. It was never God’s plan for evil to testify of Jesus’ Lordship. God reserves the honor of heralding his good name and great deeds for the saints who love and worship him. The authority of Jesus’ resurrection compels every worshipper to make disciples.

 

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 

17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

“But some doubted.” Isn’t that encouraging in its own way? 1) Matthew doesn’t have to make believe that this isn’t an incredible story that many people…even disciples who love Jesus…will have a hard time with. 2) He doesn’t need to turn this into some legend of propaganda like when we are told that dictators are so beloved that they win 100% of the vote in their countries 3) We are God’s chosen vessels even when we struggle with our own doubts.

 

Then Jesus gives the real driving force of his central command. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

 

In other words. I am here. I was dead. I told you I would be raised. And I am raised. No force in heaven or earth can make that claim. No king. No doctor. No celebrity. No idol. nothing. I have all the authority. It’s been placed in my hands. My kingdom is now inaugurated. And we are told what to do with it. Therefore is always there for a reason. Jesus has authority. And he has a task for each of us.

 

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

 

And finally, there is a promise And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

This promise forms a perfect bookend to the Gospel of Matthew. On Christmas eve we reflected on a verse from the beginning of Matthew. 

 

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

 

The promise was made through the prophets that God would be with us. A baby was born, and God became flesh and dwelt among us. And because Jesus has risen, he can make good on that promise to be with us until the end of the age (the consummation of the kingdom). Making disciples by going to the ends of the earth at great cost and great effort is possible and it is worth it. Because we have the authority of the resurrected king with us.

 

Challenge: Which story are you telling the world?

 

(Example of competing narratives on cable news.) Everybody’s life has a narrative that every other story of every other event fits in so that you can make sense of it.

 

  • Narrative of meaninglessness. We will be dealing with that when we preach through Ecclesiastes.
  • Narrative of defeat. God has given up on me. 
  • Narrative of opposition. Jesus can never have authority over me.
  • Narrative of truth. He is risen. Therefore I have a job.