For They Were Afraid

"Oh, you're real, you're real! Oh, Aslan!" cried Lucy and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.   "But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time.  But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."  

No one witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, except perhaps angels. And resurrection is not something we have an experiential category for, and yet, coupled with the cross, it is the irremovable heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If there is no resurrection, there is no Gospel, there is no hope of salvation and there is no Church. The resurrection of Jesus is the glorious vindication of Jesus' life and death and it is the life of the Church. It would seem that such a victorious event would be attended with joyful celebration and glad  proclamation. But the account of the resurrection by the gospel writer Mark is surprising and awkward, unresolved and uncomfortable. His resurrection report is only eight verses long and it end with four dismal words:  "For they were afraid" (16:8). What are we to make of that?  How can that be a fitting end to his "gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (1:1)? What is his point? 

Read, Mark 16:1-8 carefully and twice, and use the questions given below to help you meditate on this intriguing resurrection text.  

1.    Take a moment and read Mark 8:31; 9:31 and 10:33-34. What had Jesus taught his disciples about what would happen to him in Jerusalem? What should they have known and expected?

2.    What were the assumptions and expectations of the three ladies who went to the tomb on the morning of the first day of the week (vv. 1-2)?  

3.    What did these ladies find when they arrived and entered the tomb? Why were they alarmed (v. 5)?
*     What does the context (vv. 5-7) suggest about the identity of this young man?  

4.    Just for a moment, what if the ladies had found exactly what they expected, namely, Jesus' body in the otherwise empty tomb? How would the world be different now? How would your life be different?

5.    What was the message of this 'young man' dressed in a white robe (vv. 6-7)?  

6.    What if there had been no angel announcing Jesus' resurrection, only an empty tomb? Where would we be then?

7.    What was the assignment this 'young man' gave to these ladies?  (c.f., Mark 14:28)

8.    Why do you think the 'young man' singled out Peter when he gave these women their assignment (v. 7)?

9.    Pause for a moment and place yourself in the tomb with these women. What would you be thinking and feeling?  

10.    How do you envision what happened in verse 8?

11.    Why do you think these devoted ladies were afraid? What were they afraid of?
*    As a reader of this story and as an outside observer, how do you respond to their fear?  
*    If you could have entered that story what would you have said to or done for those women?  
12.    Verse 8 is the original ending of Mark's gospel. Why do you think Mark ends his gospel on this note:  "for they were afraid"?
*    How might that be relevant to the first century church, and to us?

13.    Assuming that Mark was intentional about ending his gospel at verse 8, what does he want you, the reader, to do?   

May the risen Lord bless you in the Truth of His Resurrection!

See you on Sunday!