Very early, the day after the Sabbath, the women come to anoint Jesus’ body. It’s broad daylight. They find the stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty except for an angel, who tells them Jesus has risen. They’re trembling and afraid and they don’t tell anyone.
The rest of the chapter is thought to have been an addition to the gospel; it’s very likely to have been written by the early church to replace a lost segment.
We read that Mary went to tell others, who did not believe her. Jesus appeared to two of the disciples; others did not believe their report either. Jesus appeared to the eleven while they were eating and He rebuked their lack of faith.
He challenges his disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news, so that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Jesus ascends into heaven, and the disciples are obedient to His words.
We have the privilege of being his disciples as well, to continue to bring the good news to all the world.
Mark 15: The Crucifixion
As Jesus is brought to Pilate, He again remains silent, except to admit to being King of the Jews. The crowd has been stirred up by the chief priests, and they call out for Barabbas to be released. Pilate knew that Jesus had been handed over out of envy of the Chief Priests, but He was more eager to please the crowd. How often am I more eager to please the crowd?
Jesus is flogged and handed over to be crucified. They give him a purple robe, a crown of thorns; they mock Him calling out to the “King of the Jews”. Simon of Cyrene is asked to carry His cross; they make the journey to Golgotha.
The third hour – Jesus is crucified. He is offered wine vinegar. They divide his clothes. He’s placed between thieves. The mocking continues.
Then three hours of darkness – the sun stopped shining (at mid-day), and by the ninth hour – Jesus gives up His spirit and breathes His last. With a loud cry, He willingly gave up His life. (A crucified body can hang on a cross for a couple of days; legs are often broken to speed up the process, but not so with Jesus. He willingly gave up His life.)
The curtain of the temple was torn… Jesus enters heaven and we may now enter God’s presence.
The word torn is the same word that was used at the beginning of Mark. When Jesus was baptised, heaven was torn open, and the Spirit descended. In both cases Jesus is declared the Son of God: in the beginning by God His Father, here by the confession of the centurion who said “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council, boldly asks to bury the body of Jesus.
The women, who remained until the end, watch where Jesus is laid. They are less bold.
The disciples seem absent – with no boldness at all.
Mark 14: The Last Supper, and the Arrest
It’s now almost time for the Passover, and Jesus is in Bethany reclining with friends. A woman comes and pours perfume on Jesus’ head. She broke the jar; her giving is total and irrevocable. Those present were indignant at the waste; yet Jesus honours her. The poor you will always have with you, Jesus says.
Then Judas goes off to begin his journey of betrayal… all twelve will eventually deny him.
Preparations begin for the last supper. Jesus foreknew all the details; He invites His disciples to be involved in the preparations.
What an intimate and sacred meal to be shared with friends; dipping the bread, sharing the cup, demonstrating the gift of His body. A table of grace not merit; offered to all, even those who would betray and deny him. Peter is certain he won’t… and yet we know the story of the rooster…
After the Passover, Jesus and his disciples go to Gethsemane. Jesus goes off to pray by himself, and three times his disciples fall asleep… reminiscent of Peter’s denial yet to come. How many times have I fallen asleep in the midst of my prayers?
And then it happens – Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss – and everyone deserts Him.
As Jesus comes before the Sanhedrin, He remains silent in the face of false accusations. He only speaks to admit that He is the Christ. Deemed to be blasphemy, Jesus is condemned to death.
And Peter denies him… three times… and the rooster crows.
The rooster… awakening Peter to what he had done. In our group we wondered if there are times that we need a rooster crowing experience, to awaken to our sin.
Mark 13: Signs of the End
In this chapter, Jesus talks of signs of the end times. We noted that phrases like “birth pains” and “in those days” were common Old Testament phrases to point to the Messianic age, to the coming of the Messiah, and now, here, to His coming again.
Judging by the text, it was very important to Jesus to warn His disciples to be ready, and not be deceived. We are encouraged by the words of Jesus that say the Holy Spirit will give the words that are needed in times of persecution, and he who stands firm to the end will be saved. The signs of the end reveal that heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus states that His words will never pass away. None of us, not even Jesus knows when the end will come… but we are cautioned to be ready at all times.
Mark 12: The Greatest Commandment
In this chapter Jesus is ramping up his challenge to the religious elite. He tells a parable about the vineyard owner with bad tenants, and quotes from scripture: The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The religious leaders realize that He spoke against them. They are working pretty hard to trip up Jesus, with questions about taxes and marriage in heaven. The crowd is still very much in support of Jesus.
The leaders flatter Jesus, speaking of His wisdom, and among other things, they ask about the greatest commandment. Jesus responds with reciting the Shema from Deut. 6, and adds the command to love your neighbour as yourself. What follows is the testimony of the religious teacher, who recognizes that this is indeed the greatest commandment, greater than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Jesus tells him that he is not far from the kingdom. This is one of the few times in scripture where Jesus acknowledges someone’s faith and understanding.
As the chapter continues, we see the crowd enjoying the teaching of Jesus. He cautions them to watch out for the hypocrisy of the teachers of the law who devour widow’s houses. In contrast he exalts a widow’s offering, as she gives all that she has.