Title: He is not here! He is Risen, just as he said!
Text: Mk 1.1-15; 15.33-16.8
Introduction: Thank you Christoph for reading our text this morning; Today we begin our study in Mark. Mark has always been my least favorite Gospel. I’ve usually run to the other three gospels when I’m looking for stories. Mt 28.18-20; Luke 23 and the thief on the Cross; John and his alternate perspective. When I was in college, Dr. Martin had us translate from Mark’s Gospel. Matthew and John were disciples. Luke had done thorough research. Mark always seemed to me to be thrown together and condensed. However, now that I am much older and have had time to study the beauty of Mark’s story, I see it much clearer. I understand that Mark had a purpose in mind. He didn’t have Mt, Lk and Jn to lean on.
No, as a matter of fact, I see that a great debt of gratitude is owed to Mark. He learned what he recorded here from Peter. He traveled with Paul and Barnabas both and learned from them. His goal and purpose was different than that of Matthew or Luke or even John. He was a trailblazer who saw the need to get this story down in book form for future generations because there wasn’t anything to pass along. He saw the need and rose to the occasion.
Rd Mk 1.1; an incomplete sentence. There is no verb! That tells us that it was probably the Title of this little book. Your title probably reads: Mark or the Gospel according to Mark. That Title was added later. This is probably Mark’s title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Now, before we look at this title, let’s look at this person, Mark. It would be fun to outline for you all of the evidence pointing us toward John Mark, the helper to Barnabas and Paul. But, we just don’t have time. You’ll have to trust that for nearly 2,000 years, the church has understood John Mark to be the writer. Here is what we’re confident of:
This Mark is the same John Mark who worked with Barnabas and Paul. And, he also worked with Peter. That’s right, that Simon Peter: the one who denied Christ three times; the one who continually put his foot in his mouth. Furthermore, there is strong evidence to suggest that John Mark got his information for this gospel from Peter and his testimony of these things. He wrote this shortly after Peter’s death. Maybe he realized there was a deep need for such a book as he watched one of the eyewitnesses to Christ pass from this earth. Wednesday night, during our Bible Study hour, I plan to look at the evidence for this and other topics we just don’t have time to address. So, consider this your invitation.
As we make our way through Mark I want to point out to you, and this is important, that I want to focus just on what Mark shares. When it was written, there were no others with which to compare it. I want you to get that feeling. Sure, I’ll mention the other gospels and relate what you probably already know, but for the most part – we will stick to Mark’s storyline. I want to sort of pretend we don’t have the ‘extras’ in the other Gospels.
Mark was most likely writing this book for the Christians in Rome – and he’s writing from Rome, where he had been working with Peter before Peter’s death.
So, let’s break his title down:
- The Beginning: not like John’s gospel – not that far back. Not like Genesis – that’s not his starting point. His starting point is clarified in the next couple of verses. Malachi and Isaiah talked about this Messiah’s coming. That’s his starting point. He points back to the prophets as the starting point.
- Gospel: εὐαγγέλιον – transliterated is evangelism. εὐ – means well or good. αγγέλοs – is the word for which we get angel – or messenger. αγγέλιον means message. So we have good message or good news. Mark here is the 1st one to use this word this way. His is the 1st gospel.
- Jesus – the gospel, the message of Jesus can be understood in two ways:
- as the message about Jesus. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you about him.
- the message Jesus proclaimed. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you what he preached. Both work here, for they are the same.
- Christ – anointed one or Messiah. Your translation could read: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.
- Son of God – I think Mark is up to something here:
- Jesus, his earthly name, He was human.
- Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people, and the world. These messianic implications would go all the way back to the Davidic covenant.
- Son of God – a theological delineation. Yes, fully human, but also – fully God. We’ll see more of that in a moment. We’ll see this is an important element that flows through this book, and is a part of the climax to the story at the end.
Mark affirms for us that this beginning was foretold of by the prophets. He mentions Isaiah here (as it is written in), but he quotes from Malachi and Isaiah. Let’s look at these quotes:
Malachi 3.1 – “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. He clearly tells us of someone who will come proclaiming, announcing, and heralding the coming of the Lord.
Mark, then quotes from Isaiah to clarify for us this: 40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
John is this ‘voice crying in the wilderness’; we meet him in v. 4; Jesus is the Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God mentioned here; we meet him in v 9; let’s do that; rd v 4-8; rd v 9-11;
At this stage of the introduction, I think it would be interesting to note the different witnesses proclaiming this gospel – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I think that is more of Mark’s focus than telling us the whole story – like we see in other gospels. Note:
- Isaiah tells us in v 3.
- Malachi tells us in v 2.
- Mark tells us in his Title, v 1.
- John tells us in v 4-8. This Messiah is mightier than I, his sandals I’m not worthy to even stoop down and tie! John is pointing us to Jesus. And then…
- The Trinity appears to validate this for us in v 9-11.
- The Son comes to be baptized
- The Spirit the heavens are torn open (the clouds don’t just part) and the Spirit descends upon Jesus as a witness
- The Father himself testifies: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.
This might appear to be the end of the introduction – v 1 – the son of God; v 11 – the Father proclaims him to be his son. But I think there is more here; I think that Satan and the angels also declare who he is by their actions:
- There is Satan’s validation of who he is as he tries to test him – trying to trip him up; rd v 12-13
- He is with the wild beasts – this is unusual; Wild beast don’t usually act this way;
- The angels were ministering to him, giving their validation of who He is.
Listen, while no single testimony stands alone as valid in some eyes, the weight of these combined all scream at us: Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
1.14-15 tell us that Jesus begins his ministry, even before he picks his disciples (1.16-20); rd v 14a; we won’t hear of John again in Mark, (we hear of John’s disciples in 2.18) but we won’t hear from the Baptizer again until we learn of his death in chapter 6. As John records in his gospel – this is something John the Baptist knew was coming – He must increase, but I must decrease.
And the increase of Christ’s popularity is what we see as he begins his ministry. Let’s continue – 1.14b-15; we see this word gospel again – a nice bookend to this section. Maybe this is the end of the Introduction.
This is common for Mark: bookends to sections where he is focusing on something important. Some scholars call this the top and the tail. They bring the story back to the beginning – in a way. I’ll do my best to point them out along the way.
Turn to 15.33-37; Mark is making reference to the O.T. again. Here it is a reference to Psalm 22.1-18; And at his death something happens: rd 15.38 – 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This is the 2nd time we’ve seen this word torn in Mark. Do you know it doesn’t appear at any other time in this book than the two we’ve seen? Mark uses this word torn only twice: Once when the heaven’s were being torn open and the Spirit descends upon the Messiah and here, when the curtain that separated the people from the presence of God was torn in two from top to bottom.
No man can make either one of those tears. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think Mark’s goal here is to communicate to the reader that a way into the presence of God has been made. He came from heaven to earth and lived the perfect and sinless life, that he might make the payment of death on our behalf. His death opened a way into the holy of holies – the most holy place, that you and I might have access to God.
And if you’ve missed it somehow, look at v 39; Do you know in Mark, only one human makes this remark? The Centurion. God said it back in 1.15; Angels and Demons will declare it. But it isn’t until this moment that a person says it. The message of Mark is clear: Jesus, is the Christ, the promised messiah, Son of God.
From here, Mark seems to end his gospel very abruptly, especially when we consider Matthew, Luke and John. But let me reiterate: Mark’s purpose isn’t to tell stories for our entertainment, but rather to tell this one story. Jesus, the Christ, was crucified, dead and buried. And, when the women came to the tomb three days later, they find that he has risen, just as he has promised.
In v40-41, the women are watching and observing and v 47 informs the reader that they are there with him until he is laid in the tomb.
When the Sabbath has ended, they come. The Sabbath ends at sun down on Saturday, but they can’t see at night. So, rd v 2-4; The synoptics (Mt, Mk, Lk) all use the same word here for roll away. But John uses a different word. You remember he was an eyewitness with Peter. He says the stone was rolled up and away. Rd v 5-6
He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. And this is Mark’s story as passed down from Peter. As he told us in his title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Conclusion: Have you noticed how the world has captured the Christmas holiday and commercialized it – even to the point removing Christ from Christmas, but keeping many of the traditions and adding others? And yet, for the most part, the world has left Easter alone? Listen Dr. R. Albert Mohler: The secular world has done its best to make a mess of Christmas, but it has largely ignored our celebration of the Resurrection. Where commercialism intrudes, it comes in the form of eggs and chicks and rabbits–none of which claim any connection with the Resurrection. The fact is, the secular world will attempt to domesticate, commercialize, and tame the babe in the manger–but it will run at breakneck speed from the cross and the empty tomb.
That cross stands as condemnation on all human attempts at self-righteousness, and the fallen world will do all within its power to hide the cross from sight. The empty tomb is the seal and confirmation of the cross, and the world will shield its eyes.
The Truth is, people do not want to be confronted about their sin. And the cross does just that! The empty tomb does just that.
But for Christians, we have a far greater understanding of this message. And this is our application – our take-aways:
- The Worst that can happen to us has already happened for us in Christ Jesus. I’m talking about for the person who has committed his life to Christ and found the forgiveness of sins. Paul says: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. Christ paid that horrible punishment on our behalf. As believers, the worst thing that could happen to us has already happened in Christ. The wages of our sin is death and Christ paid that penalty on our behalf!
- The Best thing that can happen for us has already happened, too.
- His resurrection means so much more for us. In this life, we have been raised with Christ, and seated with him in the heavenlies. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2.4-7 Paul also said: 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- His resurrection gives us hope of our future resurrection.
Invitation: Listen, if you don’t have that hope…