Wednesday, 2 October 2013
Mark 16: Astonished and Afraid
Death changes everything, I’d heard. But I saw it firsthand one summer.
I was working as a nurse’s aide to make money for college. As I made my way from room to room, changing beds, taking vitals, I would banter with the patients. Taking my cue from the full time aides, I mothered them and babied them and joked with them, according to their preference. That made our interruptions a little less irksome, and their comforts a little more soothing.
One elderly black man bantered right back at me. He welcomed the breakfast tray as if he were a guest at the Waldorf. When I came to take it away, he offered his compliments to the chef. Though he rarely took the reading materials I brought by, he always offered a better punch line to my jokes. His family stories were mesmerizing.
Over time his lung cancer worsened. They moved him to ICU. His bed was surrounded by a web of tubes and wires, keeping him alive. Lab techs, nurses, doctors buzzed in and out. Family prayed in the hallway or hovered just inside the door.
I was on duty when he coded. His heart had stopped, setting off an alarm and setting the organized emergency response team into action: red cart, respiratory specialist, head nurse, on call physician. “Stand back.” The paddles were applied. The patient jumped. After several tries he revived. I let out my breath and returned to work.
The next morning I raced up to ICU to check on him before I began my day. The room was empty. Deserted. No machines. No tubes. No wires. No hospital staff. Only the body lay there on the bed, covered by a sheet.
Still. Silent. Over.
The end of expectations
As long as Jesus was alive, the disciples were full of expectations. They had kingdom hopes, national hopes, personal hopes. Jesus’ words didn’t always make sense to them, but they heard the parts they wanted to hear and formulated their own idea of what the future would look like. It leaked out in their requests.
Their lives were a buzz of activity and talk. Then it all fell apart. The miracle they waited for didn’t happen. Jesus died. It was over.
Mark’s gospel gives the shortest account of Resurrection Day: jaw dropping shock.
Shock and awe. That’s the best way to describe both his death and his resurrection. Paradigm busting.
Day 1: Context — Read Mark 15:42-16:1 to understand what they were expecting.
- What did the 3 women see (v. 42, 47)? What did they do?
- What did Joseph of Arimathea ask for? What did he do?
- What was Pilates surprised about? What did he grant?
- What had Jesus told them repeatedly? (See Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33.) Was anyone expecting this?
Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 16: 1-8 as a brief first hand account of the empty tomb.
- Who were the witnesses? What was their mission that morning?
- What did they see?
- What did the angel tell them? Command them? Promise them?
- Who did the angel mention?
- How did the women respond?
Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 16:1-8 as a purposeful ending to Mark’s well-told tale.
- What marks these 8 verses as eye-witness description?
- What does Mark ignore that the other gospel writers include?
- What is the effect of ending his gospel at verse 8?
- What question is left hanging in the air? (See Mark 4:40)
Day 4: Application — Read Mark 16:1-8 as a personal word to you.
- If death changes everything, what does the resurrection do?
- In what area of your life are you experiencing death?
- What are your expectations in light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”