And Then What Happened

What Now? | Mark 16:8

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. Mark 16:8

We read this story and wonder why they would run away from the empty tomb. Perhaps we think them foolish, all because we read the texts and understand Jesus’ talking about this moment time and again. But, before we get too judgmental, let’s remember they were living it while we’re only reading about it. There’s a huge difference between the two.

How many times have we been involved in something and were told repeatedly the outcome? Then, when it actually happened, we were surprised. Whether it’s being told the due date of a project, tax day, or the loss of a loved one to an illness, we’re sometimes surprised. Our being told, for whatever reason, was either forgotten or set aside as something not to think on.

Over the years, I’ve become more and more sympathetic towards the disciples in what sometimes seems to be blind ignorance. But, as the richness of the scriptures unfolds into a living story, I see myself most likely behaving the same way! Clamor seems to have been present whenever Jesus went into a public setting, and that’s not always the optimal learning experience. Certainly, there were times the disciples were in a quiet setting, with Jesus teaching, but we all know how our minds are, having wandering thoughts as we sit in our tiredness. The disciples experienced the same, I’m sure.

I imagine this to be an Easter celebration few to none have experienced before. We’re told not to congregate, keeping our distance. This is exactly the opposite of what we desire. But, in our experience, maybe we’ve moved away from what Easter really is. Our celebrations surrounding the resurrection of Jesus have perhaps shifted from focus on Jesus to focus on celebration. Now that we’ve celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, maybe we can realign our Easter back to a focus on Jesus, and probe the question ‘who is Jesus to us?’ We’ve read and heard these Gospel accounts of Jesus, sometimes being told who he is. Remember, the relationship sought of us by God’s son is a personal one, which sounds a lot like we need to figure out who this Perfect Man is. As we reflect on our experience this Easter, this may be the perfect time for us to celebrate who we are in Jesus and what he IS to us!

By Rich Obrecht

What Now? | Mark 16:82020-04-10T11:24:29-06:00

Why the Cliffhanger? | Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Humans love resolve. When we read novels we want happy endings. When we listen to music, our bodies ache for that final chord to reach a beautiful melodic resolve. We can only hold so much tension at any given time. And it’s no different when it comes to Scripture.

An addendum to the Gospel of Mark was added due to this very fact. For years, many have viewed Mark 16 as unfinished. However, N.T. Wright says, “Mark rewards careful study.” Although John Mark seems to blaze through the life and ministry of Jesus and leave us with a rather uncomfortable cliffhanger, perhaps this is exactly his literary strategy.

His audience is a group of young believers in Rome suffering under intense persecution. Mark’s gospel reminds them Jesus IS the Son of God and his resurrection informs the way his disciples live under unexpected circumstances. In the first half of this book, only demons understood who Jesus was, even his own disciples only understood in part. Finally, in chapter 15 we see a Roman centurion making a definitive statement that “Jesus is truly the Son of God” while the disciples in today’s passage ran away in fear.

Here’s where we believe the book of Mark was intended to end. Like any literary cliffhanger, Mark ends abruptly in order for the story to have gravitas. When we end at Mark 16:8, this story begs so many questions. Today, take a few minutes to identify and answer the questions this gospel poses to you.

  • For those who doubt the resurrection- How does Mark’s account of Jesus’ resurrection make you feel? What are you going to do about it?
  • For those who believe in the resurrection- When God shows up in unexpected ways, will you cower in fear or rise up in faith?
  • For those who proclaim the resurrection- How can your life reveal the relevance of Jesus’ resurrection today?

By Yvonne Biel

Why the Cliffhanger? | Mark 16:1-82020-04-10T11:21:52-06:00

What About Joseph? | Mark 15:42-47

 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Mark 15:42-47

How have you been spending your time during the Stay at Home? It’s almost like God is giving the world a huge “time out” to check our attitudes and what’s important. Even more surprising is the timing, right before Easter during the Lenten season. The forty days of Lent are for spiritual growth and renewal, fasting and repentance. Lent is a time to be aware of the sin that separates us from God and what it cost him to be reunited to us in right relationship.

Joseph of Arimathea got his relationship right with Jesus and was waiting for the Kingdom of God (Mark 15:43). He is mentioned only four times in the Bible, Matthew (27:57) as wealthy, Mark (15:43) respected in the Sanhedrin, Luke (23:50) as a good and righteous man, and in John (19:38) a secret disciple and follower. The day Jesus died on the cross – his waiting was over. He openly approached Pilate and boldly asked for Jesus’ dead body. He bought a linen shroud (Mark 15:46) and secured help (including Nicodemus, another Pharisee, John 19:39) to take him down from the cross. They prepared Jesus’ body for burial, and laid him in a tomb, between the 9th hour and the Sabbath at sundown. All this in 180 minutes. The other disciples scattered in fear, but Joseph, at great risk to his family and career, respectfully gave his Savior a proper burial. This was a critical part of Jesus’ story and Joseph was uniquely suited to help him in those three hours, and did everything he could.

God has prepared good works for all of us as his followers. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). These good works are a result of a right relationship with Jesus. Take inventory of your God given gifts, talents and influence. What is God calling you to for such a time as this? Are you willing to bear the cost? It was time for Joseph to be bold and courageous, and so it is for us. God has uniquely fitted you for the work he has for you. Like Joseph’s 180 minutes, it will be personal, and it will be important in God’s Kingdom. During the imposed solitude of Lent this year, spend time with Jesus, listening to how he wants to use you and your influence for his Kingdom, then obey.

By Donna Burns

What About Joseph? | Mark 15:42-472020-04-10T11:17:49-06:00

Why So Many Women? | Mark 15:40-41

“Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were there.” Mark 15:40-41

“Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” Mark 15:47

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.” Mark 16:1

Mark tells us several women were present at Jesus’ crucifixion. He says Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome were among them, implying there were others. John 19:25 says, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” In Luke 8:2-3 we are given a few details, “and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” It is reasonable to assume many of these women were present at Jesus’ crucifixion. Several of them saw where Jesus was laid, and came back on Sunday, bringing spices with them to anoint Jesus’ body – out of devotion to him.

Women did not have power, voice, or influence in Israel in 30 AD. But these women heard Jesus teaching, were healed in their spirits, minds and bodies, and thus became devoted to Jesus and his ministry. They showed their devotion by following Jesus, using their own money to supply food and daily needs. In this way they served Jesus and his disciples and helped to further his ministry. The gospel of Mark tells us the kingdom Jesus proclaimed welcomes men, women, and children, Jews and gentiles. All are welcome.

Paul tells us briefly of two other women, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother Eunice,” II Timothy 1:5. Paul writes to Timothy, whom he considered to be his son, and “fellow worker” Romans 16:21. He reminds him of the spiritual heritage he is blessed to have – both a mother and a grandmother who were believers. His father evidently was Greek and not a believer in Jesus. Timothy was influenced and nurtured by a believing mother and grandmother, who surely helped him gain spiritual maturity.

Do you know a woman, or women who have been devoted to Jesus? Maybe she or they have influenced you on your spiritual journey? Perhaps a mother, grandmother, aunt, sister or friend was the person who pointed you to Jesus. Reach out and thank them. Affirm a woman or women who have helped you to mature and grow in your spiritual journey.

By Grace Hunter

Why So Many Women? | Mark 15:40-412020-04-10T11:15:34-06:00

Who is Jesus? | Mark 15:33-39

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”  And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:33-39

Confessions. Mark begins and ends his story with confessions, and includes several in between. First his own, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (1:1). He carefully chooses miracles and ministry moments of Jesus that leave no doubt to his supernatural power and authority. After the feeding of the five thousand and the calming of the sea, Jesus takes his disciples on a retreat to Caesarea Philippi and asks Peter, “who do you say I am?” Peter passes the verbal confession saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” But, Peter and the disciples are still expecting a different kind of leader, one where they will sit on his left and his right, not a suffering servant. Jesus tells them three times he is going to die in Jerusalem. Jesus is transfigured on the mountain before them and God says “this is my Son”. The religious establishment refuses to acknowledge him as the Son of God, but one scribe who understands the greatest commandments gets encouragement. Jesus tells him he is so close to the Kingdom of God. The last confession in the story is made by a Roman centurion, who said as he saw how Jesus breathed his last, “truly this man was the son of God” (15:39).

This Roman centurion was an outsider, the enemy, the oppressor of the Jews. He was a Gentile, part of the outer courts of the nations. If his job was to guard the crosses of crucifixion he probably saw many people die. The profound way Jesus died impacted the Roman personally. How did Mark know the impact was by the way the centurion saw Jesus breathe his last? Only if he saw it, the centurion himself told him or someone else. What did the centurion do after this intense experience in the days that followed? That’s the question Mark wants to leave with us also.

You have heard the story and the message of the Son of God from Mark, now what do you say and do? Mark was sure Jesus was the Messiah, the crucified Son of God. The Centurion was sure Jesus was the Messiah, the suffering King, the Son of God. As a review, go through Mark and notice all the confessions. There are many (Mark 1:1, 11, 24; 3:11; 5:7; 8:38; 9:7; 12:6; 13:32; 14:36,61; 15:39). Thoughtfully recite the Apostles’ Creed. Worship Jesus, the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, profoundly this Easter.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

By Donna Burns

Who is Jesus? | Mark 15:33-392020-04-10T11:13:00-06:00

Watching in Waiting | Mark 13:37

What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:37

Waiting is a new tangible reality for us, as many are forced to stay-at-home during the coronavirus pandemic. The world is collectively in a state of waiting and asking a million questions. How will this unfold? What will be around the bend? What in the world is God up to?

Waiting can be very difficult, but Jesus clearly told us waiting is a part of his plan.

In chapter 13, Mark strategically sums up Jesus’ message about awaiting the end of the age with one final word, “gregoreo.” This greek word is jam-packed with meaning. Translators have difficulty getting to its full meaning because it entails staying awake, watching, being on the alert and continually cautious.

As we watch the happenings around the globe and await Jesus’ return, we look to Jesus’ words to teach us something about waiting. Jesus says, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘gregoreo!’ (Mark 13:37). Here’s what this might look like as we wait out this pandemic.

  1. “Stay awake!” We may be asked to stay-at-home but that doesn’t give us permission to fall asleep to what’s happening. It’s easy to numb ourselves with Netflix, busyness, cleaning, online shopping, or alcohol – especially when waiting gets hard – but if we fall asleep to negative feelings we also miss out on seeing the beautiful ways God is showing up (Luke 21:28-36).
  2. “Be alert!” Coronavirus has made us aware of a silent and invisible enemy. Like this virus, our enemy sneaks around like a roaring lion seeking out whom he may devour. This is why we need to stay alert and of sober mind to be able to identify the ways the enemy is tempting us – with selfish thoughts, out-of-control emotions, ungodly behavior, etc. Jesus reminds us to watch for the true enemy so we can resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9).
  3. “Be continually cautious!” During this time, we need to be careful to keep ourselves healthy and out of the hospital. We must also be careful about what we listen to on the news and on social media. This cautiousness doesn’t give us permission to be unloving. As we walk down the street, interact with people in the grocery store, write comments online, or make decisions with our families, Jesus calls us to be ready to walk in his way with his heart. This posture is both cautious to identify truth and full of genuine love for others (1 John 4:1-11).

Take a moment to ask Jesus which of these three he would like to see you apply. Then tell a trustworthy friend how you will obey Jesus so you have support to ‘Gregoreo’ this weekend.

By Yvonne Biel

Watching in Waiting | Mark 13:372020-04-02T14:27:04-06:00

Readiness in Waiting | Mark 13:23-31

But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Mark 13:23-31

There’s no way to recall all the times I heard mom say to me, “Remember? I told you that was going to happen.” From touching the hot stove to drinking hot chocolate too fast, running down hills too fast to popping wheelies on my bike, my injuries met with mom’s healing touch and those words. By the way, the wheelie incident led to my handle bars coming off and riding the bike into the ground. My forehead wasn’t the same for weeks.

Jesus said many things to his twelve disciples along with his many followers. Here, with only a few of his disciples, he reveals this pointed message. At the start of this passage, he’s repeating himself. He gave this message to his disciples before, and here it is again, much the same as my mom reminding me (Mark 13:23, John 13:19, 14:29).

Around 70 AD, Jerusalem was sacked and the temple torn down by Titus and his army, and I’m sure the surviving disciples remembered Jesus’ words. But, as we read these words, they have a still audible ring to them. No, this devotional isn’t about eschatology. Cloudbursts of ink and much paper has been consumed in that discussion. No, this will be about us being ready in waiting. Readiness in waiting.

All across the United States, there are regions ready for natural and unnatural calamities. Fires, floods, earthquakes, toxic spills and hurricanes are but a few. We’re in the midst of another now as COVID-19 runs its course. Can we always be fully prepared, in readiness, for these things? Never fully, but fairly prepared is the course usually taken. We, as followers of Jesus, are also called to be in readiness. Jesus shared his plan with us, but how do we stand ready?

There have been many Christian spiritual practices talked and written about. Practices like prayer, solitude, and meditation are things we’ve been learning. Praying for those around you can place your heart in readiness. Being in a quiet place, in a posture of listening, ready for the message from God can bring solace. Meditating on the scriptures can bring new insights and provide a conduit for God’s speaking to us. If you’ve already started these practices, you’ve begun the wonderful journey towards readiness. If you haven’t, perhaps now, in this difficult time, you might start. You never know what manner of comfort you’ll find in journeying towards readiness!

By Rich Obrecht

Readiness in Waiting | Mark 13:23-312020-04-02T14:23:37-06:00

Endurance in Waiting | Mark 13:12-13

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Mark 13:13 NIV

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:13-15 NIV

Endurance, perseverance, waiting. These are not words most Americans like very much. Many of us are waiting right now. We are waiting for our country and the world to be “normal” again. Waiting may be seen as passive, but I believe in God’s kingdom, waiting is actually an active term. Waiting often requires that we display perseverance, and endurance in our faith.

We are called to stand firm in our faith, especially in the waiting. This involves practicing our spiritual muscles, it involves doing the next thing to increase our spiritual stamina, and it requires daily and weekly attention. Otherwise, we will lose ground and not build endurance, stamina, and perseverance.

My husband enjoys long bike rides. But in the Spring, as the weather warms up, he does not start with a 50-mile bike ride. First, he rides 10 miles, then he increases his distance to 15 miles. Each week he rides, he will increase his distance 5 miles until he can ride 50 miles or more in one day. He builds his endurance slowly, and consistently.

There are many ways to build our spiritual endurance. Some examples are 1. Read and study God’s word, 2. Pray often, 3. Spend time connecting with other believers so we can encourage each other and pray with and for each other, 4. Serve other people in need, 5. Sing or listen to worship music.

While we are in this unique season in our country and our world, evaluate how you are building your spiritual endurance. First, turn off the news, and put down your phone. Then consider, could you spend more time praying for our country’s leaders or praying for our church leaders and the South Fellowship search committee? Perhaps you could read and study a book of the Bible you are not very familiar with. Many people are isolated because of the virus, perhaps you could call, email, visit via Zoom room, or write an actual letter to encourage someone today. We can only experience God’s presence in the present, right now, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not here yet. Find a way to spend some time today in God’s presence. Perhaps take a walk and pray, perhaps listen to music that helps you worship, perhaps read, study and memorize a psalm, or Ephesians 6:10-18. Choose one of these suggestions to do today, this week, this month to build spiritual endurance while waiting.

By Grace Hunter

Endurance in Waiting | Mark 13:12-132020-04-02T14:11:10-06:00

Witness in Waiting | Mark 13:9-11

 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:9-11

One of the Olympic events I’ve found interesting to watch has been fencing. The declaration of ‘En garde!’ begins the match, telling the opponents to ‘be on guard’ or be ready to match skills and wits. This is what comes to mind when I read this passage. Just like the opponents in the fencing match who, on hearing the ‘en garde’ step into their appropriate posture, making ready for what’s to come, there’s a posture we’re to have as Jesus followers, especially when injustices come our way.

Imagine how this message was taken by the disciples, especially after they witness the grilling by the councils, beatings, and all the rest Jesus endured in his crucifixion which he had outlined for them earlier. This had to present, at least for a moment, a bleak view of the future. Knowing they would experience all this too (notice the ‘when’ and not ‘if’), if they were at all like me, their mind might have gone straight to what they’d say and do. All manner of theoretical conversation may have ensued in their minds. The words of Jesus ultimately had to be comforting to all of them:

“…do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11b

The part about ‘being on guard’ in verse 9 didn’t concern the words to say to whomever they were standing before. No, it had to do with the reality that it would happen, and their reaction. Truly, the need was for them to be in a spiritual posture before God, prepared for suffering and a ‘ready defense’ for the hope each had to those persecuting them (1 Peter 3:14-16). The really inspirational and cool thing was, the ready defense would be supplied by the Holy Spirit! I sincerely believe it’s still this way today.

Right about now, the COVID-19 virus is coursing its way deeper through our country, causing fear for many people we know and love, as well as many we don’t know. These are all eternal beings loved by God. What a wonderful opportunity for us to share our hope with others! While we’re limited in expressing this in personal contact, if someone you know would benefit in your sharing, by all means, share! It could be a message of hope they need to hear, or you might arrive at an expressed need from them you could fulfill. Either way, be an instrument in the hands of Jesus for helping someone cope.

By Rich Obrecht

Witness in Waiting | Mark 13:9-112020-04-02T14:27:59-06:00

Understanding in Waiting | Mark 13:1-6

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”  And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” Mark 13:1-6

After Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, he spent the day talking publicly. And now, in this story, his disciples want to speak to him privately. They have questions to ask him. This is one of the last few quality times he will spend with them before his death. He answers their questions, but not the way they probably expected. This chapter in Mark is famous not only because of what Jesus said but where he was saying it, on the Mount of Olives. It has a past, present and future significance in the Scripture, the life of Jesus and his second coming (Zechariah 14:1-4). Testifying to this fact today is approximately 150,000 graves on the side of the Mount of Olives that have been there for 3,000 years. Those buried there want to be at the holy site to walk to the temple mount in their resurrected bodies.

Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question of “what are the signs?” is “see to it that no one misleads you.” It’s like he is saying, “the signs are not the most important here, it’s your relationship to me. You have been with me, you have learned from, you know me. True disciples will be sure because they are in me.” He gives the warning not to be misled by false teachers or special knowledge, but encourages them to be spiritually alert and prepared. He tells them of near and distant events but not their chronology. He wants his disciples to be bold in their commitment, ready to have their heart and their life tested. And for Peter, James, John and Andrew in the next few days, months and years, it was.

If our goal is to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, we must know him as intimately as we can. We must know his voice, his character, his ways. We must seek to understand the truth, our faith, and our identity in him while we are waiting for God’s plans to unfold. Bank Tellers learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the real. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, learn something new about him from being with him today. Try writing a resume for Jesus. Who is he, where did he come from, what does he do, and why? Back it up with as much Scripture as you can.

By Donna Burns

Understanding in Waiting | Mark 13:1-62020-04-02T14:06:11-06:00
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