The final verses of Mark are upon us. In my bible, from verse 14-20 are lumped together under one heading; The Great Commission. But I want to break it up into its three component stories. Sometimes Mark condenses a story, sometimes he expounds on one, and sometimes he simply throws “teasers” about certain events. Verse 14 is two stories in itself. They are VERY condensed, but also something I want to expound upon.
The morning started with the women from the group heading out to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. It has been three days and three nights since Jesus was crucified so publicly. John, Jesus’ mother Mary, and several other women had stood nearby and watched. Jesus had even verbally interacted with John and Mary. All Jesus disciples and followers were devastated by His loss. They had been expecting Him to lead them to freedom. They expected Him to become King of Israel, one way or another. Now they were left to mourn their Friend’s murder and their loss of hope.
Strange things have been happening all day. First the women meet with an angel at Jesus’ EMPTY tomb. The angel said He had risen, but how could that be? Mary Magdalene tells Peter and John about the missing body and they run to check it out. Sure enough, Jesus’ body is nowhere in sight. What could this mean?
Then the most amazing thing happens! Jesus actually appears to THREE of their number. First to Mary while she was still at the tomb, then to two others on a road trip. These three encounters do NOTHING to convince the rest of the disciples that Jesus is actually alive.
After Mary told of her encounter early in the morning, the whole group continues to go about in mourning. I imagine there was still a lot of weeping and sleeping going on. Those are two very common activities when grief is heavy. Is it possible that they were also reminiscing about their time with Jesus? Were they sharing the good stories they remembered or the disappointment at what they saw as still undone? Nothing Mary said made a dent in their grief.
Two of their members had even set off on a journey to a nearby village during this day. We don’t know their reason for this journey but we do know they too were talking of Jesus’ death as they went. How their expectations had been dashed. By evening though they were singing a different song! They were joining Mary in proclaiming that Jesus was in fact risen and alive!
This too, though, did nothing to break the bonds of grief in the rest of the group. They STILL did not believe what was being said. UNTIL Jesus personally appeared in the room with them all. This happened that same day. I imagine that it happened not too long after the two made their report. They came back from Emmaus in the evening, so it had to happen late in the evening or sometime near night. I can just hear Mary and our other two witnesses now; “I TOLD YOU SO!”
When Jesus appeared to them He calms them down first, then He addresses their unbelief. They were apparently still having trouble believing what they were seeing. Jesus had to point out the evidence of His injuries. Their own visual evidence is what finally broke through their doubt and grief. This scene would be repeated when Jesus finally appeared to Thomas, the one disciple not present that first night. I wonder where he was. Maybe he too had left the group and gone on a journey.
Yes! This was an unheard of experience, but wasn’t Jesus always doing the unexpected? Also, He told them repeatedly what would happen. So why was it so hard for them to accept the good news? I believe it was because of two things. First, Jesus’ death had been so extreme that NO ONE could conceive of how His body could recover from such insults. Lazarus was in the grave for four days, but his body had only been sick, not broken beyond belief. Also Jesus was the one who had brought him back from the dead and Jesus was the one who was dead now.
I believe the second reason was because their grief was so severe. Their grief was still very fresh and heavy, as is typical with the death of someone very close to you who dies unexpectedly. But their grief was compounded by their grief over the future too. Israel had been waiting centuries for their redeemer. Every generation had been taught to be watching for Him. This group KNEW beyond any doubt that they had found Him. They gave up everything to follow Him. They had built a whole scenario full of expectations as to how He would deliver them. Now it all came crashing down around them. Nothing was as they expected. They had nowhere to return to either. They even feared for their own lives.
Put these two pieces together and you have a group of people that have lost all hope. They couldn’t break through their veil of despair without direct intervention from God. They needed renewed hope. Jesus brought them that exact cure.
Let’s get a little personal here. I don’t do this very often, but I’m going to share some of my deeper story. This is scary for me, but I feel I need to do it. I don’t know if this is more for me or if God has someone out there who will read this someday and find the hope they desperately need.
I don’t know about you, but I have been in this same kind of dark place. It wasn’t due to the death of anyone, but was wrapped up in a death of my own ideals. My ideals had been stripped away over a period of time but the grief didn’t hit until I was finally forced to sit still and deal with it. I kept busy and tried to fix everything and everyone around me, but I didn’t deal with myself.
The weight of restoring “normalcy” to my and my family’s life seemed to grow every day. I worked to control the pain of the added weight too. My focus narrowed to the bare necessities and my chosen control mechanism. My “control mechanism” or “coping mechanism” was food and exercise. I could control how much of each of these two I received. I severely limited the first and hyper indulged in the second. Needless to say, my health began to suffer. My ability to care for my children began to suffer too.
Worse than that, my children themselves began to notice and suffer. Instead of worrying about being children, they were now worrying about me. That is NOT the role any child should have to take on.
I was finally forced into getting professional help. When I finally confronted my grief I STARTED to heal. I just realized that I didn’t have “hope” either. My life’s dreams and expectations were shattered and I was living in fear of what lay ahead. I “boldly” marched on though and forged a new story for myself.
Several of those stories have crumpled too and, as you can probably guess, I did too. I have not gone back to the darkest recesses again though. That is due to divine intervention. While in those dark places I met Jesus differently than I had known Him before.
I grew up knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior and even experienced many personal times with Him. My most intimate times with Him involved music. I felt His presence in songs. He spoke to me through the music and especially through sign language interpretation of the words. I learned sign language and used it in my praise and worship time. But this did not sustain me. I needed more
I found “more” in my dark times. I found a hunger for comfort from His word. I had read “at” the bible during my life, but I had never searched it as if my life depended on it. This was also when I began journaling in earnest. I started out just writing about my feelings. I have one book that I call my “pain book” because this is where I wrote when the pain was the heaviest. Then I began to journal with my bible reading. I think I actually started this while in the hospital for three weeks. Yes, it was a psych ward, but Jesus met me there. Every day.
I wish I could say that my grief and return of hope was as instantaneous as the disciples’ had been that night when Jesus walked in, but it wasn’t. He has grown that hope in me and dissolved my grief over the years. A lot of the grief melted away when He returned music to my soul. I had lost, or buried, that part of me too. My life looks a little bit like my original dreams, but the scars I carry from my “failures” have created a unique beauty I never could have imagined. My joy in writing and His willingness to speak to me through the pencil never would have developed without the darkness. Just like His disciples had to endure the grief of His death before they could enjoy the atoning work of their risen Savior, I had to walk through the darkness to discover the beauty and comfort in His written word. Then He shared that privilege of creating beauty and insight through writing with me.
All the writings I have placed on my page “Lessons Learned on Daddy’s Lap” came from my journal time with God. The one that speaks to me loudest right now is “Life Under His Construction” because that is exactly how I got from the broken, grief ridden, lost soul to the scarred, transformed, and cherished child of the King.
Father God, thank You that You meet each one of us in our darkest places. We often have to reach the lowest points to finally surrender all control to You. THAT is where You shine! You take our broken pieces and begin to fashion them into something we never could have dreamed possible. Thank You that You are still in the resurrection business. Building something beautiful out of what looks like disaster is Your specialty. You have been engaged in that pursuit since the beginning. You never give up on us, no matter how much we deserve it.
Thank You personally for opening my life to the beauty of the written word; in song, in poem, and in story. Thank You also for instilling a curious mind in me that drives me to look at things a little different than others do. Keep me always searching for deeper things in Your word. I don’t want the stories to ever have the “heard it already” feel. Keep me hungry for more of You. Thank You for all You have already given me too. Thank You for using me.
Much love from,