Posts tagged ‘Fear’

Weekend Extra – The End?

Mark’s account of Jesus’ resurrection is my favorite of all the Gospel accounts.  I know that John’s account holds a special place in the hearts of many, perhaps because, at least in the many Easter services I’ve attended, it always seems to be the appointed Gospel lesson for the day.  And no doubt the picture it paints of Peter running to the tomb and finding it empty and his companion John seeing and believing is gripping and exciting, but nevertheless, Mark’s account holds a special place in my heart, mainly because of how it ends:  “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.  The End” (Mark 16:8).

Well, “The End” is not actually in the Greek text, and that’s part of the problem.  Because with an ending like this, many in the early church thought, “Surely there must be a better, more appropriate ending than three women, scared out of their wits, fleeing from an empty tomb where they have just encountered a young man dressed in white!”  And so, in most Bibles, there is Mark 16:9-20, appropriately culminating with Jesus’ great commission in verse 16, His ascension into heaven in verse 19, and then a strange line about snake handling in between these verses.  But don’t worry, that verse about snake handling probably wasn’t in the original, divinely inspired text.  Whew!  Am I a glad about that one!

If you’ll notice, after verse 8 in most Bibles, you’ll find a notation:  “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20.”  In other words, even though Mark’s gospel wraps up nicely with Jesus’ great commission and ascension in verses 16 and 19 respectively, the earliest manuscripts of Mark end with wary women.  This leads textual critical scholar Bruce Metzger to comment on verses 9-20, “The section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with verse 8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion” (Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 105).  It is important to note that Metzger also explains that verses 9-20 have a long storied history in the Church, first being attested to by Irenaeus and Tatian’s Diatessaron in the second century.  Thus, though these verses were probably not written by the Evangelist himself, they did not come long after him.

But even with all this in mind, I kind of like that we seem to have nothing more of Mark’s Gospel after verse 8.  After all, if I found a missing body and a supernatural looking guy in white hanging out in Jesus’ tomb, I think I’d be scared too!  And yet, we all know that the women shouldn’t have been scared.  After all, Jesus had foretold His death and resurrection time and time again (cf. Mark 8:31, 10:33-34).  The women should have known better.

But then again, so should we.  For we, like the women, have the promise – and the fulfillment – of a risen Savior!  We, like the women, can say with the young man in the tomb, “Christ is risen!”  And just as the young man told the women that Jesus was going ahead of them into Galilee where they would see Him (Mark 16:7), Jesus tells us that He goes ahead of us as our Good Shepherd, leading us through this life, and even into the next (cf. John 10:4).  So why in the world do we worry?  Why in the world do we fret?  For what reason in the world do we have to be afraid?

Perhaps we are more like the women than we care to admit.  For we have the same message as the women:  “Christ is risen!”  But we also have the same response:  We are trembling, bewildered, and afraid.

But we don’t have to be.  For Jesus, as our Good Shepherd, invites us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  Fear may mark the end of Mark’s Gospel, but it does not have to mark the end of our lives.   For Jesus’ gospel in and through our lives is still being written.

So, of what are you afraid?  Your finances?  Your future?  A person?  Perhaps even your eternity?  Remember that the message of Easter is not only, “Christ is risen,” but also, “Do not be alarmed” (Mark 16:6).  For we serve and follow a living Lord who can take care of and take away our fears.  I hope you’ll let Him.  Because although verse 8 may be a good place for a Gospel to end, it’s never a good place for a life to end.

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April 25, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Faith and Fear

My wife and I have very different sleep habits.  I can fall asleep in five minutes or less with the lights on, the television blaring, the cats meowing, and my phone ringing.  My wife, however, has to have complete darkness, total silence, and at least thirty minutes to get to sleep.

From conversations I have had with my married friends, it seems as though, many times, men have a much easier time falling asleep than do women.  But, then again, I have always slept easier and better with light and noise than I have in darkness and silence.  I can remember, even as a little child, finding complete darkness and total silence to be far too creepy and frightening for me to sleep soundly.  And so, I would turn on my nightlight and my radio and settle down for a good night’s rest.

Though my fears of darkness and silence have long since passed away, I still prefer light and noise to silence and darkness, partly because, when our bedroom is completely dark, I have been known to crash into and fall over more than a few things!  But as a child, darkness and silence petrified me.

Everyone fears something.  It could be an unknown future, or a bank account that never seems to have enough money, or even a person – a bully or a parent – whose approval you can never seem to earn.  Fear is a reflexive response programmed into every human being.

In one sense, then, I suppose that it was only natural for the disciples to be scared out of their wits at the situation they were facing in Matthew 8:23-27.  A sudden storm had just descended on the Sea of Galilee.  The winds were raging.  The sea was rolling.  Lightning was striking.  Their boat was sinking.  And Jesus, who was along for the ride on this trip, was…sleeping?  Yes, sleeping!  Upon being awoken by His disciples, Jesus gently chastises them for their fear in the face of this furious squall:  “You of little faith,” Jesus says, “Why are you so afraid” (verse 26)?  Shouldn’t the answer to Jesus’ question be obvious?!  The disciples are afraid because their lives are in danger!  The disciples are afraid because the storm surge is sure to spell their imminent doom!  Wouldn’t anyone be scared in this situation?

Yes, it is only natural for the disciples to be afraid.  But the disciples’ natural reaction in the face of this storm is not appropriate with a supernatural Savior on board the boat.  Matthew explains:  “Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (verse 26).  There was no need to fear because Jesus was here.

In his commentary on this episode, the great English theologian Matthew Henry remarks, “Jesus does not chide the disciples for disturbing Him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears.”  In other words, Henry asserts that it was perfectly acceptable for the disciples to cry out to their Savior to stop the storm.  It was not appropriate, however, for the disciples to cripple their faith with their fears.  They should have trusted in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and His character as their loving Lord to take care of the storm.  Their fear betrayed a lack of faith.  And a lack of faith is always a problem.

Fear often is a symptom that we are trusting in ourselves and our own ability – or our own inability, as the case may be – to handle a situation or face a challenge.  What are you scared of?  Rather than letting anxiousness and fear take root in your heart, cry out to Jesus and ask him to quell your fears and meet your challenges.  For the one who can conquer the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee can also conquer the fears of your heart.

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July 19, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

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