Posts tagged ‘Good Shepherd’

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

Sermon Extra – The Good Shepherd’s Voice – John 10:1-11

This past weekend at Concordia, we kicked off a new series titled “Fit for Life” where, for the next few weeks, we are discussing how Jesus can bring health and wholeness to every area of our lives. Indeed, in my sermon this weekend, I began by talking about how the ancient Israelites had a word that they used to describe this kind of holistic health:  shalom. This word, most often translated as “peace,” was used to describe a person’s overall well-being, wholeness, health, and even the promise that God would one day come and set the brokenness of this sinful world right.  And then, one lonely night in Bethlehem, angels appear to a group of shepherds announcing the birth of a Savior named Jesus and singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).  In Christ, God had fulfilled his promise to bring shalom to this earth.

As God’s shalom incarnate, Jesus brings health to a broken world.  He gives sight to the blind, he makes the lame walk, he cures those who are sick, he makes the deaf hear, he raises the dead, and he preaches good news (cf. Matthew 11:5).  One such instance of Jesus preaching good news comes in John 10, where Jesus calls himself “the Good Shepherd” (verse 11) who comes “so that we may have life, and have it to the full” (verse 10).  How does the Good Shepherd accomplish such a feat?  By “laying down his life for the sheep” (verse 11).

In my sermon, I spoke of two different words that Jesus uses for “life” in verses 10 and 11 respectively.  When Jesus describes our life in verse 10, he uses the word zoe, describing normal, everyday life.  When Jesus talks about laying down his life in verse 11, however, he uses the word psyche, meaning “soul.”  Thus, Jesus lays down his very soul at Calvary so that we can have not just normal, everyday life, but full, eternal life.  Jesus’ call, then, is to build your zoe on what he did on the cross with his psyche.

One of the things that Jesus promises as our Good Shepherd is this: “His sheep follow him because they know his voice” (verse 4).  I find it interesting that Jesus’ sheep do not just hear his voice, or even listen to his voice.  No.  Instead, they know his voice.  They know its tone and tenor.  Indeed, they know his voice so well that “they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (verse 5).

In our world, there are many voices that clamor for our attention and allegiance.  The voices of politicians try to steer us to vote Republican or Democrat.  The voices of financial gurus try to get us to invest with them, promising exceptional returns on our portfolios.  There are even voices of differing and competing spiritualities, all trying to get us to believe their claims.  “It’s all karma.  You only get what you got coming to you.”  “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”  “All roads lead to God.  Just be sincere in what you believe.”  “Salvation is found in no one else but Jesus, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Which of these voices do you believe?

The invitation of our Good Shepherd is to trust in his voice and his voice alone.  For all other voices of this world – be they political or financial or spiritual – lead to an empty life and, finally, to an eternal death.  But listening – and knowing – the Good Shepherd’s voice leads to a life that is full and, finally, to a life that is eternal.

This week, get to now the Good Shepherd’s voice a little better.  Read his sure and certain voice in his Word.  Listen for the whisper and prompting of his Spirit.  Wait for the Good Shepherd to respond to your prayers.  For when you know the Good Shepherd’s voice you also know shalom.  And there is no better thing than shalom for a full life – and for an eternal one.

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February 8, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment

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