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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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In this study guide, we’ll conclude this in-depth look at Jesus’ life and work through the Gospel of Mark with a discussion of Mark 15:42-16:20. Learn why the resurrection of Jesus empowers us with confidence and hope for eternity and enables us to live with awe and joy here and now as we carry out Jesus’ final commission.
Below, you’ll find some key discussion point questions to reflect on and consider on your own, in your small group, with your family, or in your circle of friends, as well as some action points for the week and a look ahead.
Memory Verse of the Week: Mark 16:15–16 (NIV)“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”
Icebreaker: What’s the most important task you’ve ever had to complete? What made it so important?
Getting the Conversation Going: Everything hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—our salvation, the redemption of the world, the forgiveness of our sins. The gospel itself is only good news because Jesus overcame the bad—sin and death. In 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (NIV), the apostle Paul says, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” And then he explains, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:14–19 NIV). Again, everything hinges on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20 NIV), and thus we have salvation, forgiveness of sins, redemption, adoption, eternal life, peace, joy, power, grace, love, and a hope that is secure and certain!
Today, we’re going to discuss what we as believers are called to do and how we’re called to live as a result of the resurrection.
Discussion Question 1: Why is the resurrection so vital to the Christian faith?
The Disciples and the Resurrection: Have you ever read the Bible and asked yourself, “What would I have done?” Chances are you have, and it’s just as likely you’ve answered in a heroic sense—you refused to bow, you spoke the truth, you stood up to Goliath, you didn’t waver under pressure or persecution. And this could certainly happen because all things are possible with God. But this brings us to an interesting point when it comes to what the disciples did, or rather didn’t do.
Mark tells us the first person Jesus revealed Himself to in His resurrected form was Mary Magdalene, and He underscores how in her former life He delivered her from seven demons. Of all the people who could have been so honored, the Lord goes to someone society didn’t hold in high regard at the time; to the proverbial “lost cause” that only He could have fixed. There’s a powerful point here when it comes to the great gap between God’s perspective and ours. But suffice it to say, He reveals He is risen to Mary, and she immediately shares the news with His disciples, but they didn’t believe.
That’s strange! You’d expect a different response, wouldn’t you? After all, these were the people who spent the most time with Jesus, who had even told them He would be crucified and raised to life on the third day! They had everything they needed to believe this good news, and yet they didn’t. And it didn’t end here.
The same expression of unbelief happens again as Jesus reveals Himself to two other followers. They also share the good news with the disciples, who don’t believe them! Rejecting the testimony of Mary was one thing, but to dismiss these two is perplexing! Or is it?
Again, we’re quick to cast ourselves in the heroic light having the benefit of hindsight, “They should have believed . . . I certainly would have!” Yet God’s promises are often so good that we dismiss them as being “too good to be true.” We confine Him to the limitations of our experiences of this world. And not just the promise of the resurrection, but the many promises the Lord has given us along the way of life as we sojourn towards His heavenly presence. We do what the disciples did: We waver because something seems too good to be true.
Then as now, the Lord wants His followers to believe His promises. Nothing that God has told us is too good to be true—it’s all good, and it’s all true . . . period! “What would I have done?” We answer that question through our response to each and every promise He gives to us.
Discussion Question 2: What point of relatability do you have with the disciples here?
Discussion Question 3: The disciples doubted the claims of Jesus’ resurrection at first. And chances are you have experienced doubts about your faith, whether before you came to know Jesus or even as a Christian. How do you think this would impact your relationships with those who don’t know Jesus? How should you live and interact with them in light of this?
The Great Commission: In Mark 16:15 (NIV), Jesus gives a final command to His disciples to “preach the gospel to all creation.” Similarly, in Matthew 28:19 (NIV) He says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”
Sadly, an overwhelming majority of us today balk at or, in most cases, completely disregard this command to proclaim the good news. But why is it so important we share the good news? Because of the bad news. Mark 16:16 (NIV, emphasis added) says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
It’s interesting and relevant for us to note that the idea of taking one’s faith to all nations simply wasn’t a part of Jewish thinking back then—or the non-Jewish thinking for that matter. This was a revolutionary idea. People didn’t go out to try to convert others to their religious beliefs. People didn’t go out into neighboring countries and cities to share the good news of Baal, Asherah, or Marduk. This isn’t far off from Western, post-modern, progressive ideology today: Believe what you want, but don’t push your beliefs on others, and don’t let your beliefs hinder anyone else from living their truth.
The problem with this, again, is the bad news is whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned. Jesus took the condemnation of humanity and paid the price for us on the cross. But whoever dies without having received His grace and salvation will stand condemned and go to hell.
This thought should keep us up at night. It should move us to action, because God has made the vehicle through which the gospel is disseminated throughout the world. He’s included us in His redemptive work and commanded us to declare the good news so people may be saved. And guess what? Jesus gave His disciples a promise of power and protection. Does this mean we’ll all be able to drink poison and speak in tongues? No. It’s possible He will provide miraculous protection or do something amazing in a moment as it serves His purposes and advances the gospel, but this is meant to convey a promise of protection and provision in the context of the dangers inherent in the worldwide spread of the gospel. Handling snakes isn’t an added perk to our discipleship journey.
God has commanded you to be His ambassador as though He Himself were making His appeal to the world (2 Corinthians 5:17–20). But there’s an amazing promise in that calling. Matthew 28:20 (NLT) says, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Discussion Question 4: What is the great purpose of the Christian life?
Discussion Question 5: In what ways can you be more intentional to walk in this purpose and live with a kingdom mindset?
This Week: Pray for someone in your life who doesn’t know Jesus yet. Ask the Lord to open their heart to receive Him and to open a door for you to share the gospel, to give you the boldness to share, and for the words to flow from the Spirit and not from you. Then when He makes a way, when the Spirit leads, preach the gospel to them!
Thank you for joining us on this journey through the Gospel of Mark. In our next study, we’ll begin a four-week examination of the value of being part of Christian fellowship. Learn how being in community not only makes the best moments in life even better and the hardest seasons a little easier to bear, but also impacts the world around us and serves the mission to make disciples.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.