I have always been struck by how different the ending of Mark is from the other three Gospels. Unlike, Matthew, Luke and John, the risen Lord is not presented, only referred to as the women who have gone to the tomb flee in fear (that is if you accept the shorter ending of Mark, which I do). It is really the cross, not the resurrection, which is the apex of Mark’s Gospel, why?
The crucifixion of Jesus in Mark 15 would have caused 1st century readers to flinch. The inspired author did not have to describe the torture and death of Jesus in depth because Roman citizens were all too familiar with the horrific process. One ancient writer stated the very word “crucifixion” was not to be spoken in mixed company. Thus, just saying someone was crucified was even worse than saying someone today has been molested or raped.
The cross was central to the faith of early Christians. It showed the new believers how truly horrific their sins were and what it cost to pay the price for an affront to a Holy God.
The earliest Christians suffered for their loyalty to the one who suffered for them on the cross. They not only suffered but suffered joyfully.
I have suffered physically a lot over the last year. I have had surgeries and cancer scares before but these last twelve months have really put me through the ringer. I had tumors removed but then developed an infection that is resistant to antibiotics. I had to have the area excised and am still dealing with an open wound that has to be treated every Friday. The wound treatment involves scraping and chemically burning–it really, really hurt! But, it is necessary for the body to see the wound as accute rather than chronic so it will heal.
I have gone through the treatments for more than five months but last week was told they weren’t working and I may have to have the surgery again. Ugh.
But the thing I have noticed is how much closer to God I have become and, as a result, how much better all of my relationships have become. Suffering has the power to truly change someone.
The earliest Christians saw suffering as a way to get closer to Jesus. They believed it was a privilege to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41). Boy, how Christianity has changed!
Today, we see a faith that will keep us from suffering but we typically don’t grow in comfort. If we are to truly help the “least among us” (Matthew 25:31-46), we must suffer. If we are to become humble people who cling only to God, we must suffer.
I hope and pray that you suffer if that’s what it takes to grow away from your sin and closer to our Lord. I know that’s a strange prayer but this is only the most important thing in all of eternity.
Jesus sufferd to save us and a servant is not above His master.