“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” ~Mark 16:8
We’re likely not afraid of being persecuted or of being killed if we’re caught telling the Gospel story. So what are we afraid of? What makes us so reluctant to tell? Yesterday in this space we considered the possibility that we might be afraid the Gospel is old news. It’s not relevant. It’s something that happened a long time ago and may not be practical or helpful for my friends. It’s certainly not new or fresh.
Please see yesterday’s post for a brilliant dismantling of that misguided viewpoint.
Is it possible that we’re afraid we’ll mess it up? If we attempt to share the Gospel, we’ll somehow get it wrong?
If we’re holding back from going and telling because we’re afraid it’s too hard, Scripture has something to say about it. The first four books of the New Testament are not about the foolishness and the failings of the disciples, although there’s plenty of that in there. The Gospel is about the power of God that overcomes our failings. Because the story is being told all over the world today, we know that the good news of Jesus’ resurrection was eventually shared by those fearful women at the empty tomb. That means Jesus’ promises and God’s will are being fulfilled despite our failings and sins. Praise God.
Mark’s ending, which is really a beautiful beginning, shows us that it’s not dependent on us. Our hope for a glorious future rests in the almighty power of the one and only God of the universe. Our God will make it happen, not us. Jesus makes us that promise.
Around the table with his followers on that last night, Jesus tells them: “You will all fall away.” And they do. Later that night, they scatter. They’re gone. Yet Jesus follows this prediction up with a promise: But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you” (Mark 14:28). Then, on that first Easter morning, the angel reminds the disciples, “He is going ahead of you” (Mark 16:7).
Wherever you go and tell, he’s already there. There’s nothing to be afraid of. He’s already there. Our feeble efforts to proclaim the good news are always made successful by the one who goes before us. Our lives are centered on Christ, we are bounded by Christ, our identity is wrapped up in him. And we know by his faithful word and promises and through his divine power that he turns our clumsy stumblings into graceful sprints. He makes our miserable failures into glorious victories.
I’m reminded of something the great Texas theologian Stanley Hauerwas wrote almost twenty years go:
“God has not promised us safety, but participation in an adventure called the Gospel. That seems to me to be great news in a world that is literally dying of boredom.”
What are we waiting for? To get all our ducks in a row? To find all the answers first? To first make sure everybody in our boat is on board with the exact same theology and the exact same practices? Man, I hope not. That sounds really boring.
What’s going to save more people? What’s going to redeem our part of the world for Christ? Not fear! Not anxiety! Not silence! It takes us getting out in the middle of it — sacrificing and serving, forgiving and learning, proclaiming with our lips and our lives that Jesus is Lord and he’s really fixing everything. Not waiting. And not being afraid. It takes throwing our entire selves into the Gospel right now, knowing and trusting that the God of our salvation is going to do something eternally wonderful with it.