What is the Meaning of Mark 15.39-16.8

“Because of the Resurrection, Self-Sacrificially Follow Jesus”

Mark 15:39-16:8

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 15.39-16.8

From week to week going through the gospel of Mark, I am amazed at how Mark has structured his book. We’ve seen, time and again, how Mark has written his gospel in order to bring out his unique preaching points. In other words, Mark has not left the reader or the preacher in the dark concerning what his point is. And it’s the job of a preacher to read, understand, and preach Mark’s point, not his own cleaver thoughts about the passage.

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And we have found, that Mark’s point is not found in the individual stories that are commonly sectioned off in study Bibles, but Mark’s preaching point is found as stories relate to one another. Such is the case once again in our final message from the book of Mark. Turn to Mark 15 and we’ll begin in verse 39.

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The world is full of different kinds of temptations and allurements. Those saying they are following Jesus are easily drawn into the world system. Christian people can become distracted away from biblical priorities. Distresses, trials, enjoyments, and various pursuits often captivate our interests and fears at the expense of a biblical focus. We’re too wrapped up in our own perceptions of things and fail to put on our biblical glasses and see everything through the lens of Scripture. Mark’s applicational lens, if you will, for us these many weeks in his gospel, has been the cost of discipleship.

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As we have gone through this book, Mark has emphasized the cost of discipleship. Chapters 8 to 10 are some of the most demanding chapters for a disciple of Jesus that are in the New Testament. It is there that we learned that in order to follow Christ, we must take up our execution device. It was in chapter 9 that we learned that in order to have eternal life, Jesus says we must be willing to graphically and drastically separate ourselves from sin. He pictured that for us by saying that we must “cut off our hand, foot, or eye” if causes us not to enter eternal life.

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In chapter 10, we learned that is hard to enter the kingdom of God. Mark 10:24 …“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

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Mark ends his gospel in our passage on a similar note. He ends his account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, yes with bodily resurrection, but primarily Mark distinguishes between followers of Jesus. There are 2 types of followers of Jesus in this passage: fearful onlookers or sacrificial servants. And notice that the resurrection itself doesn’t get a lot of attention. In fact, up to verse 8, there is no appearance of Jesus at all in the passage. We just have the report of the resurrection in chapter 16:6, “He is risen.”

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So, whether you are a fearful follower or a sacrificial servant, it is within the context of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’ll observe in this passage then Mark’s message, which is to boldly follow Jesus, even to the point of self-sacrifice. Mark’s message for us from this passage then is that, “Because of the Resurrection, Self-Sacrificially Follow Jesus.”

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We’ll see that the women in the passage are the fearful followers and Joseph of Arimathea is the sacrificial servant.

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  1. True Disciples are Not Observers (Mark 15:39-41)

Mark’s point here in verses 39 to 41 is that true disciples are not observers. True disciples are not observers.

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Notice Mark 15:39 the centurion who is, Mark notes, standing right in front of Jesus while Jesus was on the cross. He makes a Christian confession, “truly this man was the Son of God!” But the women? Verse 40, they were looking on from a distance.

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Mark 15:40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.

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Mark uses that word in verse 40, “looking on” in various passages in his gospel. Most times it’s referring to a detached, … kind of an… outside-looking-in-perspective on things. This is not a looking on that leads to true spiritual perception and commitment. It refers to merely having become a spectator of an event and not deeply involved. This is Mark’s point here.

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Do you remember Mark’s story of Jesus’ arrest? When Jesus was arrested at the garden of Gethsemane and they took him to trial, where was Peter? He was in the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest, warming himself by the fire. Soon, in a matter of a few verses, Mark will record Peter’s denial of Jesus before the rooster crows. But just previous to that denial, Mark says in Mark 14:54 that Peter was “following Jesus from a distance.” Mark seems to be anticipating Peter’s denial of Jesus with that phrase “from a distance.”

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That same Greek word “from a distance” occurs in our passage this morning in 15:40 where the women were, “looking on from a distance.” The spiritual temperature of discipleship has grown cold. That was the way it was Peter. He said that he would never deny the Lord and, yet, he did just that. He had begun to follow Jesus from a distance and eventually denied Him.

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The same is going on with these woman here. Because, verse 41, when Jesus was in Galilee, they, Mark notes, “used to follow him and minister to him.” But now…onlookers “from a distance.”

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APP: They are in turmoil over a trial and so they have departed from following Jesus. Now, they are looking on from a distance, but they used to serve Him. In this case, these women thought they lost their Messiah because He was crucified. Although, in reality, they merely failed to believe His promise of His own resurrection. They did not resolutely put trust in exactly what God has said.

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The counsel for these ladies and anyone feeling like they have is to be like that Centurion in verse 39. Restoration demands a determination to look no longer on from a distance but to stand right in front of him and to declare him of the truth the Son of God.

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And we could bash these women, but what about the men? The 11 disciples … Where are they? They aren’t even looking on from a distance… They are not even looking! They’ve totally deserted Jesus.

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So true disciples are present but they are not merely on lookers. They are standing right in front of Jesus and are close to him. To fulfill this today very practically is to make the time to be in His word and actively believe what He says and do it. Nothing is more foundational than Bible reading and prayer. If you are failing to treasure God’s Word in your heart and are failing to pray, then you are not standing right in front of Jesus and you are looking on from a distance.

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These ladies failed to take in God’s word and to believe in Jesus’ promises of resurrection. We may need to believe other promises and preach other promises to ourselves to get ourselves standing right in front of Jesus again. Whatever parts of God Word it takes, no longer be an on looker.

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…Mark 15:42 helps us understand when these things are taking place. Jesus has died on the cross and it is Friday. Mark says in verse 42 that when evening had already come … And what he means by that is that it is after 3 PM and likely 4, or 5 PM.

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He says that it is the preparation day. That means that it is the day before the Sabbath, as they prepare for the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day began Friday sundown, which is 6pm or so. And Deut. 21:23 required that a corpse not be left on a tree all night. The Jews also did no work on the Sabbath, so they needed to bury Jesus immediately. In a matter of a couple of hours, then, Jesus’ body will have to be properly buried.

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TRANS: Just in time then, Joseph of Arimathea, and likely some significant help, comes to give Jesus a proper burial. Joseph is Mark’s example of a self-sacrificial servant of Jesus. His discipleship cost him something.

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  1. True Disciples Courageously Sacrifice (Mark 15:43-47)

True disciples courageously sacrifice in verses 43-47. True disciples courageously sacrifice. Notice who Joseph is. He’s from Arimathea and no one knows where that is, but he was a member of the Council, that’s the Sanhedrin or the highest group of Jewish religious leaders of the day. Included were those from the Pharisees, Sadducess, and chief priests, and scribes. But Joseph was not just any member, but a prominent member. He had power and prestige within this honorable group.

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Joseph was, “waiting for the kingdom of God.” He was fully expecting God’s promises concerning the kingdom of God to come true. This is a description of a Jewish believer, who believes that the King of that kingdom he’s waiting for is most certainly Jesus. Joseph is a true follower of Jesus.

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And so to go in before Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus required that he “gather up courage.” That word for gathering up courage has the idea of being bold in the face of danger or opposition. And for Joseph of Arimathea to go into Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus definitely required boldness.

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It required self-sacrificial boldness because of whom he was asking. He was asking the body from Pilate. Pilate had just condemned Jesus to death for insurrection. Associating yourself with Jesus at this point could also make you look as if you too are guilty of leading a uprising against the government. You remember, Jesus claimed to be a King. But in Rome, there is no king but Caesar. The Romans crucified Jesus for proclaiming to be a King.

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So, by asking for the body of Jesus, it could appear that Joseph is associating himself with this uprising against the government. This is dangerous. His life is on the line. Joseph is sacrificing himself for the sake of his devotion to Jesus.

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But Joseph request for the body of Jesus also required self-sacrificial boldness because of who he was. He was a member of the Sanhedrin … a prominent powerful prestigious member. And the Sanhedrin aren’t exactly friendly to Jesus. Whereas the Romans wanted Jesus dead for claiming to be a king, the Jews wanted Jesus dead for claiming to be God. Joseph’s power and prestige and money and employment is all on the line. Joseph could lose it all if he comes out as associating himself with Jesus. And indeed he’s willing in order to properly follow Jesus.

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So at the risk of losing his job, his power, prestige, and even his life, he boldly asks for Jesus body.

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In verses 44 and 45, we have two expert witnesses regarding the certain death of Jesus. Mark 15:44-45 44 Pilate wondered … that is, he was perplexed over the notion… if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.

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That is the same centurion who was right in front of Jesus in verse 39. And the centurion has seen many crucifixions and knows exactly when the moment of death occurs. Pilate, who was a high government official and also this experienced executioner, the centurion… both of these testified that indeed Jesus has died.

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So now we have three expert incredible witnesses. Joseph of Arimathea is a prominent member of the Council and he himself is saying that Jesus is dead. This is a true death. Establishing Jesus’ real death is important because in order to believe in a true resurrection, you must have a true death. And indeed the gospel writers give us many other details concerning the validity of his death.

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And in verse 46, we have the details of Joseph’s devotion. Notice the details. He goes out and he purchases a linen cloth … he takes him down, wraps Him in the linen cloth and lays Him in a tomb which had been hewn …or cut…out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

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We will come back to the linen cloth on Thursday night, but notice that Joseph puts Jesus’ body in a tomb. Notice the description of the tomb, it was cut out in the rock. These tombs were 4 and a half to 5 feet tall and the stone could be rolled back and forth in front of the tomb. These stones were extremely heavy. By one calculation the stone could weigh 1.5-2 tons.

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An honest God-fearing man, whom we haven’t even met yet in Mark’s gospel … Joseph … has securely placed Jesus’ body in a tomb. But the women? Verse 47, the women were … Once again here… Looking on to see where He was laid. Again, just as the women were onlookers to His death, seemingly spiritually detached from His death, now they are again merely onlookers of His burial.

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This solidifies eyewitnesses to burial Jesus. So to have a credible resurrection you must have a credible burial and indeed Jesus’ body is securely behind that huge stone.

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So Joseph here is acting in concert with a true disciple. We would expect true disciples to bury their master. In fact, this is what John the Baptist’s disciples do for him. In Mark 6:29, John the Baptist’s disciples bury him. Where are the 11 disciples of Jesus? You would expect that the 11 disciples and those who have followed Jesus from the beginning would be acting like true disciples of Jesus, but no! We have a complete stranger burying Him.

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Why? Because the11 disciples have not yet truly perceived. They could confess with their mouth, like Peter did, that Jesus was the Christ … Or they could confess with the centurion that certainly this man was the Son of God, but they could not do the works of a true disciple … in this case, which was to gather up courage and self-sacrificial courage at that, and ask for the body of Jesus. The 11 were not willing to live as followers of Jesus when their life was on the line, when their power and prestige could be harmed….oh no, not the 11! They wanted to save their own life.

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But Joseph of Arimathea lost his life for the sake of Jesus and his gospel.  

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APP: So where are you this morning? Are you merely a detached onlooker or do you have self sacrificial courage and are following Jesus at great cost?

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In chapter 16, in verses 1 to 8, we have the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And in the context of the resurrection, Mark chooses to go to great length to describe the fear of these women who first see the Lord. So Mark began this section with the spiritual detachment of the women and then Mark transitions to the self-sacrifice of Joseph, and now turns back to these women how they are afraid and fail to respond in such a way that honors the true nature of the resurrection of Jesus. Because of their fear, they do not respond in such a way that honors the true nature of the resurrection of Jesus.

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In these verses, vv.1-8, Mark gives the opposite point to the preceding verses. In the preceding verses, Mark points out that true disciples have self-sacrificial courage and follow Jesus at any cost. But in verses 1 to 8 in the middle of the recounting of the resurrection of Jesus, Mark draws the point that true disciples are not afraid. Perfect love has cast out their fear. In Joseph’s case, true disciples are self-sacrificially courageous … and in the case of the women, true disciples are not afraid to follow Jesus.

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  1. True Disciples Are Not Afraid to Follow Jesus (16:1-8).

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Mark 16:1-8 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.

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Jewish practice was to use spices to perfume the body. And notice, they purchase those spices. That same word “bought” describes what Joseph did in verse 46 when he went out and “bought” a linen cloth.

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That tells us even more that indeed we are to compare the character of the women and the character of Joseph. I suppose, then, just because you reached into your pocket book and bought something in the name of Jesus … that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are living the life of a self-sacrificial servant.

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At any rate … verse 2…

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2 Very early on the first day of the week … Sunday … , they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, [with worry and anxiety it seems …] “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

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But, their anxiety is alleviated when …v4…

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4 Looking up, they *saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. 5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed (or “alarmed” or astonished).

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Now, verse six, the young man gives several directives and the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

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6 And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. 7 “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'”

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So they were not to be alarmed or astonished. Why should they be? Mark does not present this young man as some terrifying angel. He is merely described, verse five, as a young man wearing a white robe. We do kind of get the impression that he is some angelic figure.

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The women knew that some unusual occurrence was happening, but the young man talks with them as if there is no need for astonishment. “Do not be utterly astonished,” the young man says. “You shouldn’t be utterly astonished, you are looking for Jesus. He was crucified, but he has risen bodily from the dead. And so, he is not here. Look, here, the place where they laid him.

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And now we have a Great Commission of sorts … Verse seven, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter … And now here the young man gives direction to the women and what they are to say to Jesus’ disciples. Mark 16:7 … ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'”

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They were to go tell his disciples that He is going ahead of them to Galilee and that there they will see him. This promise to meet in Galilee was already spoken by Jesus. Jesus promised this in Mark 14:28 Jesus predicted …”But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

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Because these ladies are worried and fearful after the crucifixion of Jesus, they turn into spiritual onlookers from a distance. They are spiritually detached followers of Jesus. How do spiritually detached followers of Jesus respond to directives from God’s word?

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Verse 8 … They respond with more fear and disobedience.

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8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

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They said nothing to anyone, but they were to tell Jesus’ disciples to go to Galilee. Notice how Mark piles on the description of this. They are fleeing away from the tomb… As if running for their life. Mark notes that their own trembling or shaking and their utter astonishment has taken hold of them, gripped them, or controlled them. And so their disobedience came from their own fear. There were controlled or gripped by their own fearfulness. Because they were controlled by their fearfulness, that resulted in disobedience.

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So, fear leads to disobedience. What are you afraid? And fear do you have that’s keeping you from serving the Lord better? To better serve God, are you afraid of what it will cost? To serve God as He desires, do you think it will cost you money and progression in this world? Are God’s priorities your priorities? To make God’s priorities, your priorities, what do you have to do? What will it cost you? And what fear do you have that’s keeping you from making sacrifices in your life or in the life of your family, because you know it will cost you?

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It is a fearful thing to make serious changes in your life and to make sure your life lines up with God’s values for you.

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If God would stand before you now, and you are on your face, would He say of you and your family that you have biblical priorities in balance or are you out of balance? So, what are you afraid of that’s keeping you from obeying God immediately? Make the sacrifice of true discipleship like Joseph and give it all up.

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You say, “I know there has to be a serious changes in my life or the life of my family for us to be pleasing to God.” Well, what are you afraid of then? Why haven’t you done it? Jesus has been raised from the dead, of all things!

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In light of the resurrection of Jesus, what are you afraid of? It is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are saved forever and declared righteous in His sight. Romans 4:25 teaches that Jesus “was delivered over because of our transgressions … our sins … , and [He] was raised because of our justification.”

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Jesus’ resurrection establishes our righteous standing before God. Romans 8:31-39 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who could possibly bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who declares us righteous; 34 who is the one who could judge us? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. [no one could possibly judge us!] 35 [Since God saves through His death and resurrection, …Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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If this is the case, what are you afraid of? If Jesus was raised from the dead, he will also freely give us resurrection from the dead!

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You’ve successfully sat underneath the entirety of the teaching of the gospel of Mark. What are you going to do with it? Get your life’s priorities lined up with Scripture’s priorities so that you look more like a disciple. You know exactly the next step for you and your family.

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Discipleship in Mark is not a ‘come to church on Sunday’s tip toe through the tulips. It is a radical, no fear in self-sacrifice, kind of service to Jesus … I’ll line my life up with God’s priorities for me, if it cost me my job, my prestige or power or money, pain … I’ll serve Jesus and line of my life according to his teachings no matter what the cost!

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Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Mark 15.39-16.8

Have you done the will of Jesus’ Father who is in heaven? I’m not talking about asking Jesus into your heart or praying the sinner’s prayer. I’m asking, with Mark 9, have you cut off your spiritual hand, foot, or eye if it has caused you not to enter eternal life?

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Have you taken up your execution device to follow Jesus? And do the choices of your life and your lifestyle line up with those who look like slaves of Jesus Christ?

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Rejoice over the resurrection! We are such sinners and deserve such wrath, but God himself has provided the way of salvation when He raised Jesus from the dead. But in light of the glorious resurrection, will you give it all up for Jesus or will you run away and be terrified of the cost of following Him? Make hard the choices you know you have to and do it now.

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Let’s sing about the resurrection … He arose.

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