Summary: The Gospel of Mark show us that Jesus goes ahead of us in our missionary task.
Last week, I discovered that the roof fan in our attic had burned out. That meant only one thing. Someone was going to have to go up on the roof and replace it, and I knew it wouldn’t be my wife. So I went to the store and bought the fan, and began planning which tools I would use.
For most people, the only thing worse than climbing up high, is giving a speech in front of people. I’ve pretty much gotten over that fear, so climbing up on a roof should be a piece of cake, right?
When the temperature cooled off at the end of the day, I prepared for my ascent. I wrapped a rope around my waist and attached it to a little bag of tools so I could pull it up when I got there. Sue brought out her lawn chair to keep an eye on me while she read the paper.
All I needed to do was to climb the TV antenna tower on the east end of the house, step onto our second-story roof and take about 3 steps to the peak where I knew I would be o.k. I started up the tower, making sure I had a good grip with my hands and solid steps for my feet. I hadn’t stretched those muscles that much for a long time.
I got to the roof line and I needed to step over onto the steep roof and take my hands off the tower. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it. My hands were sweating. My knees were shaking. I was afraid. If only I had someone to ahead of me, to reach for my hand. The only thing I could do was to abort the project. So I climbed down. I took my tools into the house and Sue folded up her newspaper.
That was the end of the story for that day. Even though I had been up there before, even though I knew the tower was safe, and even though I knew there was no one but me to do it, fear had kept me from doing what I needed to do.
I don’t know if you noticed, but the book of Mark ends on a note similar to my experience on the roof. I say that because many scholars think that verse 8 was the last verse in Mark’s gospel originally. According to that verse, fear had kept these three women from doing what they needed to do.
If you are familiar with the story of the resurrection, you know that after Jesus died, his body was placed in a tomb on Friday afternoon. Three women went to the tomb on Sunday morning to complete the ritual of applying spices and perfume to the body. They expected the body to be there. And they were alarmed to see the tomb empty except for a young man. He told them that Jesus had been raised and he gave them an assignment and a promise. “Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’” (7) But verse 8 says that after hearing this message, these three women “went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Instead of taking the message they had been given, they zipped their lips. Even though they saw that the tomb was empty, even though they knew the message was reliable, even though they knew they were the only ones who knew it, fear kept them from doing what they needed to do. And no one heard the good news that day.
I puzzled over verse 8 for a long time this week. Why would Mark end his gospel with this story of fear, frustration, and failure?
We all know that fear motivates a lot of our behavior. Last week I heard of one woman who ignored a court summons because she was afraid the judge would do something to her. (He did.)
And how many people do you know who don’t go to the doctor because they are afraid of what the doctor will say?
Do you remember the story of the talents in Mt. 25? Two men invested their money and realized financial gain. One hid his money in the ground. Why? Because he was afraid.
Why were these women afraid? Were they afraid that no one would believe them? Were they afraid that some one might think they were crazy? Were they afraid that something bad would happen to them, too? What kept them from doing what the young man asked?
Here at Elm Street, the first line of our mission statement is To study, follow and share the Word of God. Our Sunday school classes and Bible studies accomplish the first part. For the second part, we try to live our lives in accordance with Biblical principles to follow Jesus. But how well are we doing when it comes to sharing the Word of God? What fears keep us from doing more to carry out our mission? Is it fear of failure? Do we fear getting out of our comfort zone? Is it fear of meeting and accepting people who are different from us? After all, the Gospel is for everyone. And people need to hear it.