The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

The journey of discipleship (Mark 16:1-8)

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the annual Rose Bowl football game. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California 30 yards away from the Georgia Tech’s end zone. Unfortunately he became confused and began running the wrong way. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, overtook and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team.

This was during the first half. Everyone was wondering what Coach Nibbs Price would do with Roy Riegels in the second half. During half-time Riegels sat alone in a corner, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, put his hands in his face and cried like a baby.

We’re not football players, but have you experienced failure on your journey of discipleship? If we’re honest, we fail our God more times than we can count on the journey of discipleship. We visited websites that we weren’t suppose to, gossiped about a brother or sister in Christ, yelled at the wife instead of loving her as Christ loves the church, and fall into unspeakable sins.

Is there hope for us when we fail in our journey of discipleship?

In Mark 16:1-8 it tells us that there is hope for those who have failed on their journey of discipleship. In this passage you will hear three points: faithfulness ending in failure, hope offered, and what are we to do in light of hope being offered.

Faithfulness ending in Failure

We have now reached the end of the gospel of Mark. All along we have seen that the gospel of Mark is about the journey of discipleship. The women demonstrated their faithfulness to him on this journey.

The women were faithful to Jesus from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. They ministered to him while he was in Galilee (15:41); they followed him to the cross and saw the crucifixion (15:40). They saw where Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus (15:47) and rose early in the morning to go there to anoint the body of Christ with species. They saw the empty tomb (16:5-6). They were faithful to follow Jesus, where as the crowd, his family and the religious leaders rejected him. His male disciples fled and denied Him. The women were the last hope that someone within Jesus’s crowd would continue as faithful followers. That was not to be the case, despite their faithfulness they failed to carry the message that was commissioned by the young man to “God and tell, His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.’” Their failure is highlighted through the word ‘fled’ and their silence.

They “fled” in 16:8 because trembling and astonishment had gripped them. Instead of faithfully proclaiming the message, they fled in fear. Mark is trying to paint a picture of the women’s failure through the word “fled”. This word was used in back in 14:50 when the disciples fled and again with the young man (14:52), two examples of the failure through the use of the word “fled”.

They not only fled the scene, they also said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. Their silence jeopardized the second round of discipleship. Faithful to follow Jesus but failed to proclaim the message. Is that us? Faithful to attend seminary but fail to proclaim the message of the good news. Faithful to your husband and wife but fail to proclaim gospel. Faithful to ministry to the saints but fail to proclaim the message of the good news.

Hope Offered

We have seen the failure of the women at the most pivotal point in their journey of discipleship.  Now let’s move to hope offered. The young man commanded the three women, “Go, tell His disciples, and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you.”

Please notice the words, “just as He told you”. Where did Jesus say that He was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection?

Jesus told them that he was going to meet them in Galilee after his resurrection back in Mark 14:28. In that context, Jesus spoke of his violent death and prophesied his disciples’ future failure and their future abandonment of him. Jesus knew his disciples would fail, but he offers them hope, that in failure there is always a new beginning. There is always the next round. After the resurrection, the scattered disciples would be regathered in Galilee.

The journey of discipleship started in Galilee. Jesus called his disciples when he was walking along the Sea of Galilee in Mark 1:15. He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of Men.” (Mark 1:17). On way to Jerusalem, one by one the disciples abandoned Jesus.

The disciples fled and left him at his betrayal and arrest. Peter denied Jesus three times. What about us? Have we fled and left him? Have we denied Jesus? When homework and projects are piling up, is Jesus the first to be let go? When work and play time consume us, is Jesus the first to be let go? The prayer life, the quite time, and Bible reading all go to waste side until “the busy moments” in our lives are over and then we will get back on the road with Jesus. Oh, how we in our own ways have fled and left Jesus.

Here in this statement, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him just as He told you” hope and restoration are offered to those who have failed, fled, and left Jesus in their journey of discipleship. The resurrected Christ will meet them where it all started. It is the promise of a new start, back to the point of origin, Galilee. It is a new beginning: a new iteration of the trip of discipleship. All can get back “on the way” to follow Jesus.

Don’t miss what the young man said, “But go, tell His disciples and Peter,” Is this not redundant? Is Peter not a disciple of Christ? Why did the young man say “go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus will go ahead of them to Galilee?”

The disciples fled and abandoned Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times. In comparison Peter’s failure was worst than the other disciples. It is in this redundancy that we get this principle: Forgiveness and restoration are extended to those who have even experienced the worst of failure.

On this journey of discipleship for us there will be failures. There will be moments where we’ve ruined our God, our faith, and ourselves. In those moments hope and restoration are offered. Just as Jesus extended restoration and hope for the disciples in the phrase, “I will go ahead of you to Galilee” and the young man echoing Jesus’s statement does the same thing, then likewise, when we fail in our journey of discipleship, hope and restoration are offered. Hope and restoration are offered to the murders all the way down to those who tell “white lies.” The promise of a new start is extended to all. Jesus is waiting for you in Galilee, will you meet him there?

Application

We have seen faithfulness leading to failure, hope offered, now let’s move to the application. How do I meet Jesus in Galilee? Let me give you three steps:

  1. The first step is confession of sin. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness. So confess your sin to the Lord.
  2. The second step is once you confessed your sins, realized you have been forgiven. The blood of Christ has washed all your sins away. So often we hang onto the guilt and the pain of our sins. Realized that we have been forgiven and let them go. Don’t let it consume you.
  3. We left Roy Riegels at the corner with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and his hands in his face weeping like a baby, with no hope, during half time.Three minutes before the start of the second half Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.”Riegels never moved. The coach called him and again he never moved. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”Reigels said, “Coach, I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back, the game is only half over.” Roy Reigels went back. Those Tech men will tell you they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.For those who have experienced failure on their journey of discipleship, the resurrected Jesus offers hope and restoration.

    The game is only half over, confess and realize that our sins are forgiven, then get up and go back on the journey of discipleship.

May God bless you,
Dien

Doxology

Philippians 4:20

Every week in Thousand Oaks a group of young adults meet to study the word and pray with one another. We jokingly named ourselves “Semi Pro” two years ago. How God brought us together and how he has grown and challenged us is an encouraging story I enjoy telling to whoever will listen. But that is something I’ll save for another post.

This past week we finished our series on the book of Philippians. As we stepped through Paul’s letter verse by verse, we came across verses that many of us are familiar with.

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Phil. 1:21

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… – Phil. 3:7-8

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of byChrist Jesus. – Phil. 3:12

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Phil. 4:4-7

The book of Philippians, like many other epistles, is rich with memorable verses like these. We underline them in our Bibles, and commit them to memory. They become the “meat” of the book and everything else around it becomes some sort of “filler”. As I prepared for our final study, I struggled with the last set of verses. They read:

20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Should I have just bundled Philippians 4:20-23 with the previous study? Verse 20 sounded great, but it almost seemed like it was randomly inserted in the letter. We find other similar verses “plopped” into some of Paul’s other letters:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. -Rom. 11:33-36

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. -Eph. 3:20-21

These all fall into the category of “doxology”. Whenever I used hear the word doxology I thought a song in a hymn book. It was something I remembered singing at the end of a church service. Lots of words that I didn’t ever bother thinking twice about. Words sang to a melody without an understanding of the reason why it was being sung.

So what is doxology? It literally means word of glory. It is words that offer praise to God. When we look at these examples, we find that each of these follows after Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has penned truths about God.

In the example from Philippians chapter 4, Paul explodes into doxology after the statement that HIS God will supply all needs. This is not a distant God that he has heard a thing or two about. This is HIS God. The God who turned a murderer into a missionary on the road to Damascus. The God who demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, sent Christ to die for us (Rom. 5:8). This is the God that Paul knows intimately. This is HIS God. And at this point Paul is absolutely confident. There is no condition. He does not say, “If you do this; if you do that; if you make sure you follow this”. He says, “You are His. He will supply all your needs.” Everything in his letter to the Philippians has been building up to this. Christ is my life (chapter 1), Christ is my example (chapter 2), Christ is my goal and prize (chapter 3). And as he instructs them on how to stand firm in the Lord and how to be content he finds the truth to be so overwhelming that he just can’t stop himself from praising God.

But where many of us find ourselves is at a point of frustration because we constantly let God down. We don’t measure up to His expectations. We must be “doing it wrong”, because we don’t skip down the road reciting doxologies like Paul.

When my life “lacks doxology”, I’ve forgotten the very truth of the gospel. Instead of a thankful heart in light of the gift of the cross, I try to “fix the situation” by doing this, doing that.

George Herbert wrote,

“Thou that hast given so much to me give one thing more, a grateful heart. Not thankful when it pleases me as if thy blessings had some spare days, but such a heart who’s pulse may be thy praise.”

I need to be reminded of the truth throughout each and every day. The truth that I am a sinner and that my sin demands payment. The truth that I cannot pay this debt alone. The truth that it is by grace I am saved, through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross. The same truth that lead Paul to a real and authentic worship of our God.

Don’t get distracted trying to create an appearance of a worshipful life. Don’t only focus on the fruit. Saturate yourself in the truth. Spend time making sure that the water which feeds the tree is pure. The writer of Psalm 1 understood this:

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither; -Psalm 1:2-3

And so what we find at the end of the book of Philippians deserves our attention. It’s a heartfelt response to the truth. There is no filler in the Bible.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. -2 Tim. 3:16-17

Living a Life of Integrity

This is my first time posting here, even though I’ve officially been a “contributor” for months and months now. The main reason is just that I’m just really busy these days with my teaching program. But just this weekend, I took the time to write an extremely long entry on my own blog, that I thought would be encouraging for others, so I’m just re-posting it here for you all. Enjoy! :)

From Friday, May 14:

God is so good. At the end of such a crazy day, when I was tired and confused and only dragged my body to Bible study out of habit than anything else, He hits me with one of those knife-in-heart-cutting-out-the-sin-exactly-where-it-is sermons, you know, the ones where you are sitting in your seat, cringing at how ridiculously precisely God’s word applies to your life.
A few weeks ago, I received a new student in one of my classes. I noticed that in his notebook, he was doodling the name of a notoriously violent gang. Since then, I’ve been thinking and praying about how to address this.
Today, I went into my classroom to pick up some teaching material, and I saw him there, even though that wasn’t his class during that period. Instead of insisting that he go back to his class, I decided to just let it slide, figuring that this was a good opportunity to talk to him. Our conversation confirmed a lot of my suspicions, but there wasn’t very much I could do or say to help him at that point. All I could do was ask him to think about what he wants for his future, and which actions now would help him get there… blah blah blah. Still, I felt like he was being pretty transparent with me and well, trusted me, probably to the best that a kid in his situation could trust a random teacher.
After we talked, I went to the Dean to ask if the school had any information about why he transferred or anything else on his official record. When the Dean saw my student’s attendance record, though, he was like, “Ok, we need to talk to him right now and do an intervention.” He proceeded to check his schedule and he said, “He should be in Biology now so let’s go get him.” As you can imagine, I was just standing there in a state of semi-panic. I felt dishonest letting the Dean try to track him down when I knew exactly where he was, but I also felt like I would be betraying my student’s trust by telling the Dean that I knew exactly where he was because we just talked. Also, selfishly, I didn’t want to get myself in trouble by admitting that I had just essentially condoned a student in breaking school rules.
Sigh, that was just the beginning of the mess. I told the Dean that I would go get the student myself, thinking that this way, I could bring him down without getting him in more trouble than necessary. But when I went back to get the student, he refused to come with me!!! He was like, “No, miss, I don’t want to go. Let them come and get me.” I was flabbergasted. He kept saying things like, “They’re going to kick me out,” “I’m not going to go, I don’t care,” and “just tell them that I’m not here.” The worst part for me was hearing the anger and accusation in his voice when he said, “Miss, you went and talked to the Dean about me??”

Since he would not come with me, I had to go down to the Dean’s office again. The Dean wasn’t there, but when his secretary heard that the student was in another class, she was like, “What?? We have to radio security to go get him!!” My mind was screaming, “WHAT? Are you crazy? This is the least of our worries now!” But it was too late. She was already marching down the hall to get security. Inside I was like, “NOOOOOO it’s over. This kid will never ever talk to me or any teacher ever again.”
I was completely flustered and kicking myself for getting in this mess. I walked up and down the hallways, checking the room and then the Dean’s office, just waiting to see the situation blow up in my face. But (praise God!) the security for whatever reason did not go get him. Even though the worst was over, I was still bummed about losing my student’s trust so quickly after gaining it.
All day, I kept playing over the events of the morning in my mind, thinking about how I could have worded things differently here or not done something there to avert the drama. But tonight, while listening to the sermon, it hit me. The problem wasn’t with the circumstances, but with me. As much as I might want to appeal to my “good intentions”, I can pinpoint this whole mess back to one small breakdown in my integrity. This might sound silly, but really, what I should have done was enforced school policy and asked the student to go back to his class. I know, not very revolutionary, right? But think about it. That was really the cause of my dilemma when I stood before the Dean. I knew where the student was, and it wasn’t where he should have been. That’s when I realized that no matter what I did, I would have to break faith with someone, either the administration or the student. I tried my best to walk the line, but in the end, I was not completely honest with either. My student had every right to be mad with me. By talking to him then, I implicitly conveyed that I was okay with the fact that he was out of class. Then when I came back and said, “oh, the Dean wants to talk to you about ditching class”, how could it not seem like I set him up to get in trouble?
I am so ashamed just thinking about how I could say to my student, “No, I won’t lie to the administration for you”, when my actions had already conveyed such hypocrisy and inconsistency of character. There I was, condemning law-breaking, while breaking rules myself. I am even more disgusted thinking about how I had told the student I was a Christian, only moments later to completely disgrace the name of Christ.
Later that afternoon, I read Psalm 51, and I was struck by verse 13, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will return to You.” I thought, “Yes, Lord! That is exactly what I desire, for those who have rejected You, who are rebellious towards You, to repent and return!” But what precedes this verse? What are the conditions for this to happen? Is it not David’s plea to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”? Is that not the only way one wretched transgressor can bring hope to another?
The sermon tonight drove this conviction home. The speaker’s 3 points of application, drawn from Daniel 6 (the story of Daniel and the lion’s den) were these:
In the midst of trying circumstances…
1) living a life of integrity gives confidence.
2) living a life of integrity gives comfort.
3) living a life of integrity gives clarity.
All day, I was unsure, troubled, and confused about all the circumstances around me. But the cause was really a lack of integrity within me. Having realized that now, and repented and enjoyed His grace, I feel so much more grounded and at peace. I am still praying for my student. I have no idea what will happen next week. I don’t know if he will trust me again, but that’s okay. My main goal is no longer for him to trust me, but for myself to simply be trustworthy.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Thoughts from Chapel (10/19/09)

Natalie steps onto the court to the applause of thousands of onlookers. It is game 3 of the Blazers-Mavericks series in the 2003 NBA Playoffs, and Natalie has been chosen to sing the national anthem in front of thousands of fans. At thirteen, she is doing what most people don’t even have the skill to do, let alone the opportunity. This is her chance. The crowd inside the Rose Garden hushes as Natalie begins to sing:

Oh, say can you see,
By the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the star’s light…

Natalie stumbles at the end of that last line and stops. She realizes that she has the words mixed up. For a moment, it seems as if all the air has been sucked out of the stadium. Natalie has failed…now what?

What would you do if that had happened to you?

What do you do when you encounter failure?

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about dealing with a “thorn” in this flesh. It isn’t clear exactly what this thorn is; what we do know is that it causes him suffering and keeps him from “becoming conceited” (12:7). It highlights his weakness. Suffering, failure, embarrassment–these are all things that deflate our ego and make us feel really, really small. And that, I think, is where God wants us to be, because it is only then that we have enough room for Him and other people around us. Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

When we are humbled, we realize how much we need God. It is then that God’s power is most fully and gloriously manifested.

So, going back to Natalie, what did happen next? Watch this to find out:

Maurice Cheeks, coach of the Portland Trailblazers, walks up to Natalie and helps her finish the rest of the anthem. He stands by her in her weakness. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of how God stands by us in our suffering and failure?

As Christians, we know that things aren’t as they should be. We believe that failure and suffering are the result of living in a world broken by sin. We aren’t masochists though. Suffering itself is not good. Don’t embrace your failures; embrace the humility and the weakness that come with those failures. When we are humbled, we are made open to God and others, just as Natalie experienced an openness that would not have been possible had she nailed that anthem.

God’s grace is sufficient for us, and his power is made perfect in our weakness.