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The End of the Story

Tom Pennington • Mark 16:9-20

  • 2014-03-23 PM
  • The Memoirs of Peter
  • Sermons

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Tonight, we come to the end of Mark's Gospel and interestingly enough, Mark's Gospel ends with one of the most controversial, and one of the most disputed, passages in the entire Bible. And so, we don't get away from controversy even at the end. Let me read it for us and then we'll consider it together. Mark chapter 16, beginning in verse 9.

Now after He had arisen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.

After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.

Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.

Now, I need you to note first of all, that the verses that we just read, in most modern translations, probably including yours, are in brackets. You'll notice verse 9 begins with a bracket, verse 20 ends with a bracket. Now, look back at the marginal note attached to verse 9 in the NAS, and I expect in most versions there is some note like this. It says, "Later manuscripts add verses 9 through 20." In other words, it is the opinion, was the opinion, of the scholars who translated our Bibles from the original languages, that these verses were not part of the original Gospel of Mark. That's also the opinion of most of the scholars who use the existing manuscripts to compile the Greek text from which our translations are made.

So, the question is, is their opinion accurate? Why do certain translations like the King James, for example, include these verses without comment, and others, like our own, mark them as spurious and uncertain. Before we look briefly at the text itself, I really want us to spend some time to make sure that we're really clear on the answers to these questions. And in an odd sort of way, I trust that before we're done, even on a passage that has some question marks over it, you'll find your confidence in Scripture as a whole strengthened.

So, let's begin tonight by asking this question and answering it, how did this problem originate? How did this happen? How is it that there is a section in our Gospel of Mark, in our Bible, that has these question marks surrounding it? Well, I need to give you a little background so stay with me, this is not, you know, don't think of this as a seminary class, it's not. Christian people like yourself have struggled and battled through these issues through the centuries, and we want to do the same tonight. We want to be diligent students.

So how did this problem originate? Well, we need to start with the original autographs, and by that we mean those original pieces of parchment or vellum on which the original authors of Scripture wrote. Those are called the "original autographs." Now you understand the Bible's history. You understand that it was written over 1500 years, from Moses in 1445 BC to John the apostle in about AD 95. Over 1500 years. It was written by over forty different authors. Sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament, twenty-seven in the New. That's our own break-up. In the Hebrew Bible, in the Bible that Jesus used, there was a slightly different, configuration of the Old Testament, but the same material. The same content.

Now, the Bible was written originally in three languages: it was written in Hebrew, the Old Testament, most of it; Aramaic, half of Daniel, and a couple of parts of Ezra, were written in Aramaic; and, in Greek, the New Testament was written in Greek. God commanded the men that He chose to write His words. And they wrote on paper, the equivalent of paper, they wrote on parchment, vellum, other materials that were appropriate to their times, from those original documents that were actually written by Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, and Paul. Then they were distributed.

You can imagine how this would happen today. If the apostle Paul were still living today, and he wrote a letter to one of the churches in Dallas, and we got word that Paul had written a letter to one of the churches in Dallas, we would ask if we could borrow that manuscript, or if they wouldn't let us borrow it, we would say can you make us a copy, or can we pay someone to make a copy? This is before, you know, there were all the conveniences of today. And so, someone would make a handwritten copy and it would be distributed to our church. And then some of the other churches around the area would say, we heard you have a letter from the apostle Paul, can you make a copy for us? And other copies would be made. Meticulously, carefully, made. As time passed, those copies would be passed from church to church and from region to region. And countless copies would be made of those copies through the centuries and so forth. That's what happened.

Now understand this. None of the original autographs survive today. In other words, the actual piece of parchment on which the authors of Scripture wrote, or whatever the material was, papyrus, or whatever it was, those original documents do not exist today. Instead, we have existing manuscripts. We have manuscripts, copies, that were made from copies, and so forth.

Let me show you a little bit about this. First of all, understand the number of existing manuscripts. We have more manuscript copies of the Bible than we have of any other ancient document. There are 3,000 manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament. Fifteen hundred of the Septuagint, that's the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was translated a couple of hundred years before Christ. It's the Bible that is cited most often by Christ and the apostles. So, we have 1,500 manuscripts of that. We have 25,000 manuscripts of the New Testament. Just to give you a point of comparison, compared to that, the second largest number for an ancient document is Homer's Iliad with 643 manuscripts. Just to give you a point of comparison.

Now, those 25,000 New Testament manuscripts include primarily two sources. We have the Greek manuscripts themselves, which there are more than 5,700 surviving manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. Compare that again to less than twenty each for the majority of the classical Roman and Greek works. We also have early translations of the New Testament made from Greek into other languages, like Latin, Syriac, Coptic. We have more than 19,000 of those manuscripts, and then beyond those 25,000 we could add another category. We have quotations of the New Testament in the early church fathers. Those men who wrote in the first several hundred years of the church. We have more than one million citations in the writings of the early church fathers of the New Testament.

In fact, just the quotations from the church fathers of the New Testament are extensive enough we could reconstruct almost the entire New Testament, just from their quotations. One scholar has estimated that if all the copies of the New Testament had been burned at the end of the third century, we would have all of the New Testament except for about eleven verses from 2 and 3 John, from the writings of the early church fathers.

In other words, when you look at the thousands of manuscripts of the Old and New Testament that have been preserved, we can have confidence that the body of manuscripts we have, that in that body of manuscripts, the Scripture has been preserved. You can have far more confidence that we have the writings of the prophets and of the apostles, than you can be certain of any other ancient document, including all of those classic works you might have studied in school and were told there's no question about their reliability.

Our English Bibles were translated then from these ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Scholars compiled them, compared them, and put together sort of a master Greek New Testament, and a master Hebrew Old Testament, out of all of that manuscript evidence, and then other scholars translated into English from those compilations.

Now, one other important piece of this, when we look at the existing manuscripts we have, has to do with the dates of the existing manuscripts. It is remarkable how close to the actual events the biblical manuscripts are. In other words, from the time that we have the manuscript and when it was written, to when the events themselves transpired. Again, when you look at other ancient documents you will find that there is often a large gap of time between when the events themselves occurred and when the manuscripts we have were written.

The biblical manuscripts date closer to the events that they document than any other ancient document. For example, the Iliad would be the closest in the rest of ancient literature, and the closest surviving manuscript, a part of the Iliad that we have, dates to 400 years after it was originally written. The New Testament, on the other hand, within 30 years of the Gospel of John being written, we have a fragment. I've actually seen that fragment. Within 100 years we have copies of complete New Testament books. And within 150 years of the events, we have complete manuscripts for most of the New Testament.

On the other hand, the earliest manuscripts that we have of most of the classic Greek and Roman works. Take the Iliad out, which is kind of an unusual one, and look at the rest of the Greek and Roman works and most of them were copied 700 to 1400 years after the originals were written. On the other hand, as I mentioned, the earliest manuscript of the New Testament is a papyrus that contains part of John's Gospel, it's called the Rylands Papyrus, that dates to about 25 years after John wrote his gospel. And we have complete manuscripts of the New Testament, as I said, somewhere between 50 and 150 years after the events they describe. That is unheard of. Now remember, if we have copies that date to then, that means those were made from copies that were even earlier. So, you're actually tracing back even closer to the events themselves.

The bottom line is this, let this sink into your mind, by every standard used with ancient documents, the evidence for the reliability of the biblical documents isn't just acceptable, it's overwhelming. If the scholars didn't hate what the Bible said, no scholar would be questioning its authenticity and reliability. It's been remarkably preserved.

It's interesting, you know, when you think about Jesus in the New Testament times. He often charged the Jews of His time with undermining the meaning of God's Word by their traditions and by their interpretations. But never once did Jesus accuse them of having a flawed and corrupted version of the Scripture. In fact, He used the same Hebrew Bible, remember He read from it in the synagogue in Nazareth, that they used. And He often used the same Greek translation they used, the Septuagint. And it was the content of both of those versions that He called, The Word of God, of which, not one jot or one tittle, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, would disappear. It's remarkably preserved.

Now, I think it's important before we leave the manuscripts that we have, that we consider the essential agreement of those manuscripts. As I said, there, in the New Testament's case, there are twenty-five thousand of them. And there are different readings. There are variations in readings. But don't let that scare you. There are not significant differences. Textual variations are almost always incidental and don't significantly affect the meaning of the Scripture.

In fact, let me give it to you specifically. There are about ten thousand places in the New Testament where variants of any kind occur. Now that sounds like a lot but listen to this. Most of those have to do with the variation of spelling of a word, you could imagine, people copying copies, there are going to be differences in how the word is spelled, and with word order. You see, in English you need a certain word order. But in Greek, you don't need the word order to be there at all. You can vary the word order entirely. It's an inflected language like some of the languages, other languages, you know, and, so, the word order can be however you want. So almost all of those changes, almost all of those variations I should say, have to do with insignificant things like spelling and word order.

In fact, once you remove the easily explained variants that I just talked about, 99 percent of the text of our Bibles can be absolutely confirmed as accurate without any reservation whatsoever. Ninety-nine percent of what you hold in your hand. And even the 1 percent of potentially significant variations, if you take those, those variations don't change a single doctrine of Scripture. Nothing doctrinally significant, even in those variations.

All of the, and here's another encouragement to you about the reliability of the text you hold in your hand. You say, I don't know Greek, I don't know Hebrew. Well, here's the beauty of what's happened. All of the even potentially significant variant readings are referenced in your English Bible in footnotes in the modern translations like the NAS and the ESV.

Now why is that important? It means nothing has been hidden from you by scholars in some smoke-filled room. As Geisler writes, "We have one hundred percent of the New Testament." When you look at your New Testament, you have 100 percent of the New Testament. And the only question is whether what they've chosen to put in the text itself is the right reading, or what's in the marginal reference. And it's there for you, through the work of the Spirit, and through careful study, to discern. And so, you can be absolutely confident that between the actual text in your Bible and the marginal footnotes, you have the inspired Scriptures as God intended to give them to us. And far and away beyond any other ancient document. God has providentially done an amazing thing in giving us His Word.

Now, with all of that said, when you look at the existing manuscripts, there are three primary debated passages. You know there are little variations in readings, and you can see those in the footnotes as you go through your Bible, but there are three primary debated passages. First of all, there is John 7:53 through 8:11. That's the story of the woman who was caught in adultery. Jesus kneels down and draws in the sand. That story is very questionable, and it's unclear whether it doesn't belong at all or whether it's just not in the right place. But if you take that story out and you look at the context on both sides, they connect perfectly. So, it appears that at the very least, that story doesn't belong there; it may be original, may not. I wouldn't preach it or hold to it with the same level of confidence that I would the rest of Scripture, but that's one of the three passages.

Secondly, there are two verses in 1 John 5 that, frankly, were added at the insistence of the Catholic Church on the doctrine of the Trinity. But they are almost 99.9 percent certainly spurious and should never have been included in the text. And they aren't in most modern translations. There will be some little footnote that says, some later manuscripts, or a couple of later manuscripts had, and it will have it in the marginal note. The third one, and in many ways the primary one, is the one that we come to tonight. Mark chapter 16, verses 9 through 20. So, that's the background, and that's important for you to have to understand. It's important for you to know as we look at this text.

So, we then want to move to really the second question of the night, and that is, how did Mark's Gospel originally end? We've considered how this problem came about. So, let's consider how did Mark's Gospel originally end. Now there are primarily three possibilities. First of all, let's call it the long ending. It's what we just read. What's recorded in our Bibles in Mark 16 verses 9 through 20, the long ending.

Now, what are the arguments for this being original? There are really two arguments. One is that the vast majority of manuscripts that we have include these verses. In fact, at least 95 percent of all the Greek manuscripts in ancient versions have this long ending. You say, well, you know, we live in a democracy, shouldn't the majority win? Not always. Because listen carefully, the vast majority of these manuscripts, 85 percent plus, come from the eleventh century and beyond. A long time removed. As one scholar makes the point, manuscripts are not to be counted, but weighed. It's a great quote. They're not to be counted but weighed. In other words, the issue is not how many are there, but when and where were they written.

The second argument that's used for the long ending is that these verses are very old, and that is true. Alright, Mark 16:9 through 20 dates to the second century, at least. We know that because there were some early church fathers who mention this ending in the second century, Irenaeus, Taitin, and possibly Justin Martyr. He makes a passing reference that might be a reference to one verse in this text. We can't be sure.

So, both of these readings appear very early, but the farther back you go, the weaker the case is for the long ending. Let me show you the arguments against. Those are the arguments for this long ending. Let me show you the arguments against. First of all, let's look at the external argument, and that's the arguments from the manuscript evidence. A number of the most important ancient manuscripts and copies do not contain this paragraph. In fact, the two oldest and most important Greek manuscripts of the Bible do not contain this passage. Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus were written around the AD mid-300's. But they share a common ancestor, in other words, they were copies of copies, and they share a common ancestor, probably dating from the AD 200's, and they don't include this text.

In addition, several of the important early translations, or versions, omit this passage as well. The old Latin, the Sinaitic Syriac translation, a hundred Arminian, Armenian, they weren't Arminian, they were Armenian, manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts. Couple of church fathers, neither Clement of Alexandria nor Origen seems to have known about this longer ending. And both Eusebius and Jerome were aware of this passage, but both of them argue that these verses were absent from the majority of the Greek manuscripts that they had in their time.

In fact, let me give you the quotes from Eusebius speaking of Mark 16:8, that's the last verse before you get to this ending. "The accurate copies," he wrote, "conclude the story according to Mark in the words, 'they were afraid,'" that's the end of verse 8, "for the end is here in nearly all the copies of Mark." That is, that he had, or knew, was aware of at his time. Jerome, in the 400's, writing from Bethlehem, you know, who translated the Latin Vulgate, he notes that the longer ending was found, "in scarcely any copies of the gospel. Almost all the Greek codices being without this passage." So, in the early days there weren't many manuscripts that had this. And many of the manuscripts that have verses 9 through 20, mark them in some way, like with an asterisk in the margin, with an ancient version of an asterisk, saying, you know, were not sure about this.

So those are the external arguments. Let's consider the internal arguments against the long ending. Arguments from vocabulary as well as style. They are not typically the ones Mark uses. There are a lot of differences in this ending from the language and style that Mark uses. There also is a difficult connection. Notice this, I want you to notice what happens between verse 8 and verse 9. The subject in verse 8 is the women, but Jesus is the understood subject of verse 9. Verse 9, notice, describes Mary Magdalene. And even though she's just been mentioned twice back in chapter 15 verse 47 and in chapter 16 verse 1, she is reintroduced and something else is told to us about her as though we've never met her before. Notice the words at the beginning of verse 9, "Now after He had risen," don't fit well as a continuation of verses 1 through 8. It's very likely, honestly, according to one Greek scholar, that this wasn't even written as an ending to Mark, but rather it was copied from another ancient document and stuck on to the end of Mark.

In light of all these things, what are our conclusions about this long ending? B.B. Warfield, a very conservative theologian, wrote this, "The combined force of external and internal evidence excludes this section from a place in Mark's Gospel." So, it is possible folks, but highly unlikely, that Mark 16:9 to 20 was a part of Mark's original gospel and therefore is inspired. So, it is probably not an inspired portion of the Scripture. That's one possible ending.

The second possible ending to Mark is the short ending. I didn't read it, but look at the very last in the NAS, look at the very last reference in Mark. This is how it reads. It's kind of after verse 20. "And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation." Now you've been with me for years in Mark's Gospel. That does not sound like Mark. And it's not. This ending is found in even fewer manuscripts and has gained less acceptance than the long ending. It's clearly an ending that's just been tacked on because people didn't feel like it ended well. Hebert, D. Edmund Hebert, writes, "No one today suggests that the shorter ending found in a few manuscripts has any claim to recognition as the authentic ending."

Now the third possible ending of Mark's Gospel is what we'll call the abrupt ending. It's verse 8. Clearly verse 8 is part of Mark's text. "They went out," the women, "went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." Now that is fascinating, but on the basis of good external evidence it appears that this was how Mark's Gospel ended. If it's true, and I believe it is true. Then why? Why would Mark have ended this way?

There are three possibilities. One is that for some reason Mark was never able to finish his gospel. This seems highly unlikely for a number of reasons. Just the work of God in inspiring His Word. Secondly, Mark's Gospel could have somehow lost its last page before it began to be copied extensively. And there are scholars who embrace that view. That's possible. The third view, and frankly the one that I tend toward, is that Mark intended to end his gospel with verse 8. You say, well, why? What, why would he, sort of, just end?

Well, I think Mark intentionally ended his gospel with the fear and the confusion of the women who saw the tomb, as a kind of literary device. Mark all along has been calling us as readers to action. And so he tells the story of the resurrection, a shocking story, and he ends with the women confused and afraid. He was calling on us as his readers to respond personally to the shocking reality of the resurrection, just as the women were forced to do. You have got to deal with the shocking reality that the tomb was empty.

So, understanding then that likely the long ending is not inspired, was not in the original text, I still want to ask this question, what does the long ending of Mark teach? Since there is a chance, however remote, based on the antiquity of these verses, that they were original, I don't want us to entirely neglect them. So, I want us to briefly walk through what these verses teach.

First of all, let me give you a couple of general observations. This is really important. Because we are uncertain whether these words were part of the original gospel, don't ever build your doctrine, or a doctrine, on something taught in these verses. For example, some have argued on the basis of verse 18, that Christians should be snake handlers. Yes, you can still find them in the Appalachian Mountains. Some have used verse 17 and 18 to argue that all Christians are to practice the miraculous spiritual gifts. Still others have used verse 16 to argue that baptism is essential to salvation. Folks, don't build any doctrine, or your understanding of any doctrine, on this text because it's highly suspect.

Secondly, as we look at general observations, most of the content of these verses is found elsewhere in the clearly inspired New Testament text. So, you don't have to rely here, depend here. Thirdly, properly interpreted, nothing in these verses contradicts the rest of the New Testament. For example, verse 16 does not teach baptismal regeneration. Notice baptism is omitted from the second half of verse 16. So, it's clear then that baptism neither saves nor condemns. Instead, it's faith. You see that? He says that the one who believes and is baptized is saved. But the one who has disbelieved shall be condemned. It is the absence or presence of faith that saves or condemns, not baptism.

Verses 17 and 18 do not teach continuation of the miraculous gifts. In fact, notice that verses 19 and 20 link the miraculous gifts to the ministry of the apostles. And notice how verse 20 ends, "they went out," this is the apostles, "and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed" them. He's speaking in the past tense. By the time this long ending was attached to Mark's Gospel, the miraculous gifts were already spoken of as having been done by others and in the past. Verse 18 does not encourage tempting God by picking up venomous snakes or drinking poison. It is simply, in its context, a promise of God's divine protection for those who are exposed to danger. There's no New Testament record of anyone drinking poison and surviving, although Eusebius refers, or Eusebius rather, refers to one such incident in church history. Acts 28:3 does refer to Paul's surviving a deadly snake bite. So, so that's there. But just understand these general observations about the long ending of Mark.

Now let's do just a brief overview. Just a brief overview of what this long ending teaches. It divides into three basic movements. First of all, there is a summary of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ in verses 9 through 14. Just a summary of that. First of all, the appearance to Mary Magdalene in verses 9 through 11. That's recorded at length in John 20. If you want to read about that at length in John 20, verses 11 through 18, that appearance happened on the morning of the resurrection, on Sunday morning, early. Then in verses 12 and 13 there is the appearance to the two travellers. This is recorded in Luke 24, verses 13 to 32. This was late on Sunday afternoon, the first Sunday of the resurrection.

Verse 14 records a third appearance, and that's the appearance to the eleven. Notice that also is recorded in John 20. This is probably a reference, since it refers to the eleven, it's probably a reference to when Jesus appeared to all of the disciples. You remember on the night of His, of His resurrection, He appeared in a locked room to all of the disciples, minus Judas and Thomas, so 10. This may be a reference to that, and it may just refer to them as the eleven, or it may be a reference to what happens a week later. On Sunday night a week after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the eleven, including Thomas. I think that's probably what's referenced here.

Another part of this text is the Great Commission to the disciples. In verses 15 to 18. This is found in Matthew 28, verses 16 to 20. It was about two weeks after the resurrection. The scene has shifted from Jerusalem to Galilee, and it's probably the occasion when the five hundred that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 gathered on the mountain in Galilee, all of Jesus's disciples. It's probably in that context He gave the Great Commission, as we call it. And that's referred to in verses 15 to 18. And in the last part of this text is the ascension of Christ and the ministry, the on-going ministry, of the apostles in verses 19 and 20. Of course you can read about that in the entire book of Acts and throughout the rest of the New Testament.

What I want you to see is while this long ending is almost certainly not original, in a back-handed sort of way, as we examine the evidence, it only gives us greater confidence in the text of Scripture we hold in our hands. Because of the incredible reliability of this document, and how even the variations are noted for you. So somewhere between the text you hold in your hand and the footnotes, the marginal references, you undoubtedly have the text of the Scripture in a reliable, trustworthy way.

Now I want to shift gears, because tonight we are ending the Gospel of Mark, and as we bring our study of this book to a close, we need to ask, what are the major lessons that we have learned from Mark's Gospel? Remember Mark wrote under the auspices of Peter, in fact some of the early church fathers called the book of Mark the memoirs of Peter, written by John Mark. What have we learned? What are the major points of Mark's Gospel? There are only two, and I want us to finish our time, take a few minutes, looking at these two great points we have seen as we've studied verse by verse through Mark's Gospel.

First of all, there is a lesson about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Mark builds his presentation of exactly who this person is, based on a series of confessions, great confessions about who He is. The first confession actually is Mark's own confession. Go back to Mark chapter 1, verse 1. Here's how Mark begins, and this is, these are his own words about Jesus of Nazareth. "The beginning of the good news of Jesus," His human name. Christos, the Messiah, the anointed one. Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. He was also, Mark says, "the Son of God." That's Mark's confession.

There's a second confession early in Mark's Gospel, and it's in verse 11 of this first chapter. You remember at His baptism a voice came out of the heavens, and said, "You are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." You see how immediately Mark begins to drive home this point of who this person, Jesus of Nazareth, really was. He was a man, yes. He was a person that was known in the community. He tells us in chapter 6 verse 3, that He had a human family. He had at least seven siblings. Four brothers and, or there were at least seven siblings in the home with Jesus. There were four brothers and at least two sisters because He calls them plural, sisters. It may have been more. So, Jesus grew up in a fairly sizeable home. He was known. He was obviously a human being. But He was more, because the Father at His baptism said, "This is my Son, the one I love, and I'm pleased with Him."

But it doesn't stop there. We even get the demons' confession. Turn over to chapter 3, verse 11. Jesus, verse 10 says, "healed many" so many brought everybody who had problems to Him. Verse 11, "Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him," in an act of obeisance to Him, in an act of worship of submission, "and they would shout, 'You are the Son of God!'" Mark's not given us any options out of who this person really was. Look at chapter 5 verse 7. Here you have the Gerasene demoniac. That remarkable story of this man whose life had been destroyed by the legion of demons that controlled him. And notice verse 7. Verse 6 says

Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?"

So, you have the demons' confession. You have Mark's confession. You have the Father's confession at the start of His ministry. You have the demons' confession. But the Father wasn't done. At the end of Jesus's ministry, the Father speaks again. Turn over to Mark chapter 9. This is at the transfiguration. This is at, near the very end of Jesus's ministry. And notice verse 7. Look at verse 2 rather:

Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

Verse 7, "Then a cloud formed," so the top of this mountain is covered with a cloud, "overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!'" The Father made it clear, speaking from Heaven, who this was.

You have Jesus own confession in public. Turn over to Mark chapter 12. Mark chapter 12. This is the last week of our Lord's ministry. He's on the Temple Mount. He's in the presence of the leaders of the nation. They have questioned His authority. They have questioned who is the power behind Him. And He tells a parable. He tells a parable about a vineyard and a vineyard owner who let out the vineyard to some growers who took advantage of the man and his generosity. And you remember he, verse 4, let's go back to verse 2.

At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. They took this man he sent, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another one, [and it gets worse] and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. [Now watch verse 6. Jesus, remember, is speaking to the people in the front of the Scribes and Pharisees, on the Temple Mount. He says the vine owner] had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them saying, "They will respect my son." But those vine-growers said to one another, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!" They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.

Verse 12, "they were seeking to seize Jesus, and yet they feared the people," and here's why they wanted to seize Him, "they understood that He spoke the parable against them." So they got it, that He was claiming that He was the Son of God. This was a reference back to Isaiah, Israel as a vineyard that God Himself had planted. They were the ones supposed to be care-taking the vineyard, and Yahweh sent His own Son, and they were about to mistreat Him. They got that that's what Jesus was implying. So here Jesus, in veiled terms, presents His own confession that He is the Son of God, but he would later do so very clearly, and He would do so under oath.

Turn back to chapter 14. Chapter 14, verse 60. This is in the Jewish trial. Jesus is on Thursday night, early Friday morning, being questioned by the high priest.

The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, "Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" But He kept silent and did not answer. So again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, [here Caiaphas abandons all pretense and He just pops the question] "Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?"

Are you the Messiah, the Son of God? And by the way, Matthew tells us that Caiaphas put Jesus under oath. He used language that was a formal putting of Jesus under oath. "I adjure You by the living God," Caiaphas said. I'm putting you under oath, are you the Messiah? Are you the Son of God? To which Jesus replied, in verse 62, "I am." I am. So, under oath, in front of the legal body that oversaw the nation of Israel, under oath, Jesus is asked, are you the long-promised Old Testament Messiah? Are you the Son of the Blessed One? To which Jesus replied, "I am." And if there was any doubt, He doesn't leave any.

He goes on to say in verse 62, "and you shall see the Son of Man." Here He is calling from Daniel's prophecy and from Psalm 110, and both of these are Messianic prophecies. He says, "you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." They understood what He was claiming. Verse 63:

Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

Jesus's confession under oath was clear. But it doesn't stop there.

Jesus's enemies confessed His claims as well. In Matthew 27 verse 40, at the cross, they're ridiculing Jesus and they say, "You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God," as You claim to be, "come down from the cross." In Mark's Gospel, or excuse me, in Matthew's Gospel, still further in Matthew 27 verse 43, "He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'" So not only do you have Jesus claiming it, but even the leaders of Israel admit in public, where they're overheard, saying that's what He claimed.

And the last testimony comes from the centurion and the other soldiers. Look at chapter 15 of Mark's Gospel, verse 39. "When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this man was the Son of God!'"

Listen, Mark wants us to understand who Jesus of Nazareth really was. From the beginning to the end of his gospel, again and again he drives home the point, He is the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament. He is the Son of the Blessed One, the Son of God, equal to God. So that if it weren't true, and He claimed it to be true, it would be blasphemy as the Jewish leaders accused Him of. If you read the Gospel of Mark, don't miss it. That is his primary point, and he drives it home on page after page.

By the way, he drives it home not only by the confessions, but by the miracles that Jesus is able to do. He does what only God can do. He forgives sins. He controls creation. He is over all of the demonic powers. And on and on it goes. Mark's very clear. You need to know the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God.

But there's a second lesson here, and that is, very quickly, a lesson about the reason Jesus came. Mark wants us to understand why Jesus came. He came to die. You can see it in several ways. You can see it in the space that Mark gives to the passion week. Think about this, Mark spends ten chapters on three and a half years of Jesus's ministry, ten chapters. But he spends six chapters, chapters 11 through 16, on one week. The week of the passion. Clearly that week defines the essence of His ministry and why He came.

Three times in Mark's Gospel Jesus predicted that He was going to die. And in one of those passages, He said that His death was necessary. Why was it necessary? Why did He have to die? Mark left the question of why Jesus had to die unanswered until just one week before Jesus's death. On either Friday or Saturday before the triumphal entry, Mark finally tells us why it was necessary for Jesus to come and to die, and he does so in the words of Jesus Himself, in one of the most beloved, most memorized, statements Jesus ever made.

Turn to Mark chapter 10. Mark chapter 10, verse 45. Tacked on to the end of a lesson about the nature of true leadership he says this in verse 45, "For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve," that's why He came, and here's the heart of it, "and to give His life a ransom for many." Verse 45 ends with eight words in the Greek text, "to give His life a ransom for many," but those eight words define the whole reason Jesus died. The nature of His death; His death was necessary. It was necessary. He had to give His life. Chapter 8 verse 31 says, "the Son of Man must suffer." It is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer. It was voluntary. Notice what He says here in verse 45, the Son of Man came "to give His life." It was sacrificial. The Son of Man came to give His life. That means to die. It's the language of sacrifice. It is why John called Him the Lamb of God in John 1. It was sacrificial. His death was redemptive. He came to give His life a ransom. The Greek word for "ransom" always refers to the price paid to gain the release of someone else. It was a great exchange, His life for yours. It was substitutionary. Notice, again, verse 45, "to give His life a ransom for," anti, in the place of "many." As the substitute for many. Don't ever get over the fact that Jesus came and He poured out His life as a sacrifice in your place. He endured from God what God would have given you if Christ hadn't taken it.

And His atonement, His death, was definite, to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus voluntarily came into the world, became fully human and then offered His life in exchange for ours, and listen carefully, He did so knowing who those people would be. Remember what He prayed the night before His crucifixion in John 17, verse 24, "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am." He knew that there were those whom the Father had given to Him as an eternal love gift for whom He would offer His life.

Mark wants you to know who Jesus was. He was the Messiah and the Son of God. And he wants you to know why He came. He came to give His life a ransom for many. It was necessary, it was voluntary, it was sacrificial, it was redemptive, it was substitutionary, and it was definite. That's what the gospel of Mark is about. Let's pray together.

Father, those of us who know and love our Lord Jesus Christ can't get enough of Him. It's been such a remarkable journey to gaze on Him. To see His power and His wisdom, and His kindness, and His severity, and His teaching. To see His gentleness with the hurting, His compassion. To see His anger towards those who abused You and Your truth.

Father, thank You for letting us see, in the Gospel of Mark, the beauty of Jesus Christ, Your Son. Thank You for letting us see who He really is. But Father we thank You even more for letting us see why He came. It was necessary for Him to die, so that He could give His life as a ransom in the place of many.

Father don't let us who know Him ever get over that. Helps us to live in light of that, to love Him. Many this journey through Mark ignite in a fresh way our love and devotion to Jesus Christ.

And Father, I pray for those who are here who may not know Him as Lord. May the reality of what you taught us through Mark's Gospel sink into their souls. May it be like the hound of Heaven, pursuing them until they submit themselves to the gospel. Until they cry out for your forgiveness.

Father, thank you for giving us this amazing portrait of our Lord. May we live all our days in worship and adoration and submission and obedience. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.

The Memoirs of Peter