God Calls Unexpected People

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened. Mark 16:8 NLT

Photo by Engin Akyurt, Pexels.com

This is the shorter ending of the Gospel of Mark based on the most ancient manuscripts. Does this surprise you? It lacks faith and falls short of what we’d expect of people who encountered the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. There is no hint of the revival that swept the ancient world. Only the empty tomb, trembling, bewilderment, and fear-driven silence.

Perhaps that’s why later manuscripts add one or two more glorious endings. Check your Bible to see how Mark 16 ends.

At first glance, this ending bothers me. It is unsettling. I want to read about women who were courageous and did not keep the life-changing message to themselves. But the Bible reports events honestly. (Thankfully, the other three Gospels paint a more palatable picture.) From the combination of all the Gospels, we see that the angel of the Lord appeared to women first. Women were considered second-class citizens. Their testimonies were not generally believed.

That is truly remarkable! The Creator of the Universe entrusted the initial message of the resurrection to women.

The Bible doesn’t sugar-coat the women’s reaction to the news. Jesus was alive! But they had seen Him dead, lying in the tomb. Their world was turned upside down, and it took some time to figure out what to do. In other accounts, the women eventually told the disciples and weren’t believed anyway (heavy sigh).

Instead of blaming these women for their lack of faith, what can we learn from them?

  1. Jesus calls unexpected people to share the good news. You may not feel like a qualified candidate to tell others about Jesus. The good news is not reserved for the highly, trained clergy or the flamboyant evangelist. It’s for everyone. If you are a believer, He has called you. Tell your Jesus-story.
  2. Others may not believe us but our message is life-changing. God has not asked us to convince anyone to trust in Jesus as their Savior. That’s His job. Our job is to share God’s message as we go. We plant or water seeds. He does the rest.
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit for the courage to tell others the Gospel. Without the Holy Spirit, we will easily resemble the women in Mark 16:8. But Jesus promised the disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…” (Acts 1:8). We have the Holy Spirit to give us the courage we need.

Do you feel among the unexpected? Let’s step out with Spirit-filled courage. We have a message that the world needs to hear.

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:1-5).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I confess that sometimes I am afraid to share the Good News with others. I worry about rejection or that I won’t say the right thing. Give me courage through the Holy Spirit to plant and water seeds of the Gospel, expecting you to make them grow. Above all, empower me to speak your message with love and grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Re)acquaint yourself with God’s grace

Resurrection Sunday is here! We put to rest the Lenten season of preparation and focus on the culmination of God’s plan to redeem humanity. The long-awaited and hoped for deliverance, the final blow in the battle against sin, they have been ushered in by the New Covenant of grace and faith in the risen Jesus.

picture by David Dibert, Pexels.com

Lent is observed during the forty days before Easter. It symbolizes the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by the devil. Afterward, He emerged and began His public ministry. The season of Lent is dedicated to reflecting on our lives and opening our hearts to the sacred work of the Holy Spirit. We respond to God’s invitation to prayer, fasting, and giving.

I was drawn to observe Lent twelve years ago. Previously I hadn’t been aware of the church calendar. Through the influences of friends and authors, I learned about the life-giving practices of Lent that draw us closer to Jesus. Since then, I have established a rhythm of renewal each year during the Lenten season.

I’ll be honest with you. This year, Lent was difficult. It felt much more laborious than other years, like walking through the wilderness without any shade or water. I read my Lenten devotional and engaged in prayerful introspection, but fasting was brutal. Self-discipline, which is usually my faithful companion, was nowhere to be found. I related to Paul who described our battle with sin in Romans 7:15.

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.

The harder I fought, the weaker I felt. The more restrictions I put on myself, the more I food I ate. The vicious cycle spiraled steadily downward. Discouragement took root and feelings of failure settled in. What was happening to me?

It took almost thirty days before I could hear what the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart. (What can I say? I’m a slow learner.)

I needed to get reacquainted with God’s grace.

Sometimes we can become masters at outward, godly behavior. We do and say the right things so well that they become automatic. We know how to play the Christian leader role with excellence. We are so good on the outside that we lose sight that the one and only reason we are good is because of Jesus.

God extends His grace to save us. We need His grace to change us. We survive by His grace as He renews us from the inside out. His transforming grace empowers us to honor Him with our lives.

I say “we,” but I really should say “I.” I had allowed self-sufficiency to infect my thinking. It showed up in my failure to fast. I couldn’t pat myself on the back for maintaining a routine with reading and prayer either, because I wasn’t relying on Jesus.

I was including Jesus in my life, but I wasn’t completely relying on Him.

I decided that the remaining days of Lent would be spent embracing His grace. I realized that the end game isn’t to be perfect at reading the Bible, praying, and fasting. It took off the pressure to perform and freed me to joyfully surrender to Jesus.

God’s grace is offered to you and me for every area of our lives every single day. We are blessed when we receive it.

In which area(s) do you need to get reacquainted with God’s grace? Ask Jesus to give you a fresh start.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence (1 Peter 1:3 NLT).