Welcome to Week Ten! The final week in How To Study the Bible series! (To begin the series click here.)
As you explore Mark 15 & 16, you will…
1) gain an indepth understanding of the final week of Jesus’ life and his resurrection
2) learn how to use the harmony of the Gospels to blend the different points of view and how they offer historical evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.
Review of Week Nine: How to do a Character Study (Mark 13 & 14)
First, you learned how to do a Character study through the prompting of numerous biographical questions. You also explored various online research resources along with the appendices of your own Bible to discover these answers.
Second, you learned about the apostle Peter. The Bible records his flaws and failures along with his amazing influence and leadership. His life shows that our authenticity and humility make us much more available for God’s kingdom than our gifts and talents.
The Resurrection in Apologetics and Gospel Parallels
Lord, once again we come to you seeking your guidance as we enter into your Word. Thank you for the Holy Bible. Thank you for this living Word that speaks into our lives today as it has to the many generations over the years. Direct our reading today. Open our minds to understanding and our hearts to acting upon these revelations. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.
Nearly all world religions acknowledge the life of Jesus. They, however, describe a man who is not Jesus of the Bible. They do not describe him as the Divine Son of the Living God who came to live among us. Jesus’ resurrection causes the greatest divide among those who teach that he was a “great man” and those of us who hold him to be our Messiah and Savior.
As you can imagine, there remains much divergence in thought regarding his resurrection and subsequent appearances. The resurrection, however, is essential to our faith. Jesus was more than a good man and a prophet!
As Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 19)
The variances in the four gospels actually provide a well-rounded account of this critical moment in history. Some historians, however, point to these differences as contradictions. They claim that “discrepancies” negate one another and make the gospel accounts more about legend than reality. These are serious statements and must be addressed.
We are able to choose the route of a reasoned response. “Apologetics is the reasoned defense of the Christian religion. Christianity is a faith, to be sure; but there are reasons for this faith. Faith is not to be confused with reason; neither is it to be separated from it.” (Sproul, Gerstner, Lindsley in Classical Apologetics, p. 13)
How can we be assured that the resurrection truly happened? History cannot be proven by scientific means. Repeatable experiments are not the standard of authenticity in historical research. Instead, we need to examine the biblical writings as well as other supporting documents.
Several excellent apologetics websites exist if you are interested in this type of inquiry. Check out articles on the Resurrection at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, Please Convince Me, and Christian Research Institute. You will be able to link to additional sites from these articles as well.
Studying the Evidence for the Resurrection
So let’s study the accounts and learn how to respond.
1) Read Mark 15 and 16.
2) Re-read Mark 15 and 16 in one of the online resources that places the four gospels side-by-side, such as Harmony of the Gospels in Blue Letter Bible or Parallel Gospels in Biblos. When you see a difference between the gospels, write down the scripture verses. This will take some time. But it’s important to go slow and absorb all four writers’ accounts.
Your completed list now becomes the focus of your study.
2.a) Explore each reference using the commentaries and Bible dictionaries that we’ve reviewed during this 10-week study. They offer valuable insights into the culture as well as additional cross-references to inform your study.
2.b) Closely examine the wording. For example, one difference in the resurrection accounts regards the number of angels at the tomb. Were there two or one or none? Reading in parallel we find that the authors differed in their account (Matthew 28:5-8; Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 2o:1). Note, however, that Matthew and Mark did not say “one and only one” angel. In John’s account no angels are mentioned; angels could have been present though and simply not noted in the text. Luke’s account of two angels, therefore, is plausible along with the other three writers. The gospel of Luke is the only gospel that states it’s purpose of gathering all of the information and creating an orderly accounting of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus (Luke 1:1-4). I believe, therefore, that there were at least two angels.
Interestingly, many scholars actually point to these difficulties of harmonization as a mark of sincerity. If the early church was attempting to invent a new religion for their own personal gain, they would have smoothed these resurrection accounts. Instead, each was recognized as the Word of God and as the accurate account from that writer’s perspective.
3) The next evidence to support the resurrection is to consider the first witnesses on the scene. Women. During this time period, a woman’s testimony was virtually worthless. Yet all the gospel writers include the women as the first witnesses of the empty tomb. This fact indicates a high degree of accuracy. If the the resurrection were a made-up story, the writers would NOT have chosen women for this role.
4) The third evidence to the resurrection is the transformation of the disciples. Following Jesus’ resurrection, his followers metamorphose from scared men and women huddled in an upper room to bold and courageous disciples. The Book of Acts records these major changes. The world would never be the same! Without the resurrection, this transformation proves impossible to explain.
Even more evidence exists to reason one’s way to grasping Jesus’ miraculous resurrection. The apologetic sites listed earlier, along with your own additional research, will encourage you on this journey.
1) Read the Socrates and Jesus series for an extensive review of the veracity and authenticity of Jesus and his biographers, the gospel writers.
2) Research at least one of the differences you identified in Step 2 above. Share your insights in the comments below or send me an email!
3) REJOICE!!! You have now completed the study of the book of Mark! I hope you have gained new and beautiful understandings of our Lord and his life-giving, sacrificial ministry. You learned how to use numerous study methods and how to use a wide variety of research tools available in print and online. May the Lord bless you abundantly as you apply your knowledge to new areas in the Scripture!