Steven Furtick - It Can't End Like This...
Mark 16:1, "When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb"? Who's gonna do it? "And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back, it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, "Don't freak out, You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go and tell His disciples..". In other words, you can look, but don't stay long because He is not here in this dead place. He is not here, He is risen, so, "'...go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as He told you".' And they went out and fled from..".
I wonder what you're running from today, because , sometimes, when life disappoints our expectations we find ourselves hiding from the very places that we came to looking for God, they, "...fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid". And on that note Mark's gospel ends. It's an anticlimactic ending, it's not how we would expect it to end, but that's how it ends. And there is an announcement that I wanna give to you, in fact, I want you to give it to your neighbor, so pick one. Look 'em in the eyes and tell 'em, "Neighbor, it can't end like this". Look at your other neighbor, the one you were secretly hoping you'd get to talk to, tell 'em, "It can't end like this". Father, anoint your Word and open our hearts to hear it in Jesus' name. Amen. You may be seated. If you're reading along, in your own copy of the Bible, you may see verse 9, 10, 11 and 12. But those were put there much later by second-century scribes.
The oldest manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, after they had been transcribed for centuries took on some additions. It was almost as if the ending, "And they went out and fled from the tomb for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid". Who ever was copying thought, "Well, it can't end like this". But it ends in the original manuscript on a note of uncertainty. It ends right there. Right there. There's a tendency for us, sometimes, to want to make faith something that it's not. I wonder, can I preach to you today, like we're real people? It may be that people outside of the faith get the wrong idea about the nature of faith and they think that faith is chiefly a matter of imagination. So, people who have faith have really good ability to suspend their disbelief and think about this world that doesn't really exist. But faith for me is not a matter of imagination, it's a matter of interpretation. What I mean by that is for me faith is not a denial of reality, but it is a deeper reality than the reality that I see that governs the way that I live.
This is the essence of faith in Mark's Gospel, it is always a demonstration. It is not always visible, but just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't real. And isn't it powerful and profound that the greatest demonstration of God's power came in the moment when Jesus wasn't there. The greatest demonstration of God's power was His absence in the place where the women looked for Him. Touch the person next to you and say, "It can't end like this". It can't end like this. And, sometimes, our faith leaves us at a place of frustration. The atmosphere of this text in Mark 16, is an atmosphere of frustration. Specifically for these women. They bought spices.
Now remember, Peter in the garden drew a sword because he had strength as long as he was in control of the outcome. But if you look on Sunday morning, Jesus has been dead now, for three days, according to the Jewish way of counting days, and these women they didn't draw swords in the garden, they had a different kind of strength. These spice girls had the kind of quiet strength that would enable them even in the midst of disappointment to still go to the place where their dream died and do the best they could with what they had. Notice who was missing in the text, it's not only Jesus ho's missing in the text, He was expected to be in the grave and He wasn't there, but where is Peter? Where is Peter waving his sword and talking so loud? Have you ever noticed how, sometimes, the loudest people aren't the most loyal?
I noticed it at a Panthers game. There was a lady in front of me, she was so loud, she was gone in the third quarter too. Because , sometimes, the people who are the loudest are not the most loyal. "Where's Peter"? This is what the women are trying to figure out because, the men who should have been with them to help them move the stone away, remember, it's much easier to roll the stone that is at the mouth of this cave, which we call a tomb, but it's more like a cave. Mark points out a detail, he says, "It was a very heavy stone..". So, we can't do this by ourselves. And upon realizing that we've got the spices but, we don't have the strength to roll the stone away. I think it's an indictment on the men. I think it's an indictment on the 11 disciples, I thought there were 12? Judas is dead, it's already a different thing for him, he's already gone. He couldn't hang on, he couldn't face himself after it. And Peter, well, Peter, he's gonna preach in 50 days on the day of Pentecost, it's so disappointed that he can't potentially show his face. Or maybe he doesn't wanna venture out into the darkness and risk greater disappointment.
I found out that the greater the faith, the deeper the disappointment. When you really believe in something and that's why some of you don't expect much of life anymore, it is your defense mechanism against disappointment. Because if you don't venture out, you don't have to be vulnerable. Hope is very vulnerable. Faith is very fragile, it puts you in place where you're actually expecting something. And as Peter stood there considering the cost of discipleship in shadow of the cross, it shot through his central nervous system that this was the end. And he's not with the women. Neither is James. Neither is John for that matter, or Bartholomew. There were plenty of people who could have been them , but they weren't. And so now, the women, they got their spices, they're not talking much, it's not a happy processional, but they're on their way. And on their way, they realize, "Hey, wait a minute, when we get there, we can't do what we need to do, to do what we came to do. Because we, we have, spices, but we're not strong enough".
Have you ever felt like there as something in your way, now, it could be depression, it could be addiction, it could be genetics, it could be your history, it could be your mental conditioning, have you ever felt like there was something in your way, that no matter how great or how high your faith would rise or become, there was something in your way, some stone in your way. I love what the Bible says, 'cause the women are walking, and they're worried, "Well, you can't do it". "Well, you can't do it, either". "Well, Mary you shoulda..". "Well, don't tell me what I shoulda done, Salome, I'm not the one who's mom named her after deli meat, you shoulda done it". "You shoulda thought Where's Peter"? But instead of resenting who wasn't with them, they asked the question, "Who will roll the stone away"? God is already working out what you're worried about. God already has your miracle in motion, if you will take a step in faith.
The Bible says, "When they got there, not only was the stone gone, but there was young man", most theologians believe because of the synoptic Gospel accounts that confirm the report, that this was an angel who had not only rolled the stone away, but sat down on it. Now the reason he sat down, is not because he was tired. This angel did crossfit and had excellent cardiovascular conditioning. No, this angel came down, rolled the stone and sat down because in Jewish custom, when a teacher got ready to teach, they sat in a seat of authority. So, the message is this, what you thought you couldn't get through, I'm already over. What you thought you couldn't do has already been done. And all power and authority belongs to Jesus. And I believe stones still roll. I believe God is working on what you're worried about. Why would you stay up late crying about.
See we don't understand a lot of times what's happening as we're walking. What's happening as we're walking. Matthew gives us a detail that Mark omitted, because he said, that at some point while these women between 3 and 6 A.M. in the darkness of despair, doubt, and disappointment. This is the atmosphere of the text, and in their great frustration, because of their lack of strength and ability while they were walking, God was working. While they were walking, God was working. Watch the second verse of the last chapter of Matthew, it's a different ending. It's a little bit of a different detail that we don't get in Mark's gospel, it says, "that behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat down on it. The angel was already on the way while the women were walking to the tomb. And I dare you to look at somebody and say, "Your angel is already on the way. So, don't stress out about it and don't you dare turn around, and go back home, because while you're worrying, God is working".
God does some of His best work in the dark. And just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not in progress. It can't end like this. You think God would let these women get all the way to the tomb and let a stone stand in their way? God says, "When you do what you can do, I will do what you cannot do. I'll help you raise those kids, I'll help you stay married to that man, I'll help you make it through it another week, I'll help you, help is on the way". It can't end in frustration. It can't end in my frustration. And it can't end in failure either. It can't end in frustration. It can't end in failure. Touch somebody, say, "It can't end like this". See, when you know the director, you have a pretty good sense of how the film is gonna end. God I wish somebody came to help me preach and not just look at me today. When you know who made the movie, when you know how it ends, when Jesus sat down with Peter, He said, "You're gonna fail. You're gonna deny me, not once, not twice", but check out this King James English, "thrice". By the time the rooster crows. But don't worry about it Peter, I've got a job for you to do on the other side of failure.
When the angel said, "I'm gonna meet you in Galilee". It was more than a geographical arrangement. It was a statement of mission. For many of you remember that Galilee was the place where Jesus did most of His miracles. It was the place where He first called Peter. It was the Sea of Galilee where Peter took Jesus all around to preach, and heal, and deliver. So, when the angel said, "Your story can't end here, turn around and go tell the disciples that I will meet them Galilee". He was saying in effect, "This can't end in a grave because there's something more that I wanna do, meet me in Galilee". Now that's good news all on it's own. For you to know, that God is not through with you. For you to know that if the devil could have killed you, he would have by now. For you to know, that the testimony of your purpose is the very fact of your survival.
The fact that you're still here, well, that's a reason to celebrate. Because of two words, go tell His disciples, verse 7, please, and Peter. That hit me hard. That the one who disappointed Jesus, the most deeply, was the one He singled out by name for redemption. And it gives me this hope that maybe my name can go there, too. I'm going back to Galilee because I don't believe this story ends at a grave. It can't end like this. Go tell Peter to start practicing. Practicing what? Practicing his preaching. Tell him to get all of his fishing out of his system. 'Cause I need him in 50 days. I need him on the day Pentecost, when the Spirit comes. I want the one who failed the greatest to be the trophy of my triumph and transformation. And there's someone here who is standing over a grave of your own failure today. Not realizing that resurrection is an expectation that allows you to experience life, not through the lens of your failure, but through the lens of grace.
And that's a really beautiful truth for Peter, but until it is personal for you, you will stay stuck in what God has called you out of. It can't end, I know, it can't end like this. I know that my story can't end in failure because God has already promised me His grace for every failure that I would face in this life. And Peter, and Peter, make sure you, make sure, PS: tell Peter. Tell the one that snuck into church, that really doesn't wanna be here that I'll meet him in Galilee. Failure is not the end. It's the hinge, it's the hinge on which the doors of God's grace swing wide open for you to experience His forgiveness at a greater level. Don't you see it, Peter? He called you by name. And the women responded in a surprising way, you know, I never could get over this.
I understand why they were so disappointed when He died. But I never got why they were so surprised. He told him this, three times, "I'm gonna die. They're gonna mock me, they're gonna scourge me, they're gonna spit on me. But after three days..". Dot-dot-dot. I view resurrection a little differently now, I used to think resurrection was God's exclamation point. You know, "It is finished"! "He is risen"! But now, I see it more like three dots. To see whether or not your story is gonna end here in your fear because the final note of Mark's gospel is fear, they were afraid. It's such a strange note to end on. It's such a crazy way to end your gospel, maybe there was more to the manuscript, I don't know, and it got lost. That's one theory, or maybe verse 9 is up to us. Maybe fear is not the end, maybe it's an invitation.
See in Mark's gospel, usually when it talks about fear, something comes after it. In Mark's gospel, there's a pattern that emerges, it's over and over again, in Mark's gospel. So, like in chapter five there's a woman who has an issue, an issue of blood and nobody can make her better. The Bible says, that "...she spent all that she had, but instead of getting better, she got worse, she shoved more stuff into her life, she got busier and she just got broker. She spent more time trying to be liked and she only felt more lonely. And then she comes up and touches Jesus and everybody wants to know who did it, 'cause there was a big crowd around and they didn't know, but she did.
And so the Bible says, "That trembling, she fell down in fear on her face before Jesus". But it wasn't the end of the story. Because when Mark says fear, something follows. it's not the end. Touch somebody and say, "It's not the end, it's a new beginning". And after her fear, Jesus looked at her and said, "Daughter, your faith has healed you, now go in peace". Because fear is not the end, fear is the beginning. Right after this, a man named Jairus has a little daughter who has died while Jesus is on His way to heal her. The crowd says, "Don't worry about it, she's already dead". Jesus said, "No, she's just asleep. Don't be afraid Jairus, because when I get there, something is gonna happen that is going to overrule and overturn the verdict of earthly principals, she's gonna get up". And the little girl got up because fear is not the end.
One night, the disciples were in a great storm, the wind was blowing so hard they thought surely, we're going down this time. No you can't die here, there's something left for you to do, the Bible says, "They were greatly afraid, but fear was not the end". The moment they felt the fear, Jesus spoke the word, "Peace be still". I feel him speaking peace to somebody today, fear is not the end. It can't end like this. It can't end like this. God's got more for you to do. He said, "Meet me in Galilee..". Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The stone is already rolled. God has already done what the law was powerless to do, and that it was weakened by the sinful nature. I know you're weak, I know you're frustrated, but frustration is not the end. Frustration is the hinge on which the door to surrender swings wide open. To say, I need you to do for me, God what I can't do for myself.
It's not the end. Your failure is not the end. God's gonna use the one who knows their need for grace, to show others what His grace is capable of. It can't end like this. Your story can't end in this grave. You are needed in Galilee Peter. There's more for you to do. It can't end like this. It can't end in fear. What if those women would have stayed silent. We know that they didn't. We know that they went and told the disciples, and we know that the disciples first instincts was fear. Because the starting point of faith is always fear. It' always scary to step out and trust God. It's always risky to make yourself vulnerable, but what if I come to God and what if it doesn't work. And what if it ends on a cross. See even if it ends on a cross, it doesn't end on the cross.