Where Will It All End?
Sovereign Lord, heaven is Your throne, earth is Your footstool. You are the great and one true God. All praise and thanks to You.
Read MARK 13:1–27
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
24 “But in those days, following that distress,
“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“What is said here about the future and end times, is not included to tease the mind or titillate the imagination or excite the curiosity, but to strengthen faith when it is tested” (Ralph P. Martin, 1925–2013).
It’s all very well to be told “not to worry about things you can’t control” but the events described in this reading are nerve-wracking! They span generations, inter-mingling the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, with ongoing human conflict (2–23) and the return of Jesus (24–27). The immediate references are to the events of A.D. 70, predicted by Jesus (2) and clearly a judgment of God (Mark 11:15–17; 12:1–12). Facing the destruction of the Temple was one thing; even more distressing was that it represented God’s presence. They would witness the sacrilege of the Temple being profaned by Gentile armies (14); the human suffering resulting from this is frightening to ponder (15–19). How do we make sense of these events?
Jesus is preparing his people to trust the one who is in control, even amongst random events of violence. “Watch out” (5) and “be on your guard” (9,23) are the watchwords. His people will not escape the tribulation of A.D. 70 or the continuing machinations of the nations (8). They will be tested to the limit (20) and at times be tempted to go for easy solutions (6,21,22) in order to evade the conflict. Can anyone survive this? We can be asked to stand firm when we know, first, that the Lord calls the shots and will not let things last one day too long (20) and, second, that the Lord knows who are his and will gather us in (27).
The Christians to whom Mark wrote “were facing not merely marginalization in their own culture but possibly even execution” (Ben Witherington). The church was under threat. They needed to know, like those today under threat of death for their faith, that Jesus is Lord.
Are you involved with any of the organizations dedicated to supporting Christians under persecution for their faith? If not, it may be something to consider. Check out www.opendoors.org/wwl. Our suffering brothers and sisters need our love, prayers and encouragement.
Mighty God, I complain at the slightest snub for being a Christian. I lift up all those who are in great distress for being Christ-followers. Enable and use them, I pray.
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