Mark 13:24-37 – In Those Days; In That Day

Mark 13:24–37 24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

“Stay awake… lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

You have maybe seen commercials for the National Geographic show Doomsday Preppers.  Individuals across the country are stockpiling seeds, food, ammunition, and potable water; they are building shelters, learning self-defense, and preparing their bodies to face what could be the “end of the world as we know it.”

Different individuals are preparing for various contingencies: earthquake, nuclear warhead, chemical attack, asteroid, electromagnetic pulse.  The commercial for Doomsday Preppers ends with an individual asking, “Am I nuts, or are you?”

My answer to that question would be, “Yes.”

“Stay awake.”  The whole chapter of Mk. 13 is Jesus’ answer to two questions.  The first question is when will the Temple will be destroyed and the second is when will the end of the age be.  In the mind of a Jew in Jesus day, the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world were the same event.  One-thousand-nine-hundred-forty-two years later, hopefully, we know better.  Jesus did not come back, the world did not end, when the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.  The majority of Jesus’ answer in Mk. 13 deals with when the Temple was destroyed—that is how Jesus can say, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” in v. 30.

And Jesus gives us a clue throughout Mk. 13 when He is speaking about the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and when He is speaking about the end of the world.  It’s all about the difference between when Jesus says, “In those days,” all the way up until v. 32 when He says, “But concerning that day.”

Yes, even v. 24-27 are speaking about Jesus’ days before that “generation passed away.”

When Jesus says, “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,”  He is speaking about His death.  At the hour of Jesus’ death, there was darkness covering the whole land (Mk. 15:33).  As He died, the curtain in the temple which had sun, moon, and stars upon it was torn in two; “the powers in the heavens [were] shaken.”

V. 26 ”And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,”  is a quote from our OT text (Dan. 7:13,look at it).  You will notice that the Son of Man’s “coming” is not a descent to earth, but an ascent to the Ancient of Days.  Fits in pretty well with what Jesus said before He ascended into heaven.  Mt. 28:18–20 ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Since then, Jesus has sent (“apostled”) His angels—lit.  His ‘messengers’—to all the corners of the earth to proclaim the Gospel and to gather His elect.  On the day of Pentecost, there were “men from every nation under heaven” (Act. 2:5), and the message continues to go out today.

Until about 150 years ago, this is how the Church interpreted this passage.  Today, there are so many people trying to pin the tail on the antichrist and predict the precise date when Christ will return that they’ve completely forgotten what Jesus said about His return in v. 32, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

“Stay awake.”  I don’t think Jesus will be very pleased with the Harold Camping’s (the May 21st/October 21st guy) of this world when He returns and finds them trying to figure out the precise day when He will return.  I don’t think they will be too impressed either when Jesus foils their life’s work.

Jesus does speak about the End of the Age; He speaks about His return.  Jesus speaks about judgment and doom.

The End of the World, Judgment Day, is coming, and in a very real sense, it has already come. Jn. 12:31–32 31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.”

This world has been judged and condemned; it is just waiting its sentencing.

The cross stands through all of history as the time and place where the world was judged.  As Christians, we look at the cross and see deliverance; we see hope; we see where Christ forgave our sins.  But the cross is a place of judgment and execution.  The cross is an instrument of doom.  Had Jesus come in our time, we would probably be wearing necklaces with an electric chair hanging from them instead of a cross.

For the life of a believer, Judgment Day is every day.  You experienced it once in your baptism when Christ condemned, killed, and buried your sinful nature in His tomb (Ro. 6).  In that same baptism, you were also connected with Christ’s resurrection.  Your life, believer, is a life of daily judgment—drowning to death and sin, but rising to life in the new creation.  Daily you are moved from conviction of sin to faith, from condemnation to forgiveness, from death to life.

For the believer, every day is Judgment Day until that final day, when Christ returns and will be revealed.  Then the party begins. “Stay awake.”

Yes, the party begins when Christ returns.  Too often, Christians, we look at the Return of Christ as Doomsday.  But, when Christ returns, the party begins, and you don’t want to miss it.  “Stay awake.”

Christ isn’t coming like your Great Aunt Maggie who is going to make sure you are wearing the itchy wool sweater she made you and is two sizes too small.

Christ is coming like your favorite Uncle Chuck.  The Uncle Who is going to take you outside to play football, or go sledding or fishing.  He is going to play cards with you, make you the best hot ham and cheese, and tell you stories that make you laugh so hard your guts hurt.

“Stay awake.”  The party is coming, and you don’t want to miss it.  Neither do your friends and family, so tell them about Christ your favorite crazy Uncle Who is so fun they won’t believe it until they meet Him.

“Stay awake.”  Believer wait with patience.  Wait with hope.  Wait with faith.  Amen.

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until that Great, Awesome Day.  Amen.

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Mark 12:38-44 – The Pompous & the Penurious

Mark 12:38–44 38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Nobody wants to lose.  Nobody enters a competition planning on losing.  Maybe, you recognize your opponent is faster, smarter, more skilled, and better equipped.  Maybe you recognize that your opponent will probably win, but you always compete with the hope to overcome and be victorious.

We like the movies that portray the underdog, the down-and-outers, coming back against all odds and winning the State Championship or getting the girl/guy or landing the ultimate job.  We cheer for the Titans, we hope for Cinderella, and we are a just a little bit jealous of Forest Gump.

In our Gospel text today, Jesus contrasts winning and losing.  And everything leading up to our text certainly makes it look like Jesus is winning.

Jesus is in Jerusalem awaiting His death.  Huge crowds welcomed Him waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna.”  He is challenging the authorities with His every word and action.  He clears the money-changers out of the temple.  He has made the scribes and Pharisees look foolish by asking them if John the Baptizer was from heaven or from man (Mk. 11:30); a question they do not answer.  He speaks in a parable which shows that the religious leaders have rejected the God of their fathers (Mk. 12:1-11).

Finally, we are told that the scribes and Pharisees want to arrest Jesus, but they are afraid of the people (Mk. 12:12).  Jesus appears to be winning and the scribes and Pharisees appear to be losing.

So the scribes and Pharisees start asking Jesus questions that appear to have no safe answer.  They try to make Jesus walk a tightrope without a balancing pole.  They ask questions designed to get Him in trouble either with the religious leaders or with the Roman government.  They ask questions about paying taxes (12:13-17), about the resurrection (12:18-27), and about which is the greatest commandment (12:28-34).  But Jesus skillfully gives them nothing to bring against Him.  After these encounters, no one even dared to ask Him any more questions (Mk. 12:34).

But Jesus isn’t done; He goes on the offensive and asks the scribes and Pharisees a difficult question, “Whose son is the Christ?  How can the Messiah be David’s son and David’s Lord?”  The scribes and Pharisees answer not one word.  But we are told, “a great throng heard Him gladly” (Mk. 12:37).

Jesus certainly appears to be winning and the scribes and Pharisees appear to be losing.  And Jesus even keeps hitting them while they were down.

But Jesus’ words in the beginning of our text (Mk. 12:38-40) speak against winning.

Beware.  Beware of winning.  Beware the desire to have the ‘latest and greatest’ in clothes and gadgets.  Beware of what those things do to your head.  Beware the things that make you in.  Beware the things that make you someone.

Beware of winning.  Beware the winning ways that you publish through your Christmas letters, through your conversations, and on your Facebook wall.  You are so smart and so witty.  You and your family have it all together.  You are so popular that you have dozens of friends talking about you and liking and commenting on your status.  Beware of winning popularity.

Beware of winning.  Beware of having the best places in your job (with tasks beneath you).  Beware in your circle of friends (where you keep certain people close and shun everyone else) even here at church.  Beware of the notoriety and fame that you crave so badly.

Is the cost of constantly winning worth it?  Does it bother you when someone else is winning more than you are?  Aren’t you still miserable even when you win?

Misery loves company.  One author wrote,“Misery loves company, particularly when she is herself the hostess, and can give generously of her stores to others” (John K. Bangs).

Jesus warns against your winning ways.  Jesus says, “You winners will receive the greater condemnation.”

After all of the controversy with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus—maybe tired of arguing—sits down opposite the treasury to watch the spectacle of people putting their offerings into the boxes.  In the Temple, there were thirteen different horns which received offerings; those horns were literally shaped like trumpets.

Jesus watches people put in their large sums of money and “sound the trumpet” (Mt. 6:2) tooting their own horn.  You can almost hear the clamor of the wheel-barrow full of valuable coins clinking and clanking as they fall through the trumpet and land in the box.  You can almost hear the wonder in people’s voices and the encouragement they give to each other.  “Good job, Larry.  Boy, you sure gave a lot!”  “Wow Hank. That’ll be hard to top.”  “My goodness Phil.  You are generous.”

But there is a sight and a sound that almost goes unnoticed and would have gone unnoticed if Jesus had not been there.  A poor pauper widow accidently makes a tiny sound of two small copper coins tinkling into the box.  Together, her two coins totaled 1/64th of a days’ wage.

Her offering was so small that it was unlawful to give a less amount.  She could not have given more and was not allowed to give less.  This offering was everything to her; she has nothing left.  And as that miniscule offering drops into the box, she loses.  The scribes have devoured another house.  They have won this match; game over.  Score: pompous scribes and Pharisees-1, penurious widow-0.

Yet, the looser widow gets singled out by Jesus.  He doesn’t publicly recognize her; it would mar the beauty of her gift.  Jesus does not encourage her; she already has God’s promised faithfulness.

The pompous scribes “devour widow’s houses.”  This penurious widow gives away not only her house but everything she had to live on.  She loses.  She loses not bitterly but of her own free will knowing God’s promise.

This impoverished widow has the world because she has nothing.  She is the last; she is made first.  She is servant of all—servant even of the greedy scribes and Pharisees; she is made the greatest.  She is a loser; God gives her the victory.

While Jesus appears to be winning in this text, He is the Ultimate Loser.  He, even though He had lived a perfect life, died an unjust death.  Jesus had the most to give and the greatest reason to “trumpet” His offering, but He laid it down.  He was oppressed and afflicted, but He didn’t open His mouth.  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, but He didn’t speak a word (Is. 53:7).

In His death, Jesus didn’t notice the pious, the moral, the great, or the winners.  In His death, Jesus noticed the nobodies, the losers; He noticed you.  He noticed you who had nothing to offer, and He rejoiced in that.

Jesus saw that there was no way for you to win.  So Jesus took the loss for you.  He gave you His victory.  He gave you Himself.  Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Revelation 7:9-17 – All Saints

Revelation 7:9–17 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today, is All Saints Sunday.  It is a time to remember those who have gone before us in the faith.  It is a good day to remember loved ones who have been transferred out of this broken world into the presence of Christ.  It is a good time to remember the martyrs of the faith, not because they were so courageous or strong or faithful, but because of their Savior, Jesus Christ, His courage, His strength, and His faithfulness to and for them.

If we looked at all of Revelation 7, we would see two pictures of the church, both of which are comforting.

In Rev. 7:1-8 John hears about the 144,000 who are also called the “Church militant.”  Every member of the Church, every believer of all time, is called by God into His organized army of servants who live in this broken world.  Every believer of all time is sealed individually—one-by-one.  The whole group is organized for battle in the Lord’s army.

After John hears this, he turns and sees the group.  John sees the “Church militant” revealed to be the “Church triumphant” in our text.  The picture is of every believer of all time cleansed by the blood of the Lamb removed from tribulation.  People from every tribe and language, clothed in blood-washed, white robes, waving palm branches, crying out together, standing before the throne and the Lamb.  They are no longer troubled by the brokenness and tribulation of this world: no hunger, no thirst, no striking sun, no scorching heat.  They are led by springs of living water.

Every tear, even the smallest tear in this uncountable multitude, is wiped away.

At this point, we simply need to be content with the words of Scripture.  The New Heavens and the New Earth; the Holy City, the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; the Twelve Gates and Twelve Foundations; the Pearls, the Precious Stones, the Pure Gold like transparent glass, the River and the Tree of Life (Rev. 21:1-22:6).  All of it is utter triumph.

All of it reveals the victory of Christ—Who swallowed up of death—and gives the victory to you.

Believer, whatever you think about eternal life, make sure that you recognize that it is yours now, not just later.

Christ says (Jn. 5:24), “Whoever believes in Me has passed from death to life.”  And Eph. 2:5–6 says,5 even when [you] were dead in our trespasses, [God] made [you] alive together with Christ… 6 and raised [you] up with Him and seated [you] with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Let the comfort of that sink in.

Our text today is a picture of your friends and family who have died and are now with Christ, and it is a picture of you before Christ.  You are joined together with that uncountable multitude from every tribe and nation, even here today, as you join in the great Feast that Christ has given His Church—His Supper.

You are in the presence of God.  You join “with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven” lauding and magnifying the glorious Name of Christ.

In the Name that God placed upon you in your baptism—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are sealed, protected, forgiven.

Eternal life is yours now.  God doesn’t make you wait.  You are in Jesus Who is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25-26).  You are connected with Christ, the One Who gives Living Water (Jn. 4:10; 7:37-38).  You are in the flock of Jesus—the Lamb Who is the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11).

Unless you don’t believe what Jesus says…

These glories, these mysterious glories, are all true for you here.  They are true for you now.  They are true for you forever.  Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.