Download or listen to the Last Sunday of the Church Year, “That Day,” (Mark 13:24-37)
Mark 13: The Temple, The End of the World, and Us
Questions to Consider
- Again: what are “those days”? (v. 24)
2. The signs in vv. 24-25 sound like world-ending things, but see Isaiah 13:10, 13; 19:1-2; 34:4; Joel 2:10. This is called “apocalyptic” imagery.
3.Who is the “they” in v. 26? (See Daniel 7:13-14)
4. What is “near, at the gates” in v. 29?
5. Note v. 32: “But concerning that day or hour…” A shift in topic.
6. What are Jesus’ words to all people at all times (unlike vv. 1-31)? (see vv. 33, 35, 37)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We heard the beginning of Mark, chapter 13, last week. And we were reminded that Jesus’ death is the beginning of the end: the beginning of the end of the temple, which was destroyed finally in 70 AD, but at Jesus’ death, the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. Now the Man Jesus is the place of God’s mercy for sinners. Jesus’ death was the beginning of the end of this creation, filled with sin and death. The beginning of the end, when Jesus will be revealed before the eyes of all nations as the Lord of heaven and earth. The connection between all of these things is Jesus’ death, and we must keep His death and His resurrection at the center of our reflection; otherwise, we will start calculating and figuring and trying to connect Jesus’ words with the events of the world around us. Which is exactly what Jesus warns His disciples against.
He does give them signs about the destruction of the temple, so that they know when to get out of Jerusalem, but He uses apocalyptic language of judgment. He uses the images of the sun going dark, the moon not giving its light, and stars falling out of the sky. These sound like end-of-the-world things, and in a sense they are, but they are the same images used by the prophets Isaiah (13:10, 13; 19:1; 34:4ff.) and Ezekiel (32:7) and Joel (2:10, 31; 3:15) to describe God’s judgment on nations such as Babylon, Egypt, and Edom. At Jesus’ death, there was darkness from noon to 3 o’clock. God’s judgment had fallen, for those with eyes to see, on the earth. But the strange thing, the astounding thing, the unbelievable thing, was that it did not fall on sinners. It didn’t fall on the Jews, or on the Romans, or on you, or me; it fell on the sinless Son of God, whose blood was shed and whose body was pierced. The eternal condemnation of sin and sinners was carried out, and the darkness and the rending of the temple curtain were just two of the signs.
After that, “they saw the Son of Man coming in clouds with power and great glory.” But who saw this? Those whom Daniel saw in his vision, which we heard from Daniel 7 a little while ago. When Jesus had died and risen again, when He had ascended into heaven, Daniel prophesied that “one like a son of man” would be presented before God, the Ancient of Days. He would be given an eternal kingdom, and power, and glory, and dominion. Jesus would be presented before His Father, not just as His eternal Son, worthy of praise from all eternity, but as the Son of Man, worthy to be praised for His sacrifice and death and resurrection. Jesus, in His body, the flesh and blood He shares with us, is worthy of all glory, and power, and authority, and worship, and He was presented before the court of heaven, in the presence of angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, and they received Him as their Lord.
It was this glorified Lord who, after His resurrection, appeared to His disciples and sent them out, messengers of His Gospel. He sent them to all nations, to all countries, to all people, to the ends of the earth, to gather His elect. And He still sends messengers to gather those whom He has chosen. He has sent messengers to this place, to gather you. He knows you because you are His. He chose you in His Son, Jesus Christ, before the foundation of this creation, and He will keep you until He makes it all new again.
All these things the disciples saw. They saw their Lord send them out; they saw all nations hear the Gospel on Pentecost; at least some of that generation saw the city destroyed in 70 AD. He had spoken, and it happened. His word was proved true. But these were words about those days, from Holy Week on. But about that day and that hour, about the day of His revealing before all creation, no one knows. No man, no angel, not even the Son Himself, but only the Father. And because no one knows, Jesus tells them simply: watch. Be on guard. Keep awake. Five times in five verses Jesus uses synonyms of “watch” to emphasize to His disciples what not knowing should mean for them. And here, unlike in the previous verses, Jesus says these things to all people, and not only to the disciples in that time and place. “What I say to you, I say to all: keep awake.” Because we do not know, we face two opposite temptations: one is to do anything and the other is to do nothing. It’s already been two thousand years, perhaps He is far distant. Stop watching Jesus and start watching anything and everything else. We get absorbed so easily in the things of this time and place, in things that will not and cannot last, and we lose sight of Jesus, who will be revealed at a time when we do not know. Watch so it is not unexpected, so you are not surprised. Pray “Come, Lord Jesus,” and know that He will answer that prayer.
But watching does not mean looking at the sky, nor does it mean ignoring your responsibilities and sitting on a roof because He may come tonight. Jesus explains what it means in the short parable He tells: it means simply this: do do the work He has given you to do. And this is not hard to figure out. The Lord of the House has given each of His servants responsibilities and relationships, He has given each his own work to do. You have a unique position in this world, which means it is different for each person. Father to those children; wife to that man; child of those parents. Student in that school. Worker in that job. Citizen of this country. Pastor in this congregation. Member of this congregation. Each of these is a relationship in which your Lord has put you. So do what is in front of you to do, knowing that your Lord knows what you do not, and is working all of it, even the frustrations and the broken relationships, together for the good of those whom He has called and chosen. Watch by doing what He has given you to do, and not what He has given someone else to do.
He has left you to your work, but He has not left you. He has not forsaken you or left you on your own. He set down His immovable promise: I am with you all the days until the completion of this present, evil age. I am with you. Hear My word to you. Eat My body and drink My blood. And every time you gather in this place for those things, I am with you, as I promised I would be. As often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim My death until I come, until I am revealed. Work, and watch, and do not worry. My promise is good, and you will see Me when I renew this creation, and raise your body from the dead, to be like My glorious body.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, to present you blameless before the presence of his glory, with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time, now, and forever” (Jude 24-25).
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/24/12