Sunday, December 20, 2020

When is Not the Question - Mark 13 - December 20, 2020

These are the Sermon Notes for December 20, 2020. We have temporarily suspended in person services through December 27th. Read our Covid-19 plan here. You can watch our livestream service every Sunday at 9:37 am on our facebook page or watch the livestream recordings any time.

 Mark 13 When is Not the Question

To say that this is how I expected to be celebrating the fourth Sunday of Advent would be a lie. I thank you all for your prayers on our behalf.

Not only is this the most 2020 fourth Sunday of Advent that we could have imagined, the text that we are going to be looking at today totally follows suit.

We are going to look at Mark chapter 13 this morning in its entirety. I don’t usually like taking this big a bite but this entire chapter is focused on the same thing, not the first Advent of Christ but the second.

I have been asked, more than once, if I thought that we were nearing the end, if the events of today were signs of the end times. I’m not sure I have always given the best answer to those questions on the spot but after studying this passage this week I have a better response: what if the events of this past year were the signs of the end of the age, what if this is the end times, what if Jesus were to come back today or tomorrow? So what? What if today is the day?

That’s the question I think we need to keep in mind as we look at Mark 13 and work our way through what the scholars call, “the Olivet Discourse.” The parallels for this chapter can be found in Matthew 24-25, and, Luke 21.

Instead of reading the whole passage like I usually do I want to just look at it a chunk at a time. Let’s start with verses 1-2.

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Remember that Jesus had been teaching in the Temple and had spent time being confronted by the Jewish leaders in the Temple courts. 

Now they were on the way across the valley to the Mount of Olives where there is a wonderful view of the city of Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount.

The Temple remained very important to the disciples to this point, it was still the center of all things religious to them, and they clearly still admired it. I’m sure it was truly a sight to behold.

I can’t help but think of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4,

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I think the destruction of the Temple was necessary in order to free believers in Jesus to truly worship in spirit and truth, to release them from a monument, from a potential idol. 

Unfortunately, though the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans, the church has found a way to potentially walk back that freedom by constructing millions of little temples with nice white steeples that we can worship instead.

In verses 3-4, when Jesus and the disciples got to the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked Jesus about the destruction of the Temple.

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”

This was not an unreasonable line of questioning, Jesus just told them that the thing that sat in the middle of the Jewish universe was going to be destroyed. It’s only natural that they would want to know when and how would they know when it was about to happen.

“When?” is an interesting question, it’s the wrong question, but it’s interesting nonetheless. What would knowing when do for them? We want to know when these things will happen, we want to know when Christ will return, so that we have a sense of control, that we’ve got a handle on things.

Well just like most of the times that Jesus had been asked questions of the last few days He didn’t answer this question the way anybody expected either. Look at verse 5.

And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Jesus’ first word, “see,” is from the Greek word, “blepo,” which means to “watch out.”

Watch out for false Christs, do not be deceived by them, do not be led astray.

There have been many people who have come in the Name of Jesus and deceived people and led them away from the true Christ. We can always tell a false teacher is false because they do not teach what Jesus taught, they do not stay true to His Word. The make major doctrines out of minor differences and trick people into worshipping the created rather than the Creator. Watch out! Do not be led astray!

When we hear of wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes and famines, what does Jesus instruct? Do not be alarmed. This must take place but the end is not yet.

This statement has been applied to every war the world has ever fought. Do not be alarmed, the end is not yet. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. 

Jesus’ warning goes on in verse 9, not just to watch out, do not be deceived, do not be led astray, but also…

“But be on your guard. [an extension of the same Greek word, “watch out for yourselves”] For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

These words have been fulfilled and are still being fulfilled to this day. In the book of Acts we can witness the Apostle Paul brought before governors and kings to testify and proclaim the gospel. This has been going on since the very birth of the Church and will continue. 

All of the Apostles were martyred, families have been torn apart over the Name of Jesus. Even today, we can talk about God in public forums, we can talk about spirituality, but mention the Name of Jesus and it’s all over. This is not new!

Jesus said, in verse 13, “And you will be hated by all for my Name’s sake.” But yet, what does He call the disciples to? Faithful endurance. “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”

He didn’t mean the end of the Tribulation, he meant the end of their natural lives whether they were martyred or not. He calls us to the same: faithful endurance.

I love the comfort that comes from verse 11. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

In their most desperate hour, when they were to be brought to trial, they didn’t need to be anxious about what to say, they didn’t need a memorized speech, the Holy Spirit would give them words to say. 

Do you think that stopped with them? We too can trust the Holy Spirit to speak through us, to be with us, no matter the opposition.

Jesus continued His warning in verse 14.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.

The phrase “abomination of desolation” comes from the Book of Daniel and refers to the pollution of the Temple by the Gentiles. The Temple was defiled in 167 the Syrian king Antiochus IV when he sacrificed a pig and poured its blood on the altar. This event was predicted in Daniel 11:31. The Temple was also defiled by the Romans in a.d.70 when they captured and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. 

However, these events were but anticipations of the final “abomination of desolation” predicted here by Jesus and prophesied in Daniel 9:27 and 12:11.

Times will never be worse than they will be then, but the Father, in His grace, will cut the time short for the sake of the elect, for His church.

21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard  [there’s our word “blepo” again]; I have told you all things beforehand. 

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.

Does this sound like a Christmas sermon? Well, it is! Jesus’ first Advent is a foretaste of His second Advent. His first advent was in humility, His second will be in great glory! 

If you’ve ever wondered about’ “the rapture,” here it is. It won’t be a secret disappearance of the church as some might have you believe or you’ve read about in other books. 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.

That’s His Church he’s gathering! Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:

15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

It’s going to be a great day! Of course the disciples would want to know when, of course we would want to know when! Jesus said in verse 28:

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 [meaning the people living at the time that these things take place] 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.”

Watch out, be on your guard, pay attention, do not be deceived, keep awake…Do you think this instruction is an answer to the question: when will all these things be?

“When,” is not the right question. “What should we do until that day?” That is the question, and Jesus answered it.

Pay attention, don’t be deceived, stay vigilant, and trust Him.

If you knew the day that these things would take place, would anything in your life change? Live as if today is that day! Amen.

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