The Zika virus. Who will be our next President? ISIS. Who will win in the standoff with the Oregon occupiers? Plight of Syrian refugees. Economic uncertainty and the stock market roller coaster.
A smattering of today’s headlines fills a person with fear. We want to duck under the covers.
The message of Mark 13 is that there is hope for the future. Jesus will return in glory and justice to condemn evil, end suffering, and gather his own to himself.
The events of the chapter occur midway between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion. The teaching is prompted by the disciples’ comments regarding the beauty of the temple (1) and Jesus’ remark that the temple would soon be destroyed (2). The disciples respond by asking for details about when and what to look for (3-4).
Jesus’ response to their question is both pastoral and prophetic. He weaves together the near event, the destruction of Jerusalem (2) with the far event, the return of the Son of Man in power and glory (26). Rather than helping his disciples set dates, however, he encourages them to stand firm. After warning them not to be distracted by false saviors and false signs (5-8) and not to be discouraged by persecution (9-13), he addresses their second question of what signs to look for (14-27). He tells them to watch for the abomination of desolation (14-23) and the return of the Son of Man (24-27).
Jesus explains that he, the Son of Man, will return in triumph (24-27). Jesus introduces this new topic with the word, “but” (24a). It introduces a sharp contrast between the false messiah who will perform miraculous signs and the dramatic coming of the true Messiah. It also indicates that this event is different from the destruction of the temple.
Jesus’ return will be accompanied by a variety of cosmic disorders (24b-25). The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall. It will appear as if there is an earthquake in heaven. The Old Testament prophets described these events (Isaiah 34:2, 4; Ezekiel 23:7-8; Isaiah 13:10, 13) as part of God’s judgment on the nations. It appears that the heavens will reflect what is transpiring on earth.
Jesus’ return will be visible (26). Jesus will return personally, visibly, and bodily as the glorified Son of Man (Daniel 7:13). A generation ago people questioned how every eye could watch Jesus return (Revelation 1:7). When you consider that 114 million people in the USA watched Super Bowl XLIX and 180 million people in 200 territories watched the 2015 UEFA Championship, it’s not hard to imagine how CNN, FOX NEWS, and others will broadcast his return live.
Jesus will send angelic messengers to gather the elect from the ends of the earth (27). Jesus will gather his people together so they might share in this time of triumph.
Jesus’ preview of the future ought not lure us to calculate when Christ will return, nor to fear what will happen. Rather, it should encourage us that he will come to claim his own. His coming is his promise, and the gathering of believers to him is our hope.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 7, 2016. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.