Summary: Get to Work! 1) Anticipating Jesus’ return 2) Focusing on your God-given tasks
How do you stir a sleeping giant? I suppose it depends on who or what that giant is. If the giant is a grizzly bear, the answer is: you don’t. It’s best to let such sleeping giants lie. But what if the giant is the Christian church? The author of a religious article recently commented that the church is a “giant” because there are hundreds of millions of believers who live in every country of the globe. The writer was also on target in pointing out that the church is a sleeping giant because only a small percentage of its members are regularly engaged in carrying out its work. One study discovered that eighty-five percent of the church’s work is carried out by less than fifteen percent of its members.
How would you stir the sleeping giant of the church? Can you offer some practical suggestions about how we can mobilize the 400,000+ members of our Wisconsin Synod? Can you tell us ways to get more, dare we say, all our members involved in the Lord’s work? That’s really what our Lord focuses on in the text before us. Jesus is talking to his disciples shortly before his death and his intent is to stir up his church (intro adapted from Silas Krueger). He wants us to get to work 1) anticipating his return, and 2) focusing on our God-given tasks.
It was the Tuesday of Holy Week, the week of his crucifixion, when Jesus spoke the words of our text. He had just spent most of that day teaching in the temple at Jerusalem when on his way out one of the disciples said of the temple, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings” (Mark 13:1b)! Indeed, the temple Herod had built was a sight to behold. It had taken 46 years to build what was in place at Jesus’ time and work continued for another 30 years until everything was finished in 64 A.D. The stones used to build the temple were reportedly 13.3 m (37 ft) long, 4.3 m (12 ft) high, and 6.5 m (18 ft) wide! Even the editors of the National Geographic are impressed. The headlining article of that magazine’s latest issue is about the temple and other structures King Herod built.
Jesus, however, was not as impressed as his disciples. He said to them, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Mark 13:2). Just six years after the temple was completed it was totally destroyed by the Romans never to be rebuilt. This prophecy came as shocking news to the disciples and so later some of them privately approached Jesus to ask when this destruction would take place. Jesus didn’t tell them when the temple would be destroyed, just that they should be ready for its destruction. He then taught that just as the disciples didn’t know when the temple would be destroyed, neither would they know when the end of the world would come. Jesus said, “32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:32, 33).
Go to a Christian bookstore and look at the section on End Times. You’ll find plenty of books by Hal Lindsey, Josh McDowell, and others that often offer a complete “timetable” for the end of the world. What does Jesus think about that? “Don’t believe them,” he tells us. No one, not even Jesus, in his state of humiliation, knew the day or the hour when he would return to publicly reveal whether we will be spending eternity in heaven or hell.
It’s no wonder Jesus urged: “Be on guard! Be alert!” (Mark 13:33a) When Jesus says, “Be on guard!” he used a single word in the Greek language that has the idea of “looking carefully,” the way you would crossing a busy street. You look this way and that way before crossing the street and you keep looking this way and that way as you step into the street because you know that at any moment a careless driver could come careening down that road and you want to be ready to jump out of the way. Jesus also tells us to “Be alert!” That Greek word has the idea of chasing away sleep. It’s what you do when you’re feeling drowsy on a long road trip. You roll the windows down even in sub-zero weather, you crank the radio, you gnaw on sunflower seeds, even pinch yourself – anything to keep from falling asleep and driving off the road.
While you may know how to look carefully while crossing a street or chase sleep away when at the wheel, what does it mean to do these things in anticipation of Christ’s return? It means spending time in God’s Word to learn how he wants us to live. Living life according to what feels right to us without comparing those feelings to God’s Word is like crossing the street whenever you feel like it instead of first carefully looking to see whether or not there is oncoming traffic. Don’t take such a risk because a run-in with Jesus on Judgment Day will do more damage than being run over by an eighteen-wheeler while crossing the (St. Albert) Trail!