Summary: The calamities that Jesus prophesizes will be a prelude to the end times are here. They always have been. This passage gives us a glimpse of how we are to live in a broken and sin filled world.
Mark 13:1-8 “Living in a Broken World”
I’m not a big advocate of “The good ol’ days,” but there are times. There are times when I long for the days where we always left our doors unlocked, rather than locked, bolted and secured with an alarm system. I long for the days when we could leave the house after breakfast play all day with our friends, not return home until dinner time, and our parents never had to worry that we’d be abducted. Those days when school arguments were ended with “double dog dares,” instead of knives and automatic pistols are fondly remembered. There was a sense of peace and security. Ah, those were the days!
This all came to an end on 9/11. When the towers fell and the Pentagon attacked, we felt threatened, violated and exposed. Suddenly the threat of terrorism was everywhere. The aftermath of Columbine was never feeling safe in school, never walking alone, having a cub scout arrested for bringing his camping utensil to school, and arresting teenagers for a food fight. Amber alerts remind us that our children are targets and cause us to have them play violent video games and exercise only their thumbs rather than have them run, jump and play outside.
We live in a broken and sin filled world. As Christians we are challenged to live as people of faith in such a world. What does this look like? Today’s gospel text gives us a glimpse of life in a broken world.
The scene of this gospel story takes place near the temple. Some of the disciples are impressed with the new temple that Herod the Great started to build. It was larger than any previous temple and certainly one of the most impressive structures in Jerusalem. The temple was more than simply a beautiful building, though. The temple was a sign of God’s presence with Israel. The temple was Israel’s connection point with God and also a symbol of their identity as God’s people.
Jesus—almost flippantly--tells them that the temple will be destroyed and a time will come when not one stone is set on another. Jesus’ words could be compared to making the statement that the Capitol and Whitehouse will be destroyed. The world as the disciples knew it was going to come to an end—just as our world came to an end with 9/11, Columbine, and the economic recession.
Like us the disciples scramble to figure out how to live in such uncertain and trying times.
TELL US THE FUTURE
The disciples first ask Jesus to tell them the signs that will precede the end times. They believe that if they know the future they will be able to deal with it. The present might be uncertain, but if the future is assured they can live with the uncertainty.
So many people seek to know the future. Tim Lehaye with his “Left Behind Series” and Hal Lindsey with his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, have demonstrated that a person can grow rich spouting their ideas about what the future will be like. People look to the stars, crystal balls, tarot cards, and palms to get a jump on the future. They do all of this to no avail. Knowing the future doesn’t help them.
Jesus answered the disciples with strange words. He tells them that there will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines. These calamities were common in the days when Jesus spoke to his disciples. He was not giving them the inside tract on knowing the future. He was telling them that they didn’t need to know the future—just he who held the future in his hands.
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
The future will be filled with trials and tribulations just like the present is. As Christians we will continue to live in a broken sin filled world.
Talking about the future or prophesying the future is not living our lives out in faith. Trusting in a God who holds the future in his hands is how we live by faith.
Faith does not believe that God will make our lives comfortable and affluent. Faith knows that whatever situations we face God will be with us through those situations.
Faith is not worrying about the future. Faith is being concerned about the needs of others today.
Faith is not longing for a heaven when we die. Faith is being concerned for others, witnessing to them, and inviting them to experience the heaven on earth (God’s presence) with which we have been blessed.
When asked what he would do if he know that the world was going to end the next day, Martin Luther replied that he would go out and plant and apple tree. At first this might seem like a strange reply. The idea that Luther was trying to express is that he would live his life of faith exactly the same way whether the end was twenty years away or tomorrow.