Summary: As we follow Jesus in the now, we can expect events in our life to foreshadow the grand finale, when he returns again.
One of the things my four boys love most about summer time is watching fireworks. Whether it’s at a fourth of July show, or a show after a baseball game, my kids love watching fireworks. But when we’re watching a fireworks show, I can just about guarantee that my younger boys will keep asking me one question over and over again. They’ll keep asking me, "Is this the grand finale, Dad?" In fact, they’ll ask me that three or four different times. Whenever they see a burst of several impressive fireworks all together, they get all excited and think that it’s the grand finale, that the show has come to an end. But each burst of intense fireworks only foreshadows the grand finale. They ask until the real grand finale finally comes, and then once the finale comes, they’ll wonder how they ever could’ve mistaken the earlier fireworks for the grand finale.
The concept of a finale was actually originally a musical concept for the final movement in a symphony. Usually the finale of a musical piece is foreshadowed several times throughout the piece. Only the finale is grander, louder, more complex and more impressive. The grand finale is designed to leave the audience in awe, whether it’s in a musical piece or a fireworks show.
Well Christians believe that world history is heading toward a grand finale. And like the grand finale of a symphony or a fireworks show, history’s grand finale is foreshadowed by certain events around us. These foreshadowing events that remind us that history is following a pattern, and heading toward a final goal. Sometimes as Christians we get so excited that we mistake the foreshadowing for the finale itself, just like my kids do during a fireworks show. But when history’s grand finale finally comes, we’ll wonder how we could ever have confused the foreshadowing with the finale itself.
Now we’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark for the last twenty eight weeks. After today, we’re going to be taking a break from the book of Mark for six weeks. Next weekend is Palm Sunday, where we’ll celebrate Jesus entering Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful king. That will lead us into our church’s celebration of holy week. On Thursday, April 17 we’ll be celebrating a Maundy Thursday communion service here at the church. Then on Friday, April 18 we’ll be having a special event produced by our drama ministry called "The Betrayal." Finally, on Saturday April 19 and Sunday April 20, we’ll be celebrating Easter weekend. We’ll be having one Saturday night service, and four Sunday morning services. In fact, I want to really encourage you to consider going to the Saturday night or one of the earlier two Sunday morning services on Easter, because we always have severe overcrowding at our later two morning services. It always grieves my heart when a person pulls into our parking lot to come to a service, and then pull out because they couldn’t find a place to park. Also be praying about who God wants you to invite to our Easter services, because all five of our Easter services are great places to share the good news of Christ with unchurched friends and neighbors. We have some flyers in the lobby for you to use to invite people to our Easter services.
Then after Easter weekend, we’re going to have a four week series called "Jesus and the Religions of the World." In this series we’re going to look at four major world religions: Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism. We’re going to compare and contrast the belief systems of each of these ancient religions with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Finally in May we’ll come back to Mark and finish our series.
But today in Mark we’re going to see four expectations we can have as Christians as we approach the grand finale of world history.
1. Expecting Evil to Assault (Mark 13:14-23)
Look at vv. 14-23 of Mark chapter 13. Last week we looked at the first half of this sermon Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives. I shared with you last week that Christians differ on how to best understand what this sermon is talking about. Some Christians think that all the events Jesus talks about in this chapter of Mark refer to the Jewish rebellion against Rome in 70 AD. This would mean that the entire chapter is talking about things that for us are in the distant past. In fact, last Sunday we had a guest in our church who goes to a church that teaches that. Others Christians feel that the entire chapter refers to the future second coming of Jesus Christ, which would make the entire chapter still in the future for us.
I suggested last week that I think some parts of the chapter refer to the events of 70 AD, some parts refer to both, and that some parts refer exclusively to the second coming of Jesus Christ. As we looked at vv. 1-13, I told you that I thought those verses were primarily describing the events of 70 AD.