Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 13:1–13:13
The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 14-15, 2015
Often in our conversations, whether in person, by phone, email or text, we may conclude by saying “Take care.” And when we say this, we mean something to the effect of “Take care of yourself. Be well.” It is a good parting sentiment. In today’s Gospel lesson, in which Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple and signs that will signal the close of the age, Jesus speaks twice using a word that can be translated “Take care” (βλέπετε – see Mark 13:5, 9). The original root words means “to see.” Actually, if we were to read on through the rest of Mark 13, we would find that Jesus speaks this same word two more times: “Take care” (Mark 13:23, 33). The translation used in our worship bulletin (English Standard Version) renders the word “See” (13:5) and “Be on your guard” (13:9, 23, 33). Both are accurate, but I like the emphasis and connection with “Take care” as the Lord Jesus calls us to “take care” and so be ready for the day of his coming. “Take Care” is the theme for the message on this second-to-last Sunday of the church year. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Mark 13 is sometimes referred to as the “Little Apocalypse,” and it is the “longest uninterrupted course of private instruction” that Jesus gives to his disciples in Mark’s Gospel (The Gospel According to Mark, from The New International Commentary on the New Testament; William L. Lane. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974; p. 444). On the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, facing the magnificent temple of Jerusalem covered in white marble and overlaid with gold, Jesus speaks these sobering words to his disciples on what is yet to be revealed. That is what the word “apocalypse” means: to reveal or disclose events about the end of the world. All of this ties into that whole apocalyptic theme so prevalent in current literature, science fiction, movies, and video games. All of these speak of the collapse of civilization, global pandemics that destroy much of the population, super storms that ravage the earth, and a dystopian – rather than an utopian – future for humanity. All of this aside, Mark 13 is really Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples. “Chapter 13 unites prophecy concerning the future with exhortation regulating the conduct of the disciples in the period when the Master will no longer be with them…” (Ibid, p. 445). And so Jesus calls upon his disciples then and now to “take care” – take care that we are not deceived by the course of world events into thinking that end has come. Take care that we are not surprised about the cost of discipleship in following Jesus. “Take care,” Jesus tells us.
November has more than its share of gloomy, overcast days, which can be a source of melancholy for many. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression linked to the shorter, darker days of winter, is starting to be felt once again. The chill in the air is a reminder of the cold weather to come. As the hours of daylight decrease, it appears that nature itself is dying. In the life of the Church, the Body of Christ, this month of November is when we reflect on our own mortality and the end of this present age. We may prefer not to think about Jesus’ words here in Mark 13 because we see them only as doom and gloom. But as disciples of the Lord Jesus we must be mindful of what He teaches us about his coming again. As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we must take heed to what He says will precede that great and final day: false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, earthquakes, famines, and persecution. If Jesus didn’t care about his beloved children, then He would not have said anything about these things. But because He loves us, because He laid down his life for us on the tree of the cross, He has told us. In love for us, Jesus did not withhold this information. Sometimes in families and friendships, withholding of information can have disastrous consequences. Parents may choose not to tell their children family secrets. Spouses may choose not to tell one another certain things they’re not proud of. Friends may opt not to share certain information. Why? Because there is a desire to protect loved ones, sparing them pain and heartache, as well as preserving our own sense of self. But it often works out that our loved ones discover these things on their own, or hear about these things from others, and then there must be a reckoning: “Why didn’t you tell me?” Jesus takes the path of sharing the difficult truth of what is to come so that we would know, and knowing, we may be prepared. “Take care,” Jesus tells us.
Here is a call for faithful endurance and perseverance of the saints! You and I, together with fellow believers on earth and in heaven, are all the saints . From today’s Epistle lesson (Hebrews 10:11-25), we learn this saving truth: “… since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Because we have our great high priest, Jesus, who has given his very life as the atoning sacrifice for all our sins, we can endure and persevere in faith. Take care! Hold on! Hang in there! Jesus is coming! Because the cleansing blood of Jesus has delivered us from an evil conscience that accuses before God, and because we have been washed clean in cleansing waters of holy Baptism, we can endure and persevere in faith. Take care! Hold on! Hang in there! Jesus is coming! How can we stir up one another to love and good works now in these days before Jesus comes again? How can we encourage one another about the importance of meeting together just as we are now in this time of worship? As we see the day of Christ’s return drawing ever closer, take care! Hold on! Hang in there! Jesus is coming!
So what is holding Jesus back from coming again? Why the delay? That also is rooted in the love of Jesus, as he tells us: “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations” (Mark 13:10). That’s why Jesus delays his promised return: until all nations have opportunity to hear that blessed and amazing news that God gave his only Son for them and for their salvation. This is not a time for fear and foreboding. It’s a time for boldness and courage in faith. The enemy would like nothing better than for the people of Christ to remain quiet and passive; to keep us locked in an atmosphere of dread and alarm. Even if we suffer for the sake of the Gospel, this becomes opportunity for the child of God! Even standing before rulers who may be hostile to the Gospel message, we have the assurance that the very words God would have us speak will be given to us in that very hour (Mark 13:11). What more could Jesus do for us?
“Take care,” Jesus tells us. And so let us take care that we may be ready and prepared for what lies ahead, and as the Prayer of the Day reminds us, “that we may stand firm until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God help us to do this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.