Good morning church! This week we will jump back to our series from the gospel of Mark. We took a small break to do some stand alone sermons over the last month and now we are excited to continue with our Mark series. We are currently in Mark 13 and the events of today’s passage take place during Passion Week. Sometime between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday which was on Passover night. The Jewish leaders are becoming increasingly hostile toward Jesus at this point.
Literally every passage mentions phrases like “they’re trying to argue with him, trap him, arrest him and destroy him, arrest him” and that’s because Jesus is openly condemning their hypocrisy and exposing their sin. Most of the events surrounding these last few days before Jesus’ death takes place in and around the Jerusalem temple. In spite of knowing what was going to happen to Him, Jesus boldly and willingly presents Himself in front of the very people that are going to crucify Him so that He can offer the sacrifice that can “take away your sins and mine”. That’s the context and let’s jump into today’s text from Mark 13:1-13:
Historically, this topic of “end times” has always fascinated the church. Some churches have heavily focused on this topic of “end times” and they’ll only study and talk about the book of Daniel or Revelations. The danger sometimes is that we can end up spending too much of time and add our own meanings to these symbols. On the other hand, theologians have had wars over for many years debating over when exactly is the end of age and Christ’s return – Pre-millenial, Post-millenial etc. And from this passage, we realize that the disciples also wanted to know about the end times. So it’s not a new question. But I find Jesus’ answer astonishing.
It almost seems like Jesus’ isn’t answering the question but He is. Jesus’ answer on end times is to tell them that they need to be concerned about enduring till the end. They need to be concerned about their response to various difficult situations that are going to come before them. Because what’s mentioned here are severe hardships and I think what this passage is telling us is that a true disciple will endure by the grace of God. And I think that’s the real question that we need to deal with today is am I going to endure till the end? How do I know if my faith is sincere and real?
What’s my response to Counterfeits (v5-6)
There are going to be many counterfeits that are going to come in Jesus’ name saying that they are the Christ. Probably they’ll be able to perform wonders and miraculous signs. Probably they’ll teach with great oratory skills. And not just that but many are going to be led astray. There are going to be many followers of false-Christs. That’s what’s going to make this tricky. Today if you were to buy something from Amazon, what would you look for? Reviews and ratings, right? The more popular the reviews, the more likely you’ll buy this product. And here you’ll find yourself in a place where these counterfeits are having massive followers. So how can we know who’s the real Christ and who isn’t?
If someone happened to give you a fake Rs. 500 bank note, how would you know it’s fake? Because the fake note would probably match the original 95% but there will be that 5% difference which will need to be spotted. And only if you’ve seen the original note and studied it would you be able to identify the fake. In the same way, Christ has revealed Himself to us through the written Word – the Bible. Jesus said that all the Scriptures bear witness about Jesus (John 5:39). So if we are sincerely trying to understand God through the Bible, we will see Jesus shine forth brightly through the pages. We can’t help but notice the person of Jesus & the redeeming work of Christ mentioned in every passage from Genesis to Revelation.
I was encouraged by listening to our brother’s testimony yesterday where he shared how his family came to know Jesus around the time when he was born. They were the first to believe in their entire tribe. Although he saw the faith being lived out in his parents, he didn’t own it until he was in 16. And as he read the Bible, God opened up his heart to see Jesus and understand what Jesus did for him – and he responded in faith on Jesus and got saved! And that’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When we read the Bible – it’s not to learn about history but to learn about His Story! It’s not a rule book for life but an invitation to grow in a Relationship with Jesus! Through the Bible we get to know His character, His power, His Sacrifice, His Example and His Purposes. And not in just a factual knowledge kind of way. Jesus reveals it to us personally through His Spirit so that we can grow in an intimate relationship with Him. Your intimate relationship is going to help you discern if it’s your loving Savior or not! If we truly know Christ and listen to His voice everyday through the Bible, we don’t need anyone else to tell us – this is Christ or that one is Christ. We know for sure ourselves….
And that’s exactly what Jesus meant from John 10:3-5: The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
And that gets reflected a lot of the times in which we think and refer to Jesus. Think about brothers and sisters…do you think and refer to Jesus from a third person’s perspective or first person’s perspective? Is Jesus just someone else’s God or is He “your God and your Lord” where you have known Him yourself and you are getting to know Him more and more intimately each day? Let’s evaluate our hearts and honestly answer if we have truly known Jesus? Not through your pastor or your friend…Do you know Jesus for who He is? If the answer is “I don’t know. I’m not sure”, I think the best place to start from is the Bible and I would encourage you to get in touch with one of the leaders and we would love to get you connected with another brother and sister who can walk with you as you are trying to know Jesus.
What’s my response to Calamities (v7-8)
7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
The second reality that signals the start of the end times are increasing wars and calamities. Nations are going to war with other nations and various earthquakes and famines will be taking place all over the world. This reality is going cause serious physical harm to your safety and your property and your provisions. And Jesus says these are the “beginning of birth pains” which means that the frequency will increase and duration of this as well. This isn’t a pleasant thing to witness but why would Jesus tell us to “not be alarmed”? Are we to ignore this calamity and pretend like it never happened? How can we not be troubled by this?
I think the reason why believers can remain assured even during disasters such as wars and earthquakes and famines is because:
- We know of God’s providence
God is in complete control of all things in the universe. He not only knows what’s going to happen in the future but He also governs its destiny. I like the way the writer of Proverbs 16 mentions it. He says “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. (Prov 16:33)”. It’s like the most random thing in the world is to roll the dice but God is somehow still in control of every outcome. I hope you don’t take this as a reason to take decisions by rolling the dice but understand the proverb that there is nothing random or shocking or “out of control” for God. He always is in control. Even in extreme situations like earthquakes, famines and wars, God governs it and purposefully uses it for His glory.
- We know of a certain future
The Christian life is a life of faith – believing and trusting in promises that God (who doesn’t lie or break his promise) has made for us. Although wars and calamities are realities that might momentarily affect believers but beyond that it won’t because they long for a better place, a better country and better home that’s not on earth but in heaven. Let’s hear what the writer of Hebrews says: 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Heb 11:14-16)
Again, let’s pause and ask ourselves when we think about the impending end times and the calamities that it’s going to bring – does that make you insecure? I understand these are not easy realities to face but ask yourself – what’s stopping me from trusting in God’s providence and the certain future in heaven? Is it because I love my life on the earth so much that I can’t think of losing it? Or is it because I don’t really trust that God is in control of everything?
What’s my response to Persecution (v9-13)
The third thing that is reality during the end times will be severe persecution! I remember brother sharing how India’s rank on the persecuted nations list keeps rising each week.
Jesus tells us that during the end times it’s going to bring persecution from very powerful and influential people, sometimes from religious people who think they are serving God and sometimes even from our own family which probably affects us the most. We will be “hated” and disliked and hugely unpopular for living and talking about Jesus Christ. Yes, that’s true but we will also have the privilege of bearing witness and telling them of how good and how merciful is our God. And we don’t have to prepare a sermon or prepare great arguments or be anxious on what to say at that time.
Jesus says the Holy Spirit will give us the words and will speak through us during that time. During that time of persecution, the Holy Spirit will empower us in a very special and powerful way. And I think that should make us look forward to this. In Acts 8 we see how Stephen is being executed and that same day a great persecution came against the church in Jerusalem which scattered the church throughout Samaria and Judea. We come to Acts 11 and we see how some believers reached Antioch and start sharing the gospel and eventually a church is birthed out of nowhere.
The church of Antioch then becomes the launching pad to send out Paul and Barnabas as church planters to many other places! Especially in urban churches like in our context, the tendency would be to avoid this conversation or minimize the discussions around persecution but as we look at Scripture it seems like a divinely ordained way to advance the gospel of Jesus. I understand why there could be a fear at the thought of it and I know some of us are experiencing it right now but let me encourage us to not look at it negatively but rather embrace the purposes that God has through this in order to use us, reach the lost with the gospel and ultimately bring glory to Himself.