November 1, 2010 David Balzer

Mark 13: Watch out!

Why doesn’t God DO something? Why doesn’t he stop MURDER? Why doesn’t he bring an end to wars, or car accidents, or drug overdoses, or droughts? Why doesn’t he fix the world up? That’s the question Dean and I get asked more often than any other at high school Scripture. Why doesn’t God DO something?

 

And when we talk about how much God loves the world, the kids ask the logical question. “If God loves me so much, then how come my Pop died?” Or “Why did my best friend commit suicide?”

 

Why didn’t God stop them? Why doesn’t God DO SOMETHING? Perhaps that’s a question YOU’VE been asking lately.

 

And it’s not a NEW question either, is it? My guess is people have been asking it for thousands of years. All over the world. For all different sorts of reasons.

 

And they were certainly asking it in Israel in the centuries before Jesus was born. Why doesn’t God DO something?

 

Like in the time of Amos. The rich and powerful in Israel were abusing their power. Like they do in most places, most of the time. There was no justice. Or compassion. There was bribes. And corruption. And inequality.

 

And God had SEEN it all. And Amos tells the people that God is going to DO SOMETHING. Listen to these verses from Amos Ch 5.

(Amos 5:11-15 NIV)  You wicked, you trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; …{12} For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. …{15} Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

 

And Amos goes on to describe WHEN. The day when God will DO SOMETHING. It’s the DAY OF THE LORD. Father’s day with a difference. Our HEAVENLY Father’s day.

 

But those who think they’re doing alright/ are in for a shock on that day. Because the Day would be about JUDGMENT. Also from Ch 5.

(Amos 5:18-24 NIV)  Woe to you who long for THE DAY OF THE LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be DARKNESS, not light. {19} It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. …{21} “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. {22} Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. {23} Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. {24} But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

 

The day was coming when God would act against the religious leaders. Against those who had the DISPLAYS of religion, but no HEART. All leaves and no fruit. All SHOW but no GO.

 

But the day of the Lord wasn’t just BAD NEWS. THE PROPHET JOEL also talked about the day of the Lord. And he said that, as well as judgment, God promises SALVATION. Listen to these verses from Joel Ch 2.

(Joel 2:28-32 NIV)  ‘And afterward, I will POUR OUT MY SPIRIT on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. {29} Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. {30} I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. {31} The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. {32} And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be SAVED; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be DELIVERANCE

 

Notice what God’s promising. The Day of the Lord would bring something NEW. He would pour out HIS SPIRIT on his people in a brand new way. There’d be prophecies, and wonders on a huge, universal and profound scale.

 

And there’d be SALVATION and DELIVERANCE for anyone who called on God’s name. Who stood up for him/ as one of his people.

 

Salvation, His Spirit, Signs and Wonders.

 

God promises WHAT’S going to happen. But he also gives us the “Where”. Notice that it’s all going to focus on JERUSALEM? It’s there in Joel 2 v 32.

 

And God even tells us about WHO’s going to be at the CENTRE of all this action. What, where, and who.

 

In Daniel Ch 7 Daniel describes a dream he had about four awesome beasts who ruled over the world. They were terrifying and savage and brutal. They represent all the earthly powers who are against God.

 

And he describes how God JUDGES the beasts, and destroys them. And then he describes someone else. A son of man, who would rule in a new kingdom. An eternal kingdom. Listen to v13 of Ch 7.

(Dan 7:13-14 NIV)  “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like A SON OF MAN, COMING with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days (that is, God) and was led into his presence. {14} He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

God’s promising to DO SOMETHING to end the mess. To defeat the beasts. On the Day of the Lord. They’ll be judgment, and deliverance. And he’ll bring in a NEW kingdom/ where a SON OF MAN will have authority, and be worshipped.

 

He’s PROMISED it. And God’s people were waiting. Now all God had to do was deliver.

 

2. God DOES something. (Mk 1-12)

And then God DOES something. He DOES deliver. Jesus arrives on the scene. And his first recorded words are

(Mark 1:15 NIV)  “THE TIME HAS COME,” he said. “THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR. Repent and believe the good news!”

 

The Kingdom of God is NEAR. It’s almost time. The Day of the Lord is just around the corner.

 

And as he goes about his work, we see GLIMPSES of the kingdom. Jesus’ authority over demons, over sin, and sickness. Even over death. He releases captives, and brings sight to the blind.

 

But it’s only a glimpse. Because, like Jesus says in Ch 4, the kingdom is like A GROWING SEED. It starts small, you can’t see much happening. In fact, some people don’t even know it’s there. But it’s definitely growing, and getting closer. And then the harvest comes.

 

And the kingdom gets closer.

 

And then we get to the end of Ch 8. Jesus, describing what it means to follow him. Verse 38.

(Mark 8:38 NIV)  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man (that’s Jesus) will be ashamed of him WHEN HE COMES IN HIS FATHER’S GLORY with the holy angels.”

(9:1)  And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see THE KINGDOM OF GOD COME WITH POWER.”

 

The Son of Man will come in His Father’s Glory. That’s straight from Dan 7. When God will establish him at the head of his new kingdom.

 

And Jesus is describing THE SAME EVENT when he says that the kingdom of God is coming in power. The Son of Man comes. The Kingdom of God comes.

 

And it’s SO CLOSE that some standing there would see it. But it’s not here yet.

 

And Jesus starts moving towards Jerusalem. Where all the action’s going to happen. Everyone knows it. From Joel 2.

 

And he gets to the temple. And he judges the religious leaders. Just like the fig tree, they’re all SHOW and no GO. The temple, and everything that goes with it, is ROTTEN to the CORE.

 

The religious leaders are actually STOPPING the nations from praying. So they can make a few extra bucks. And when it comes to PRAYING, their OWN prayers are all AIR, but no SUBSTANCE.

 

They strut around like proud peacocks, in expensive clothes, while widows live in poverty. They line their own pockets by devouring widows’ houses.

 

The Son of Man. In Jerusalem. Pronounces judgment on the religious leaders. That’s all in chapters 11 and 12.

 

But the day of the Lord’s not here YET. The kingdom hasn’t come YET. When will it come? When will God DO SOMETHING?

 

3. God WILL do something! Watch out!

And then we get to Ch 13. That’s actually the passage we’re looking at today!

 

And it’s this SAME QUESTION that’s on the lips of the disciples. Verse 4.

(Mark 13:4 NIV)  “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

 

When will the kingdom of God come? When will the day of the Lord arrive? How will we know when?

 

And Jesus’ answer? “Even I don’t know WHEN. But just BE READY. WATCH OUT”.

 

There’s plenty that’s hard to understand in these verses, but one thing’s clear. Jesus wants to make sure his disciples are READY. That they’re ON GUARD.

 

Verse 5. Watch out that noone deceives you.

Verse 9. You must be on your guard.

Verse 23. So be on your guard.

Verse 33. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.

Verse 35. Therefore, keep watch.

And finally, verse 37. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!

 

And one of the main things they’re to watch out for/ is that they won’t be DECEIVED. They won’t be tricked into thinking that things are ONE WAY, when they’re really ANOTHER.

 

Because there are some AWFUL times ahead. And the disciples will be tempted to think that the kingdom WON’T come, and that the day of the Lord WON’T arrive.

 

Days when it’ll seem like MEN are in control. And that God’s plans have been defeated.

 

Look for example at verse 5. Big scale conflicts.

(Mark 13:5-8 NIV)  Jesus said to them: “WATCH OUT that no one DECEIVES you. {6} Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. {7} When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, BUT THE END IS STILL TO COME. {8} Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the BEGINNING of birth pains.

 

Or down in v12. One-on-one conflict.

(Mark 13:12-13 NIV)  “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. {13} All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to THE END will be saved.

 

And Jesus doesn’t pull any punches about how bad things will be. Look at v19.

(Mark 13:19 NIV)  because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now–and never to be equaled again.

 

The trouble that’s coming for the disciples will be the WORST EVER. Nothing worse BEFORE. And nothing worse EVER AGAIN.

 

That’s big, isn’t it!? What could be SO AWFUL that nothing else will ever compare? The key to it all is in v14.

(Mark 13:14 NIV)  “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong–let the reader understand–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

 

Jesus is describing something that happens. The Abomination that causes desolation. Or the abomination OF desolation or destruction. And it’s put somewhere it doesn’t belong.

 

And I want to suggest that Jesus is talking about HIMSELF. And his death on the cross. How abominable that the Son of God should be placed on a cross. That the Author of LIFE/ should be KILLED. That the one who CREATED/ should be DESTROYED, or DESOLATED.

 

The Son of Man belongs ANYWHERE but on a cross. The Son of Man belongs on a throne. In his kingdom. Receiving worship and honour from the nations. Instead of receiving abuse and ridicule from Jews and Romans.

 

There are some other possibilities for what Jesus is talking about. But what could be worse than that? It’s distress that will never be equalled again.

 

And Jesus’ point is/ when that happens/ be on your guard. It’s NOT the end. The kingdom ISN’T finished. It might LOOK like Satan’s won the day. That’s what SATAN thought. But looks are deceiving.

 

Stand firm to the end. Because this ISN’T the end. It’s only the BEGINNING. It’s the labour pains before the delivery. Look at what happens next. The kingdom of God finally arrives. The day of the Lord finally comes. Verse 24.

(Mark 13:24-27 NIV)  “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; {25} the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ {26} “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. {27} And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

 

The Son of Man will finally be revealed as the King of the kingdom. And all God’s children will be gathered up.

 

What TIME is Jesus talking about there? Many people assume Jesus is talking about his SECOND coming. But I’m not sure that’s right.

 

One big clue is verse 30.

(Mark 13:30 NIV)  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

 

These events are happening SOON. He’s telling the disciples FOR A REASON. They’re to BE READY!

 

I think Jesus is talking about his death and resurrection. THAT’s the Day of the Lord. The day when the Sun and moon and stars recognise what’s going on. Even the CREATION sees the magnitude of what Jesus is doing. The universal significance of what he’s CREATING. Mending. Restoring. As he takes the sin of the world on his shoulders. And brings the whole creation back to the Father.

 

THAT’S when the KINGDOM comes. THAT’s when he’s declared KING over death and sin. Over heaven and earth.

 

That’s what Jesus wants the disciples to be ready for. It will be a great day. And it’s coming soon.

 

But there are troubles first. And they mustn’t be fooled. “Be ready for troubles” he says. You don’t when it will come. Even I don’t know when it will come. Verse 35. “It could be in the evening, or at midnight. It could be when the rooster crows, or at dawn. But don’t let the Master find you sleeping when it happens. What I say to YOU, I say to EVERYONE. Watch!”

 

That’s Jesus’ message to the disciples. And as we move through the rest of the book, leading up to the cross, WE’LL be watchful, too. Looking for the Kingdom to arrive. Will it be in the evening? Or perhaps at midnight? Maybe it’s when the rooster crows? No? Then surely it must be at dawn.

 

And by the time we reach the end of Mark’s book, we know that God HAS done something. HE HAS brought his kingdom in. His Son Jesus HAS been set on his throne. He HAS defeated death. He HAS set the world to rights. His resurrection PROVES it.

 

4. God WILL do something AGAIN. Watch out!

But even THAT isn’t the end either. We’ve only got to look at the world today to know THAT. Because it doesn’t SEEM as if the world’s been set to rights, does it?

 

You see, the kingdom of God has only BEGUN. There is a sense in which the kingdom is NOW, but it’s also NOT YET. We don’t YET see the FULL reign of Jesus over this world.

 

He has defeated sin IN PRINCIPLE, but his children still sin. He has defeated Satan IN PRINCIPLE, but Satan is still the Prince of this world. He has defeated SICKNESS and OLD AGE and DISEASE/ IN PRINCIPLE, but his children still grow old, and get sick. He has set this physical world to rights, but creation still GROWNS to be set free.

 

And people still cry out for God to DO SOMETHING.

 

But here’s the thing. Here’s what I say to those Scripture kids. God HAS done something. The DEFINITIVE action. Jesus’ death and resurrection has laid the foundations for something new. For a NEW HEAVENS and a NEW EARTH. With no pain, or injustice, or sin, or depression. It’s fully paid-up. The contracts are signed. The materials have been bought.

 

And King Jesus is PATIENTLY working out his purposes. And he’s doing it through the church his disciples started. Through US. His kingdom is growing. The light is shining. The salt is flavouring.

 

But one day, God will say “Enough! Time’s UP!” My patience has run out. I can’t stand the pain anymore.

 

Listen to 2 Peter 3. v 7. It’s the verses I read whenever the Scripture kids ask “Why doesn’t God DO something? Why doesn’t he fix everything up?”

(2 Pet 3:7-10 NIV)  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. {8} But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. {9} The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. HE IS PATIENT WITH YOU, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, BUT EVERYONE TO COME TO REPENTANCE. {10} But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

 

Don’t doubt it. God WILL do something. It’s because he LOVES this world that he’s giving people MORE TIME to turn to him. Before they’re called to account.

 

But he doesn’t just PUT UP with the world while he waits for judgment. He LOVES to see his people living for him. That’s what gives him the greatest kick in the world. People living for his glory.

 

And that’s what we should doing as we wait for that NEXT day of the Lord. As we keep watch. Listen to what Peter goes on to say next. Verse 11.

(2 Pet 3:11-14 NIV)  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives {12} as you LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY OF GOD and speed its coming. THAT DAY will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. {13} But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. {14} So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

 

Jesus warned his disciples to be ready for THAT Day. The day of his death and resurrection. And he wants us to be ready too. Ready for the FINAL day. Will you watch out? Will you be ready?

 

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