Friday 1 December 2023

MARK 13 v 24-41

Sunday is the first day of Advent, and the start of a new Church year.

   The return of Jesus and the end of the age is the thought of Advent readings

This Chapter is one of the most Jewish in the Bible, containing Jewish history and ideas. All through it, Jesus is using terms which were well-known to Jews of His day, but are strange to non-Jews.

The subject is referred to in the three Synoptic gospels when Jesus was walking with His Apostles pass the Temple and they remarked how beautiful the building was. Actually it was the grandest building in the world, as large as York Minster, in white stone each stone being 40 x 12 feet in size.  Jesus told them that the building, which had taken 54 years to build would be pulled down.  The Apostles asked Him what the signs would be to signify the end of the age, believing the coming down and the end of the age were the same thing. 

The answer Jesus gave was really in two parts.  Jesus could foretell the coming down of the temple, but not even He knew the end time; so He was telling them of the various events that would happen before the Temple came down, all of which would be repeated in cycles through time, until one such period would be the final one.

The description given here is a fearful one of the sun, moon and stars all failing to give light. Then Jesus will appear, coming in majesty of the King of the world, with great power and glory. At the same time, chaos would occur as people would be scattering in panic from where they were, and false prophets would acting in the place of Jesus. 

Whilst He did not know when this would happen, He knew He would be coming, so He was obviously prophesising. This was however a grave warning leaving us to live in the shadow of eternity.

  Each advent we turn to anticipate the return of Jesus to earth, and consider the situation in which we live.      

     Things are appearing in our day regarding human behaviour, which could be applied to the belief we are right at the edge of the promised return of the Lord, although it is unlikely most of us will be alive at that time. 

 The nuclear threat increases by the day, as nations such as Iran acquire nuclear capability and threaten the peace of the whole Middle East.  North Korea desperately wants to launch an attack on the Unite States, which in reply would obliterate North Korea and possibly mean conflict with China, which paradoxically could resolve the whole issue by cutting off the psychopath ruling North Korea.

 Think of Gaza.Who would have believed that human men would shoot the parents in front of their children; shoot dogs; burn houses down with women inside; rape women; take away aged people; and behead babies. Yet across the world people in thousands cheer them on.

 The  early Church lived with the expectation that the Second Coming would happen at any moment, and would be preceded by a time when evil would increase, a time when human conduct would be shaken to its moral foundations  There was the idea that the Church would under threat before the end time.  

     These ideas do enshrine a permanent truth, that at some time before the Lord’s return, a period will come when evil meets God in a head on collision.  Paul gives a terrible picture of life in a godless world. 

We have to consider how that picture relates to our society.  The list is like today’s headlines.  Surely the times we live in fit his description. 

He is concerned that Christians will fall prey to these conditions,and live hypocritical lives, by which they will outwardly appear committed and devoted, but will actually have no inner power to resist. The Churches in this country, have been wide open for anyone to attend, but they are virtually empty, and one of the reasons is there has been a sense of self-sufficiency felt during more prosperous times. 

      Today there is a total breakdown of the home, as men and women put their own desires before those of their husband/wife, and especially the needs of their children. 

Then we have unholy people, those who are unwilling to observe the basic decencies of life, a flaunting of ungodly actions, a shameless pleasure in doing things to disgust; the sort of behaviour you can find on the streets of our cities, or indeed on television.

Paul wants us to know there will be dangerous times for Christians.  In many non- Christian lands, Christians face persecution on a daily basis, with threats of violence imprisonment, or even death, for expressing their faith in any way.  Whilst such physical assault is not (yet)meted out in this country, we are under sustained attack on our faith from government legislation, which is distinctly anti-Christian and forces Christians under threat of prosecution, to accept that which is contrary to our belief and Biblical teaching. 

In addition, we have restrictions placed on us to avoid upsetting other faiths and non-Christians, to such an extent that our Bibles cannot be openly displayed in public libraries, and charities which dare mention God or Christ, are denied charitable status. 

But the New Testament everywhere seeks to convince, that the Church is the most important body of people in the world, around which God builds society. 

Paul however, warns about those who hold an outward form of religion, but whose lives deny the power thereof.  There are people today who are being exposed to the Bible, who will sing hymns, and go through ritual that is being celebrated in Churches across the country, yet during the week reflect attitudes described in such a way that destroys the fabric of society.  

 It is a great tragedy for our children, in that they are growing up not knowing the stories of Jesus, or other Biblical stories as was once the case.  In many homes, this is due to the fact the parents do not have the time, inclination, or knowledge to help them. Take that, and the fact that with the omission of religious teaching in (state)schools as part of their education,  you realise just how spiritually deficient our children are. It would be so more beneficial if the State could be a little concerned with their religious education, rather than be obsessed with giving them sexual education, and probably solve a lot more problems. 

Now compare the situation in Muslim homes, where children are given regular instruction from the Koran, and furthermore, will not allow their holy book to be abused as we allow our Bible to be. 

So these verses are descriptive of our day, of a society which will forsake a Christian consensus and live, not by Christian principles, which lead to health and wholeness of body, mind and spirit, and permits people to live at peace and enjoy their lives, but by substituting principles of their own.     

We are submerged in a world that is committed to falsehood, which is why we are called to proclaim the truth.

If ever the Word of God was needed, it is never more so than now.  It calls for people to turn back to God who is ready and able to meet the needs of everyone who turns to Him.  The message we have for the world is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ. 

In this Chapter, the words of Jesus, yet to be fulfilled, the return of Jesus is

contrasted to His First coming. He came first as a tender child in weakness of a poor woman, in a manger at Bethlehem, not noticeably known. The second time, He will come in dignity with many angels around Him. and to be known across the world

He came first to suffer by bearing our sins, and to be horrifically crucified. The next time, to reign and  claim the kingdoms over which He will rule. He will righteously judge all people, and He will reap what we have sewn, and reward all who have been faithful to Him.  The Jesus who bore a Cross shall wear a crown.

The Jesus of Nazareth who was despised, and had His gospel rejected, shall appear as Judge, and all shall appear before Him. He will gather all His true people, and angels shall help in finding His people. they will be cared for, and be protected when judgement is made.  The wrath of God will fall on non-believers, but a joyful meeting, of all believers in the faith, of every country and of all ages.

Jesus spoke of the fig tree, just as it can be taken that budding leaves tell summer is near, there will be events fulfilled which will tell the coming of the Lord is near.

All Christians should act carefully in the days ahead, such is a duty not to be neglectful.  Jesus once rebuked the Jews for not recognizing the signs of the time, and wants us to be ready.

In to-day’s verses, we see how Jesus so carefully tells of His predictions being fulfilled.  He warns heaven and earth may pass away, but His words will never do so.  This should encourage Christians and the Church, to notice with care the Word of God and teach as it is written, and not rewritten a some are doing

 Within each one of us there is a need for things which money can’t buy, and desires which we cannot express.  Whilst the majority may not be willing to accept it, we all need a spiritual life.  We need God and the forgiveness which He offers in Jesus Christ.  Without this our souls are restless

Let us leave this chapter with a sure conviction of the truth of the predictions, and live ready to meet the Lord.

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