Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost November 13-14, 2021
“The End” Mark 13:1-13
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
On Wednesday afternoon the staff at Ascension met to share with one another the activities that are coming up at Ascension in the next few months. We compare schedules and coordinate who is doing what. We get to discuss any problems that exist and share a number of good things that have happened.
This past Wednesday, Jim Mullane, our custodian and property management guy, was asked to begin. I said, “Jim, What’s up? What should we be aware of?” He said, “36”. What? 36 what? Jim is sorta losing it and we were all confused. So he explained, “36 days until I retire.” The old guy is going to turn over the vacuum cleaner to someone else after December 31. 36 days until the end.
Everyone goes through an end sometime. Retirement. Moving. Graduation. Over the last month we have had two of our folks who had an end to life – Laurie Arnold and Dave Skinner. Laurie at UC Health and Dave at Littleton Hospital. The doctors called the family in and said that the life of their loved one was going to end soon. The family arrived, said their good-by’s, and shortly after that Laurie and Dave reached their earthly end.
We are just about at the end of a church year and the readings that we have are about the end of the world. In verse 7 of our chapter (Mark 13), Jesus says, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
I have had quite a few folks remark that they think that we are close to that day when the end of the world happens. They think that what we have been experiencing in these last few years is telling them that what Jesus is speaking about in this chapter, and elsewhere, is going to happen very soon. Look at what we are facing. This virus has killed millions and it is still strong. We have faced the extremes in nature with huge fires, extreme drought, flooding that we have not seen for many years, political divisions that are painfully severe. On any day folks just shake their heads and say enough of all these troubles and the discord!!
The Bible says this about the end, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26) God not only tells us about the warning of the end of the world by the physical signs we observe, but also with the moral and spiritual brokenness that we distain. Two pastors, Paul and Timothy, have this discussion, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (II Timothy 3:1-5a)
What do you think? Are we in the last week’s, last month’s, last year’s or last decades of life on this earth? Is the return of Jesus imminent? Be aware that when He returns the end of the world happens. On that day the final judgment and the resurrection of the dead will happen. From Thessalonians, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (I Thessalonians 4:16) What do you think? Time to sell the RV and stick close to home?
I have an answer to this. Here it is. Will Jesus return soon, as we look at soon? Maybe. I’m certain about that. And Jesus will back me up on my certainty. In this chapter He says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
In Mark 13 Jesus is speaking about the destruction of the Temple, a huge and great building in Jerusalem. The destruction of that building would be a warning about the greater destruction – the destruction of our world. The disciples asked Jesus when all this was going to happen, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:4) Jesus gives this answer, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 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.” (Mark 13:5-8)
Why does Jesus spend time with His followers about this issue about the end? Was it to frighten them? Scare them? Raise their blood pressure? No!! He wanted them, and us, to be aware. Be awake. Be ready. At the end of the chapter Jesus says, “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch’.” (Mark 13:36-37)
Some people have not dealt with matters of their soul and their eternity. How foolish. We can make plans for everything in life – our careers, our education, our finances, our wills, but in matters of eternity – heaven or hell – some don’t think about it at all. God never enters the picture. Jesus demands that everyone – you and me – are ready. In the Old Testament for today you heard about God’s warning and His hope for the eternity of all, “But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:1b-2)
If your heart is right you are ready for that day. If your heart is not right then you are not ready. The end can be wonderful and great, or it can be unprepared and filled with uncertainty. The end, the eternity, the ultimate fulfillment of life, is what God has always had in store for you and me when we come to Him with a right heart, that is one that has true repentance, asking Him to receive our grief over our failures and sins. Our life is ready to meet Him face to face, when with a child-like faith and trust we believe that the death of Jesus has brought us peace with God, for Jesus received all our sins upon Himself when He died on the cross and then He defeated death in His resurrection. Aware. Awake. Ready.
Jesus made ready His followers not only so they could face death and eternity but also so they could face life. Many who follow Jesus then, and now, face persecution for holding faithfully to their convictions. Jesus told them, “Be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.” He adds later, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:9a and 11)
The end, for a believer, has a purpose. God didn’t make a mistake when He put you here on earth. He didn’t make a mistake when He gave you your employment, allowed you to live where you live or where you go to school, what team you get to play on, or the choir you sing with. We have a purpose as we wait until the end. St. Paul, in a great word about the end of his life looked forward to living his life. “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 1:20-24)
The time of the end of the world will present great difficulties, physically and spiritually, for all who will be alive during those days. But it will also be a time when God’s Spirit flows mightily. What great days for us, to see God’s Spirit changing the lives of so many people. Jesus says, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Living in these last days is a time to live with purpose and expectation.
The end is coming. Really. Be awake, aware, ready. Live with a true heart and a firm faith. Stand in courage and live with purpose. As the Scripture says, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” (Revelation 22:20) Amen!!