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  • Andy Grice

Read Mark Learn #47 - Wars and rumours of war


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Script below

If you are visiting us this morning, you are joining us in the final stretch of what has turned out to be an epic journey through the Gospel of Mark ...

It was just under two years ago that we started working our way ... section by section ... through the Gospel of Mark ... the shortest of the four Gospels!

I am convinced that this kind of systematic reading of scripture is the best way for us to handle scripture on Sunday mornings ... however ... I didn’t intend it to take quite this long to work our way through Mark ... still ... the end is in sight!

And this morning we are continuing to work our way through this Gospel ... which ...

… as I’ve pointed out before ...

was most likely written to encourage Christians facing persecution

... and ... was written for a response ...

Mark’s words were not written merely to inform or entertain ... but to ask the readers ... which includes us this morning ... how do you respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ ... the Son of God ...

And with that in mind ... we turn this morning to look at Mark Chapter 13 that was read to us a few moments ago (worth having Bibles open)

... which I was encourage to discover this week ... has been described as one of the most difficult parts of Mark to interpret ...

... Much has been written on this chapter ... much ink spilled answering questions that almost no-one other than a few scholars are asking ...

And you may be pleased to know ... I do not intent to rehearse all the scholars debates this morning ...

You see the thing is ... no-one agrees what this passage is really about ...

Some have suggested that this passage is simply a prediction of the destruction of the physical temple ... which took place in AD70 ...

And at first glance this seems to make some kind of sense ...

But if you look more closely ... there’s all kinds of cosmic language ... like the bit about stars falling from the sky ... which have led others to say that this passage isn’t really about the temple ... rather it is about Jesus second coming ... this passage is about the end of the world ...

Others have said that it isn’t actually about either of these things ... instead ... this is a transition between the action that took place in the temple courts in Chapter 12 ... and the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus ... that will be described in the next couple of chapters ...

So ... this passage could be about the end of the temple ... the end of the world ... or the end of the physical life of Jesus ...

Or ...

… one final suggestion ...

it’s a combination of two or three of these things ...

Few things to say about this ...

Firstly ... there is no agreement ... and that’s OK ...

this passage does not deal with issues at the very heart of the faith ... so disagreement is OK ...

Secondly, when we start to think about end of the world type stuff I want to stress v32 ...

… no-one knows the day or the hour ... so let’s not try to read the bible as if it were some kind of end of the world timetable ... that way madness lies ...

Final thing ... although there is little or no agreement ... this chapter is God’s Holy word to us this morning ... and it demands a response ... so with the time we left ... I’d like us to consider Mark chapter 13 thinking in particular about the way it may be inviting us to respond this morning ...

So let’s turn our attention to the text... but not before praying

[let’s pray]

TEMPLE STUFF

So ... Mark 13v1 ...

... as Jesus was leaving the temple ...

It’s worth remembering that at the end of Mark 11 Jesus is teaching in the temple and the authorities challenge Him ... asking where He gets His authority from ...

Then in Chapter 12 ... Jesus faces a number of challenges from the temple elite ...

And then at the start of Chapter 13 ... we are told Jesus is now leaving the temple ...

Remember that the Temple is the heartbeat not only of religious life for the Jewish people ... but the centre of politics, art ... culture ... the nations identity ... the temple was the living beating heart of the entire nation ...

And as they leave ... the disciples point out the splendour of the building ... look at these magnificent stones ...

...

So the temple seems to be in focus ...

And in His response Jesus effectively says that the temple will be destroyed ...

Now from a symbolic and Gospel of Jesus perspective ... part of this must be the acknowledgment that the Jesus has fulfilled the sacrificial system of the physical ... earthly temple ... so that there is no longer need for it ...

But ... at a plain level ... the opening verses of Mark 13 seem to be a simple prediction of the events that will take place in AD70 ... when Jerusalem was sacked and the temple destroyed ...

Events of AD70 key date for this passage …

And in discussing the events leading up to AD70 Jesus says ... look ... stuff is going to happen ... people will make outrageous claims about me ... there will be wars ... there will be rumours of war ... there will be earthquakes ... famines ... you will be persecuted ...

But ...

verse 7 ... Do not be alarmed ...

Now … we are not living in Jerusalem under siege in the years leading up to AD70 ...

We are not living under siege at all ...

So what are we to take from these verses...

Well let me suggest this ...

Whatever happens ... in your life ... in the world ...

do not be alarmed ... don’t panic ... don’t freak out ...

God is in control ... God is sovereign over creation ...

So watch out that you are not deceived ... do not be alarmed ... God is in control ...

Which made me think of two things ...

The first was the England rugby team ...

I mention England Rugby not simply because I am enjoying their current success ... although I admit I am partly motivated by that :-)

But actually it was a way of thinking of the game of Rugby they used in their successful World Cup campaign a few years ago ... something they called T-Cup ...

The coaches had studied countless games of rugby ... and had calculated that once you got the ball ... it was possible to score within 90 seconds ... so even if you were behind in a game ... you needed to T-CUP ... think correctly under pressure ... and remember that a score was always possible ... instead of doing what most teams do when they are behind with only minutes to go ... which was panic ... and go to pieces ... a bit like Scotland seemed to do yesterday ...

It was T-CUP ... thinking correctly under pressure ... that lead Johnny Wilkinson to kick the drop goal in the dying seconds of the 2003 world cup to beat Australia in their own back yard ...

And this passage in Mark 13 reminds me of T-CUP ... that although things may look bad ... Jesus tells His followers to T-CUP ... remember that God is in control ... God is in charge ...

I know that not everyone likes sporting illustrations ... so another way I’ve pictured this is to not worry about the waves on the surface ... but to think about the current underneath ...

Waves may come and go ... but you will still be swept along by the current ...

God is sovereign ... God is in control ... whatever happens in the world ... in our culture ... in this church ... we need not panic ... for the current of God’s kingdom cannot be stopped ... so don’t be alarmed ...

So that’s the first thing I think we need to take from this passage ... God is in charge of history ... so let’s rest in that ...

Second, thing ... v10 ... the gospel must be preached to all nations ...

I thought having the AGM on a Sunday morning in the middle of our worship service as a good idea ...

Until I sat down to try to prepare a script ... and I thought it wouldn’t work at all ... but actually I think it did ... and I’m pleased that a number of other people have said some encouraging things ...

and I know that there is at least one person who would like to read out what they love about Salem ... and we’ll do that next week ... and I do want to encourage you to read the board ... perhaps over lunch ... AnnualReport will be sent out this week … let me know if you want a hard copy …

I think last week gave us a sense of just how much we are doing as a church ... and I think rightly that there was a real sense of celebration around all that we are doing and hoping to do in the future ... there was a great energy ... and optimism ... and I don’t want to lose that ...

But studying Mark 13 this week reminded me that in the midst of all the different activities we need to work hard to ensure that we are preaching ... and proclaiming the Gospel ...

That we are actually telling people ... announcing to people ... the good news about Jesus ...

… In Cheltenham and to all nations ...

... We must ensure that the great commission doesn’t become the great omission in our life together ...

And so I’m challenging myself to think about the people that I know who are not yet Christians ... and how I am praying for them ... and how I am preparing myself to intentionally and pro-actively share the gospel with them ...

The Gospel must be preached to all nations ...

Third thing from this passage ... verse 14 ...

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.

the abomination that causes desolation comes from the book of Daniel ... and this seems to be a reference to the sacking of the Temple in AD70 ... that will take place at the end of the siege of Jerusalem that will last for a number of years ...

So what Jesus seems to be saying here is that for a number of years there will be all kinds of things going on ... but don’t be alarmed ... stay put ... but then ... there will come a time when you will need to head to the mountains ... you’ll need to get out of there ...

Now again … we are not living in Jerusalem AD70 … so how does this passage speak to us today?

And I think what we are seeing here is the intertwining of themes that we see running throughout the Bible ... God’ sovereignty ... and Human responsibility ...

We know that God is in charge ... God is Sovereign over His creation ... but this does not mean that we stop being careful ...

money ... safeguarding ... etc.

Fourthly and finally …

the closing verses of Mark 13 deals with the more cosmic ... end of the world type stuff ... or ... some would say ... discuss the coming death and resurrection of Jesus ...

I think these verses are important ... because they help us know the story ... know the history ... to see the current under the waves ... that no matter how choppy it gets on the surface ... the current still flows ...

But I don’t really want to focus on these verses too much this morning ... rather I want to get to the application at the end of what Jesus has to say ...

v28 ... summer is near ...

v35 ... Be on guard! Be alert!

v35 ... keep watch ... and at the very end of v37 Watch!

The first part of Chapter 13 tells us not to panic when facing trials and tribulation ...

The thing is ... this isn’t really the situation in the western minority world that we live in ...

But the closing verses of Chapter 13 seem to warn us to not fall asleep ... but stay awake ... and keep watch ... don’t coast ...

And I just wonder if this warning about coasting … sleepwalking … is more relevant to the church in the west … more applicable to our situation …

I wonder if you’ve ever driven without thinking what you are doing ... or walked somewhere ... and arrived with no recollection of the journey ...

I’ve set off on the wrong direction down the M5 on my way to Bristol when I was supposed to be going North to Tewksbury because I was driving on auto-pilot ...

I doubt that I’m the only one to have done something like this ...

at its most dangerous of course some people do actually fall asleep at the wheel ... even if only for a second ... sometimes with disastrous consequences ...

And I cannot help but feel that there is a warning here in Mark 13 ... to not fall asleep at the wheel ...

you see ... summer is near ...

I don’t just mean the season of summer you understand ... although this week has been a glorious sense that spring has sprung and that summer is just around the corner ...

But more than that ... metaphorically summer is near ...

Let me mention again the great sense of energy and optimism there was last week at our AGM ...

I think that there is a new energy in and amongst the deacons ... I think a number of us are sensing that summer is near ...

There have been a number of surveys and studies and articles produced in the last year or so ... recognizing that the spiritual temperature of the country has and is changing ...

that people are not as hostile to the gospel message ... the one that we are called to preach ... as they were even 10 years ago ... summer is near ...

It seems that in the everyday world ... as opposed to the world according to the media ... in the everyday world where we live, work, study and play ... people know Christians ...

know that they go to church ... and in general like them ... they like and respect people like you ... and in general ... most of them are open to talk more about spiritual things ... and most are open to hearing about the Gospel ... summer is near ...

So here’s the question ... here’s the challenge ... from Mark 13

Are we awake?

Are we each fulfilling our assigned task ...

Are we keeping watch ...

… or are we asleep at the wheel ...

I guess that’s the idea behind one step forward this year … [explain]

What will help you and us ... stay awake and move forward...

Let’s not be a church that coasts on auto-pilot the wrong way down the motorway shall we ...

So I see four points from today’s passage

(1) T-CUP ... remember that God is sovereign ... and in control ...

(2) The Gospel is to be preached ... this is our great commission … let’s not lose sight of this …

(3) Alongside God’s Sovereignty we are responsible for our own actins and our own safety ... so lets be canny ... let’s be sensible and wise

(4) Summer is near... so let’s stay awake ...

To work … and to pray??

I wonder if this can all be summed up by simply saying ... let’s have an eternal perspective ... let’s remember where we are headed ... no matter what the waves are doing ... by the grace of God we shall be swept by the current into the new heavens and the new earth ... and when we’ve been there 10 thousand years ... well you know the rest ... and we’ll sing it in a moment ... but let me close by inviting you … if you are able to please stand ...

v31ff

about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

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

34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.

36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.

37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”

Go and learn what this means ...


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