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Mark 13 – Context and a Pattern

Jesus starts out talking about the Temple and how it will be destroyed.  The Apostles ask when it will happen.  In response, Jesus goes on to warn the Apostles about trials and suffering they will undergo.  He also tells them, using apocalyptic prophetic style, what the signs are that this is about to pass.  Since we don’t ever use that style of speaking in grand images and pictures to depict things, especially God’s judgment, we often think this must mean the end of time.  However, verse 30 says plainly that all of this will come to pass before that generation passes away.  The reference to the abomination that causes desolation is from three different passages in the book of Daniel.  The mention of the sun and moon being darkened are from Isaiah.  Following on the criticisms of the Jewish leaders in chapter 12, Jesus is showing that they will not escape their failings.  God’s judgment will come as the prophets foretold in the past, and in that generation’s present.

…or is it?

Even though I understand that passage to refer to Rome’s eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it does still have value and significance for us today.  Daniel, Isaiah, and now Jesus all speak of times when God judges people and cultures who fail to be faithful.  These examples show us that God often works in patterns, doing in this day what he has done in times past.  But even those who are faithful will undergo trials, as Jesus plainly tells the Apostles in this chapter.  He tells them that they will be arrested, tried, and go through persecutions.  What’s important is to know that God is in charge.  He will take care of the Apostles when they undergo persecution.  Jesus is providing warnings to care for his people during the time of judgment to come.

God is in control.  Even when it seems like he isn’t, we have to know that he is.  He ends this section with a simple instruction, “Watch!” With all the questions currently circulation about the end of times, the wrong questions are being asked. It isn’t a question of “When” but of “Are you ready?”

I am comforted by v31. All kinds of things come along in life that demand your attention and we feel often demand our loyalty, this verse helps keep things in perspective. Heaven and earth, and everything in them, will pass away. All of your stuff will be kindling for the great big bonfire at the end. God’s Word will never pass away. If you find yourself being pulled this way and that by the things of this world that demand your attention, keep them in perspective.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Mark

 

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Matthew 24 – Already or Not Yet?

Jesus and the Apostles were walking by the Temple when they said, “Jesus, look at all these beautiful buildings and structures.”  Jesus responds, “They will all be torn down. Completely torn down.”  Can you imagine if the Apostles had been American?  “Jesus, look at our founding documents and their inclusion of faith.  Look at our courts with the 10 Commandments above the doors.  Look at our confession of faith on our money.”  If Jesus simply said, “It’s all going to be destroyed.”  Can you imagine that shock.  That surprise exists in ways we can’t even imagine in between verse two and three.  Then the Apostles want all the gaps filled in…”What are you talking about?”

What was Jesus talking about?  He tells us some things directly and gives us clues to the rest.  He is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, which we know from history happens around 70 AD at the hands of Rome.  The Temple was utterly destroyed and the siege of Jerusalem fits the horrific description contained in Matthew 24.  Jesus uses the Apocalyptic language of Daniel (verse 15 tells us that this is what’s going on) to paint a graphic picture of what is coming.  Verse 35 says, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

It’s generally accepted that this first part of Matthew 24 is referring to the Fall of Jerusalem.  However, starting with verse 35 or 36 there either is or isn’t a transition into a number of prophecies and parables that continue through the next chapter even.  It’s difficult to tell whether Jesus is continuing to talk about the Fall of Jerusalem or the Final Judgment Day return of Jesus.  Let’s examine this a bit further.  Here are the opening phrases from each section:

  • But about that day…
  • At that time…
  • Again, it will be like…
  • When the Son of Man comes…

All of these introductions would seem to indicate that Jesus is continuing on the same topic and that he is connecting each story to the preceding stories.

Finally, chapter 26 begins with “When Jesus had finished saying all these things…”  This phrase is the first one that definitively ends that discourse and begins something new.  Although, common understandings of many of these passages assume that Jesus has already transitioned to talking about end times as early as verse 35 and almost universally by the beginning of chapter 25.  Adding further confusion to this is the ending to the parable of the Sheep and the Goats which says, “Then they will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  This very much sounds like the end times judgment day.

This is how I felt writing this blog…hopefully it’s not how you feel reading it.

So what’s the answer?  Well it can certainly mean both.  If Jesus is describing to his Apostles the need to be constantly prepared and living with an awareness that Jesus will come in judgment of Israel and Jerusalem and that they must live like every day might be the last…isn’t that also true for us since we also know Jesus can come back in a big end-of-the-world kind of judgment at any time.  One of the advantages of speaking in parables is that it provides room to apply to many people in many situations and many times.

Is it possible that Jesus transitions earlier in the text to speaking of end times?  Yes.  Is it possible he never does transition to end times?  I can’t make myself believe that based on 25:46.  Can all of it be about the end times?  The time constraints that Jesus places on 24:1-34 make me think that it’s not all about end times.

So what?  So Jesus may come back tonight, tomorrow, next Thursday or in 1,343 years.  This should prevent apathy.  This should eliminate procrastination among God’s people.  This should affect how we prioritize and plan.  You and I should live every day as if tomorrow is Jesus’ (and our) homecoming.

 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Acts 3 – Natural Response to Work of the Holy Spirit

Peter and John go to the temple at the time of prayer because they are still Jews, they just believe the Messiah has come. The early Jewish Christians naturally went to the temple as part of their worship and included Jesus in their forms of worship…which I’m sure caused some problems.

Peter and John healed the lame man purposefully; he did not ask to be healed. Often when miracles take place it is to act as witness to the power of the Holy Spirit and point people to Christ. This situation is no different. His natural reaction to this healing power was to walk into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. I love that! The man’s natural reaction to the healing power of God was to turn and praise Him. Lord, give me this understanding of how you have healed me.

The man’s worship brought the quick attention of everyone around. It is almost as if Peter and John were walking into the temple with the intention of telling everyone about Jesus and needed an object lesson so they grabbed this guy. One of the major points of the message is found in verse 21, “…until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” This man is now a standing example of the kind of restoration that is to come. Jesus, on the cross, conquered death so that all things would be made new again.

 

There are two major things that I want to take away from today’s reading:

First, I want to recognize the power of the cross and the resurrection in a way that my natural reaction is to jump for joy and praise God. I want to understand the excitement of what it means to be saved. I understand it conceptually but I want to know it with a deeper conviction!

Second, I want to be aware of ways in which I can bring redemption to people’s lives in ways that I can point to it and tell them that Jesus does that more fully on the cross with their lives. In every way that I can bring elements of the New Creation to the world, I want to do it and point to Christ with it in hopes that their natural reaction will be to jump for joy and praise God.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Acts, Bible Blog

 

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