Advent 1 Year B Mark 13:24-37
24"But in those days, following that distress, " `the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25the 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. 27And 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. 28"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 32"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his 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. 36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: `Watch!' "
There are two differnet sermons on this page...
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent means 'coming' and Christians remember how everything was prepared for the first coming of Jesus into the world. During Advent Christians prepare afresh to celebrate that special birthday. Furthermore we recall that there will be a second coming of Jesus.
Advent also starts in the darkest time of year - it usually begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and lasts until midnight on Christmas Eve. Christians think of Jesus as the light coming into a dark world and advent candles reminds us of that Christians are to be lights in a dark world.
Today's gospel poses the question, "What do you trust in?"
Your finances? The current economic situation shows how uncertain this can be.
Your health, perhaps your intellect, your qualifications? All these are temporary and cannot be relied upon.
The security of the earth? Global warming could result in many areas of land being flooded. Changes in the climate could result in starvation and hardship for many parts of the developing world. We can't rely upon the earth to remain constant if we mistreat it.
The security of the solar system? That the sun will rise tomorrow and the moon and stars shine at night? Jesus says that we cannot even rely upon this. A time will come when all of this will fail. If this seems incredible, then think that just a few years ago the idea of radical climate change was inconceivable.
What can we be sure of then?
1) We can be sure that Jesus will come again.
This is the only major unfulfilled prophecy in the Bible. This Advent and Christmas time we will be reminded how God's rescue plan to save people was planned before time began and revealed in the Bible hundred's of years before.
Jesus said "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away". Jesus words will never vanish because He will live forever. Therefore, we should hear and obey His teaching because our response will affect our eternal destiny.
2) We can be sure that he will gather his elect.
"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."
When Jesus came the first time it was in a small stable. He was visited by a small number of people. Some shepherds and, later on, some magi. His birth went largely unnoticed, apart from the murder by Herod of the boys under two in Bethlehem when he realised the magi were not coming back to him.
When Jesus comes next time everyone will see him. Not as a helpless baby but with great power and glory. Everyone will have to acknowledge him. But only those who have acknowledged who he is beforehand and wholeheartedly committed themselves to Him will be gathered into God's kingdom. These are "The elect" Jesus refers to. This will not include everyone. It will not include all who consider that they should or will get to heaven. We have seen this in the last few weeks.
Last week we saw in the parable of the sheep and goats how only those who practically care for fellow believers will be admitted into heaven. They were surprised that they had helped Jesus. The others were surprised that they had not.
Two weeks ago, in the parable of the talents, we were reminded that we are to serve God and use everything that is loaned to us to further His rule. There is no place for playing it safe or laziness.
Three weeks ago we considered the parable of the wise and foolish virgins which teaches that we are to be prepared for Jesus' return, whenever that will be.
Jesus underlines this in today's passage. We see this by the instructions he gives. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: `Watch!'
Like the owner of the house, Jesus has left the earth. Like the owner, we, his servants, do not know when he will return. But return he will. We are to watch, be aware, and be prepared. We are all called to serve, worship, witness, and be holy to the praise and glory of Jesus, looking forward to the day that he returns.
If we do sincerely trust in Jesus, God will help us by His Spirit, living within us. Today's epistle teaches this. "8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." If we rely on God and not ourselves or anything created by God He will help us to persevere into paradise.
Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983) "We are not a post-war generation; but a pre-peace generation. Jesus is coming."
If we were to know that Christ was returning tomorrow would that motivate us to ensure that we are right with God and to try to persuade those whom we love yet do not follow Christ to turn to Him? Jesus could return this very day. Let us live as if each day were the last before he does return.
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Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent means 'coming' and Christians remember how everything was prepared for the coming of Jesus into the world. There is also a sense in which we, as Christians, prepare to celebrate that special birthday. Furthermore we recall that there will be a second coming of Jesus, as Keith reminded us last week and as we looked at on November 3rd when we looked at Matthew 24:1-14.
Advent also starts in the darkest time of year - it usually begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and lasts until midnight on Christmas Eve. Christians think of Jesus as the light coming into a dark world and advent candles reminds us of that.
Christians are to be lights in a dark world. Last week we looked at the parable of the sheep and goats which teaches that true faith involves helping fellow Christians, and people who claim to be Christians and omit to do this will be excluded from God's presence. Two weeks ago we had the parable of the talents to remind us that we are to keep on serving Jesus until he returns.
Christians should live out their faith, letting their light shine in a dark world. Paul writes of this to the Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
While browsing around in the attic, John came across an old report card which had been his father's. He brought it downstairs and compared it with the one he had just received at school and which he intended to show when his dad was in a good mood. When Dad was seated in his easy chair, John approached. "Hey Dad, just look at this old report card of yours and then look at the one I just got. Why, your grades aren't any better than mine." "You're right, son," Dad replied. "I guess the only fair thing to do now is give you what my Dad gave me."
The theme that undergirds the second coming of Jesus and our gospel reading today is judgement. We have seen over the last four weeks how people who have not responded fully to Jesus in thought, word and deed will be condemned.
This week the High Court decided that judges and not the Home secretary should be the final arbiter as to how long a 'life' sentence should be. Surely, not too much of a surprise as they were hardly likely to decide that someone other than their own is best qualified to judge!
The idea of God, or indeed anyone judging is difficult for some people today. We live in an age when criminals are appealing against sentences given to them, and people consider themselves the final judge in things, something that is fed by the intrusion of the press. Yet, when someone is wronged, they demand justice.
Many people have an incorrect image of God. They see him as an affable, avuncular forgiving figure patting people on the head and saying, 'There, there, I'm sure you tired your best, come to heaven'. Yes, God is forgiving. He is forgiving to those who are united with Jesus. Jesus received the condemnation for their sins on the cross. These are the 'elect' who Jesus refers to in verse 27. This is referring to God choosing of people to be saved. This salvation involves the acceptance of the salvation offered through Jesus' death and resurrection through the work of the Holy Spirit together with a Spirit inspired response of worship, holiness and, service. Believers were chosen by God before the world began (Ephesians 1:4).
God is loving and forgiving but he is also perfect and cannot tolerate sin. He has judged and will judge people who have rejected His ways. We see this in the Old Testament, for example he judged the Israelites whom he had delivered from the slavery of Egypt by stopping all who had been unfaithful entering the Promised Land. Later He used the Babylonians to judge his people by conquering Judah and exiling many people.
Jesus himself had more to say about hell than any NT writer or speaker (e.g., Matt 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 13:41-42; 25:46). Through a variety of pictures and images, the NT presents a frightening portrayal of the everlasting suffering of those who have rejected the gospel. In Mark 13:24-37 Jesus speaks of two judgements that will come. One in the near future, the second much later. These are the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the second coming, whenever that may be.
We looked at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 , four weeks ago ( Matthew 24:1-14 ), so I will briefly recap on what we discovered. Jesus disciples had been admiring the magnificent temple in Jerusalem ( Mark 13:1 ) and Jesus informed them that it would be totally destroyed; 2 "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
Jesus words were fulfilled in A.D. 70, when the Romans under Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem, its inhabitants and the temple buildings. Stones were even prized apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire. Excavations in 1968 uncovered large numbers of the stones, toppled from the walls by the invaders.
There were few if any Christians because they knew of Jesus' words in verses Luke 21:20-24. 20 "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The Christians escaped from Jerusalem before, or during its siege. Many of them went across the River Jordan to a town called Pella.
Jerusalem was punished by God because it had rejected Jesus whom God had sent to save them. He was the Messiah that they were so eagerly looking forward to, but they rejected him. This is the first judgment that Jesus talks about in this passage.
28 "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Fig trees around Jerusalem normally begin to get leaves in March or April but do not produce figs until their leaves are all out in June. This is a sign that the summer is beginning. Jesus was warning his disciples about signs that would precede the destruction of Jerusalem. These included wars and rumours of wars, persecution, betrayal, and `the abomination that causes desolation', verse 14. This was interpreted by early Christians to refer to the occupation of the Temple in 67 and 68 A.D. By the Zealots. They were a Jewish patriotic party started in the time of Quirinius to resist Roman aggression. According to Josephus (War 4.3.9; 5.1; 7.8.1), the Zealots resorted to violence and assassination in their hatred of the Romans, their fanatical violence eventually provoking the Roman war. They allowed criminals to roam around the 'Holy of holies', committed murder in the Temple and, and instituted their own high priest, Phanni. In November 66 the Jewish forces had defeated the Roman Twelfth Legion, but it was certain that this could only lead to more Roman forces coming, ensuring that the Jews were comprehensively defeated, as they were in 70 after Jerusalem had been under siege.
How do you learn to trust the word of someone? By finding out if they are true to their word. If they say that they will do something and then do it you are likely to trust them when they promise something again, and again and again.
Because Jesus' words about his life, death and resurrection came true, His words about the destruction of Jerusalem came true, so we can trust in Him and His words. Indeed, His words are more permanent than the impressive Temple, and even the universe. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The pattern of salvation for believers and condemnation for those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and saviour will be repeated when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. Those who have not accepted Jesus and followed His ways will have to bear the condemnation that this brings which is separation from God forever. Christians will not be condemned, Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We can look forward to being with God forever, unaffected by sin and death, with perfect resurrection bodies.
In any court case, their are two sides. Those who are found 'guilty' who are punished for their transgression, and those who are wronged against, the 'innocent' who are justified. Christians are innocent in God's sign, justified through Jesus' life, death and resurrection. So, judgment isn't always a negative thing.
"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. From this passage we can deduce that Jesus return will ; this involve judgement; it will be seen by all and it will reveal Jesus in his triumph and majesty.
This will be preceded by cosmic disturbances. 24"But in those days, following that distress, " `the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' This type of picture is used in the Old testament, for example in Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 to refer to God coming to punish sin and pour his wrath upon the nations. Jesus ' would have been fully aware of this imagery as he spoke of his return and the condemnation that this will bring for those who were not chosen by God before the world began. How can we know who has been chosen ? Not only by a profession of faith, but also a life lived in obedience of God. This includes the need to keep serving as we read in the parable of the absent master in verses 34 -37. From this we can conclude that Jesus' return will be sudden and surprising. This has some similarities with the parable of the talents that we looked at two weeks ago ( Matthew 25:14-30 ). Yes, there is to be vigilance and the certain knowledge that the master, Jesus, will return at some, unknown time. But this should not be the only activity, both parables involve the servants using the gifts at their disposal for the master's business. In today's reading each servant has their assigned task, verse 34. Each Christian has at least one task that they are gifted for, and God expects his followers to serve him. Jesus invented the church as we discovered on 25/8/02 Matthew 16:13-20 when we looked at Peter's confession of Christ and Jesus' response that he would build his church on Peter, 'Rocky'. Jesus also expects his followers to take a full and active part in the life of the church.
We are currently in between the first and second comings of the Lord Jesus. The new age broke into this present evil age when Christ rose from the dead, but the new has not yet wholly replaced the old. We experience some of the blessings that Jesus has secured, including forgiveness of sins, a right relationship with God and some victory over sin. But there is much more to come and we will have to wait for Jesus to return and take us to be with Him in that perfect kingdom. We are 'in between' kingdoms, in this world but not of it. We are to set our minds on God because we are citizens of heaven. As people of God the church is called to engage urgently in mission and evangelism because it may be a brief time before Jesus returns.
This week I discovered some correspondence on the internet about my old school. I quote a letter from fellow student Paul Thompson who went on to become a DJ. He wrote this about me "James Pye - if you remember him you may be somewhat surprised to learn that he is now The Reverend Jim Pye - a less likely candidate to go into the clergy I would have found it hard to imagine!"
I used to consider Paul a friend! At first I was a little peeved to be regarded in this way. Then I reflected upon God's grace and mercy to me in bringing me to trust in Jesus and calling me to become a clergyman. Clearly Paul did not realize that, even when I was at school, God was working in my life. Perhaps there are people who we could not imagine coming to faith but where God will surprise us, one day.
We all need to follow Jesus and discover and use the gift or gifts that God has given each of us to build up the church. This does not mean that everyone is called to be a preacher, or do something 'out at the front'. Every job is vitally important, because things don't happen 'at the front' unless people are doing things behind the scenes.
We are all called to serve, worship, witness, and be holy to the praise and glory of Jesus, looking forward to the day that he returns.
John Wesley was asked how he would change his plans for the day if he knew that Christ was returning at the end of that day. He replied he would not change anything. If we were to know that Christ was returning tomorrow would that not motivate us to ensure that we are right with God and to try to persuade those whom we love yet do not follow Christ to turn to Him? Jesus could return this very night. Let us live as if each day were the last before he does return.
Dear God of all grace, I am eager to be with You in glory above. Meanwhile, I humbly beseech You to develop my life spiritually. Please complete what is missing, stabilize my walk, empower me within, and ground me in Your love - all by Your grace, Amen.