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Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 28 - Series B

Text: Mark 13:1-13

Title: “Some Things Don’t Change”

Date: Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

There’s a newspaper editorial that I want to share with you. It reads: "The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. It's an incessant strain to keep pace -- and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more!" Do you think that paragraph accurately describes the world or not? I ask because that quote was first published in The Atlantic Journal on June 16, 1833. Amazing! Over 185 years ago, people were convinced society's pressure was too great and the world's pace was too fast. I guess some things just don't change.
         Indeed, some things don't seem to change, do they? For instance…how about people who want to know when the end of the world is going to come and how it will happen? Will the earth's end happen as we are all sucked into some super-dense black hole? Will we become victims of a highly effective plague? People want to know if our end will be brought about by the universe collapsing-in on itself? Will it be the passing of a comet that sucks away our atmosphere? Or will it be a doomsday meteor, which zaps us into oblivion? What do you think? How will the end of the world come? Will we be washed away by a tsunami…fried by global warming…or frozen by global cooling? Will some degenerate, desperate tyrant decide to go down in history as the guy or gal who hit the red button that began the nuclear war to end all wars? People of the world want to know: "What is the global train wreck which is going to bring about the earth's end?"
         It’s the question for the ages. How and when will this earth come to an end? To find God's answers to that question, many Christians have spent considerable time over the years digging through the Lord's Holy Word. Then, after they have turned over all the stones…after they have followed-up on all the leads…honest investigators confess to discovering something. They confess the books of the Bible are in absolute agreement that the end is coming and Jesus is returning as Judge.

But if an investigator tries to nail down the specific details of Judgment Day, he or she quickly finds the waters of prediction have gotten a bit muddy and the mirror into the future has become quite murky. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop some people. If specific details of the Last Day are not forthcoming, there is no shortage of people who are perfectly content to do some serious guessing and some first-class conjecturing. Yes, over the centuries, speculation and supposition have been the tools of anyone who is trying to make a prediction about the end of the world.

So, do we truly have any idea when Armageddon will happen? The answer to that question is "Yes." To those who are willing to listen, Jesus did give some clues. In our Gospel reading from Mark 13, the Lord makes a prediction about Herod's magnificent temple. The Savior tells His disciples: "Boys, that's a pretty impressive building, but everything you see over there is going to be torn down." Understandably…while sitting on the Mount of Olives…Peter, James, John, and Andrew follow-up with some questions. When is this going to happen? When is the end of the world coming? “When will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?" (v 4)

Jesus gives some clues. He offers a checklist of things to watch for... things the Son of God says will happen before the end of the world. First on Jesus' list is the arrival of false prophets or false messiahs. These phony men and women will claim they are speaking for the Savior or actually are the Savior. Christ Jesus tells His disciples that the message shared by these charlatans will sound solid and be silky smooth to the ear. But the difference will be the content of what they say. It will be contrary to everything Jesus has taught. These false prophets will seduce souls away from the Savior…away from His forgiveness…away from the Son of God’s blood-bought salvation. False prophets will deposit these lost souls to Satan's slaughterhouse in hell.
         But the rise of false prophets is just the beginning of Jesus' list of things that must happen before the end comes. The God-man says there will be “wars and rumors of wars…nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (v 7-8a) History has shown that not a single generation of people has managed to escape the terrible, tragic bloodshed of war. Nor have we avoided the "earthquakes” and “famines" that Jesus says must come.

         Amazingly, the Lord Jesus tells His listeners not to be alarmed by these tragedies and terrors because they are only the beginning of “the birth pains” of what is to come and what must come before Judgment Day. The Great Shepherd of the sheep warns His sons and daughters how they will be betrayed by family members and denounced by those who should be protecting them. He tells us how the Holy Spirit will empower His redeemed people to make a witness to those who bully them and hate them. The Holy Spirit will give them the words to say to those who will persecute and punish them…who will murder them into martyrdom.

         Given all this, let’s take a moment and see how you are doing with the checklist of things to watch for. Let me quickly go over the list. Ready? Temple in Jerusalem destroyed? Check. That happened in 70AD…about 40 years after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. False prophets? Check. Wars? Check. Rumors of wars? Check. Earthquakes? Famines? That is a double check. Persecution? Check. Christians suffering and being put to death? Check.

         Oh, I almost forgot. Jesus also says in our sermon text: “the Gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” (v 10) That is happening too…bringing Christ to the nations…to those who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Some years ago in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, an old church known as the People’s Church caught fire. Before the firemen could extinguish the blaze in sub-zero weather, a large part of the church had been burned. Occupying the central place at the altar was an eight-foot, life size marble statue of Christ. During the blaze, it had fallen into the basement, but by some miracle it wasn’t damaged. After the ruins had cooled, the firemen placed this eight-foot statue of Christ, with arms outstretched, on the sidewalk beside the church. The next morning, throngs of people passed by on their way to work and most of them never had been inside the church. As they passed by, they saw the figure of Christ in a gesture of a gracious invitation. This incident is a striking illustration of the task of the church…of taking the Christ of the church out into the dark and death-filled world where people are. That means it’s your task and mine as Christians to proclaim that Jesus Christ…the Son of God…the innocent Savior of the world…took on a thankless job of paying the price for your sin and my sin by suffering and dying on a Roman cross that we deserved because of our disobedience to God. Three days after He was buried, Jesus came back to life and ascended into heaven, ready to return the way He left “to judge the living and the dead.”

So be ready now. The last days are not days for panic, anxiety, or uncertainty. They are days for alertness, readiness, and watchfulness. They are days of expectation, longing, hopefulness, and patient endurance. There will be hardship, pain, and difficulty until then, but “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (v. 13b) After all, the Lord Jesus Christ dwells with you and me in God’s Word and in His Sacraments until He finally returns physically in all His glory “to judge the living and the dead.” You have Jesus’ love and promise. Trust Him to the end, for He is faithful. His victory is yours now…and will be forever. Amen.

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