Scripture: Mark 13:24-37
Mark 13: 24-37 speaks to us of the coming of the Christ, again.
During this Advent season we prepare to celebrate and honor the time
that Christ came to earth as Gods son in the flesh and lived among the
men and women of that time. His ministry gave us hope to join him one
day, a hope that had been long awaited. Then he left, but in leaving
he left a message that he would come again and we were to “WATCH” as
we waited for that coming. Watch what we ask. Well this scripture
vividly describes what that time will look like. So we must be in
constant preparation for that coming, as no man knows that time, only
At all times, WATCH.
When I was in the Army I took my turn at standing “watch” . That
meant being prepared for anything, awake, alert and steadfast.
So to me, that is what he asks of us, be steadfast in your faith in
our Lord and be watchful.
Advent has never been about being complacent or comfortable.
Advent has always been about deep passionate longing for change, about hope that one day this weary often suffering world will be remade into a world where we and every created thing finds fulfillment instead of futility.
Mark 13 is a wild description in the apocalyptic tradition of ancient writings. Mark shows us that Jesus is not presenting a timeline or even a puzzle of partial predictions of the future that can be put together to show us events unfolding in a linear chronology. Instead Jesus is teaching us how to live in hope even through terrible and confusing times.
Jesus warns us: we do not know just what is going on. We know a little bit. We know the story Jesus tells in verses 34 and 35. Even here, it is a story used to illustrate, but not a literal narrative. Jesus is saying that he is going away and will come back and that while He is gone we carry on with the work we are given and stay alert for His return.
Notice that this story of a householder leaving on a mysterious journey takes place after Jesus has boldly challenged the Establishment of His day. In chapter 12:38-40 Jesus has unmasked religious hypocrisy that served to hide social and economic injustice: the leaders “devour widows houses” even while they put themselves on display as deeply spiritual people. Ouch!
And Jesus points out the greater value of a widows tiny offering when compared with others who gave much more money. When the disciples with him admired the wonderful temple building, Jesus says that it will be destroyed soon. (13:1 & 2) I have always loved the power of the apocalyptic imagery Jesus uses here. He describes much terrible suffering and tribulation, and after that, the sun and moon growing dark and the very stars falling from the sky.
The people reading this some 60 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ would have known about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and would have experienced persecution and much confusion about when Jesus would return, and how, and why Jesus was gone for so long. I wonder why Jesus has had to be away for so long too.
Jesus says (verse26) that after these dramatic signs in the sky “they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and great glory.” This is followed by a description of angels flying on the four winds all over earth and even into the heavens to gather the chosen ones.
Again, there is no explanation. We are not being told everything. The book of Mark is nearly over. The baby Jesus has grown up. He will soon be put to death by the civil and religious authorities of his day. Soon after that Mark describes Jesus appearing to the women in the Garden, to Mary Magdalene, and to the disciples. Then Jesus ascends through the clouds into Heaven while the people left behind go to work spreading the Gospel with signs and wonders and loving kindness.
For me, Advent is a time of real reckoning and repentance, but also a time of very real hope and joy. C. S. Lewis wrote that God is (like Aslan) wild and untamed. But God is safe. Paul wrote in Romans (8:18-26) that after the Fall the whole Creation has been subjected to futility but in hope of being liberated and remade into a New Creation where fulfillment replaces futility, and the joy and wonder of that will far surpass the suffering of this world.
Jesus was a change-maker, a radical reformer, a prophet, and He was God born as a baby and also tortured and killed unjustly. Because Jesus Christ is God and Creator and Redeemer, he is doing the “deep magic” of remaking all things. He has – as Paul reminds us in Romans 8 – left with and within us the Holy Spirit who suffers what we suffer and “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
The human predicament is precarity. In 2020 COVID-19 and the Climate Crisis combined with violent human grasping for wealth and power have made me sad weary beyond words. I am reminded of the futility of so much human effort when Jesus was born and lived among us.
But I am reminded that Jesus taught us that we are to do God’s work also. God is Love, and Love never fails. Love lives here and now with and within us, and Love is also doing the deep, deep work of making all things new.
Paul says that the Creation groans in the pains of childbirth, and one day the birthing will be complete. Jesus spoke of the Advent as an often terrible and confusing time, and warns us not to be complacent, but to be awake and alert and active, doing the work of Love here and now as well, until He returns. Both give us the same hope and purpose, comfort and joy. Let’s do the real work of Love, and renew our passionate commitment to be the Beloved Community of Christ here and now.