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Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 13:1–13

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 25, Proper 28, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Nov 15, 2015 

God gave us His Word in order to give us His plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.  It focuses on the forgiveness of sins earned for us by Jesus dying on a cross and rising from the dead.  It is not the goal of the Bible to give us a comprehensive history of the world.  Such a history would be too big.  Instead, the Bible focuses on the history of Jesus and His people.  From the worlds point of view, men like Caesar Augustus, Governor Quirinius, and Herod the Great were important rulers.  On the other hand, the Bible only mentions these men when their story intersects the story of salvation.

Herod the Greats biblical claim to fame is his attempt to assassinate Jesus by killing off the boys of Bethlehem.  Herod had already reigned for a long time when Jesus was born.  In the senility of his old age, he had become dangerously insane and even killed members of his own family when he thought they were plotting to take his throne.  But murder and political intrigue were not all there was to Herod.

Herod the Great was also responsible for many major building projects during his reign.  It is likely that he hoped improvements in the infrastructure of the land would counteract the hatred that the Jews had for him.  In fact, for the average man on the street those people who were not involved in politics, life was actually fairly prosperous under the rule of Herod.

One of the building projects that Herod started was a massive upgrade to the temple grounds in Jerusalem.  Herod began this upgrade about twenty years before Jesus was born.  The actual work on the upgrade continued after Herod died and was completed about 65 AD.  10,000 lay laborers worked on the common areas of the temple and 1,000 priests did the upgrades to the sacred areas of the temple.  It was a massive undertaking and the result was quite impressive.

The dates of this building program means that every time Jesus and His disciples came to Jerusalem, there was new construction at the temple.  It would be very normal for visitors to Jerusalem to take some time to tour the new features of the temple area, admire them, and speculate about what the workers would do next.  It would not be at all unusual for anyone to look at the building materials around the temple site and the new buildings and fantasize about the greatness of it all.  That is the context of todays reading from the Gospel according to Mark.  As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings! (Mark 13:1) What a shock it must have been when Jesus replied, Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down. (Mark 13:2)

Jesus words came true just five years after the temple upgrade was complete.  All those workers labored for over eighty years to put all of Herods upgrades in place.  In 65 AD they put the finishing touches on this magnificent upgrade to the temple, one of the great architectural wonders of the ancient world.  Five years later, in 70 AD, after all of that work, the Roman army marched into Jerusalem and tore the temple down to the ground.  Jesus prediction came true.

Of course todays reading is an account of events that happened about forty years before this destruction and the disciples dont know anything about it.  Jesus words must have been the verbal equivalent of a 2x4 to the head.  The disciples couldnt very well leave Jesus statement alone.  So, when they got back to their camp site on the Mount of Olives, they had to ask Jesus for more details.  So as Jesus sat down on the Mount of Olives and looked across the valley at the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?

Jesus began His explanation in an unusual place.  Rather than come right out with a direct answer to the disciples question, He warned them about false teachings.  Jesus began to say to them, See that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name, saying, I am he! and they will lead many astray.

Here is Jesus Himself telling His disciples and us that pure doctrine is really important.  Jesus is warning us that the devil will constantly be sending false teachers our way.  He is warning us that these false teachers will be very popular.  They will lead many astray. 

We have plenty of false Messiahs even today.  Many of you have heard the phrase drinking the Kool Aid. That phrase is the result of a cult leader named Jim Jones who actually convinced his followers to mix cyanide poison into a batch of Kool Aid and serve it to their children and then drink it themselves.  Jim Jones presented himself as a Messiah figure to his followers and led them to their deaths.  Most recently, we had the Blood Moon prophecy of Christs return on the lunar eclipse this past September.  The Jehovahs Witnesses claim that Christ already set up his millennial kingdom in 1914.  The Mormons have a living prophet as the head of their church.  L. Ron Hubbard has started the church of scientology.

Then there are the heavenly tourism books and stories.  In 2010, a father helped his son tell the story of His visit to heaven in a book entitled, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Since then, the boy in that story has come forward and admitted that it was all a lie.  A child who had almost died in a car accident in 2004 had been pushed to expand upon a fairytale hed told when he was six.  Last January, at the age of sixteen, he revealed that the detail in the book was false.  In a blog post, he wrote, I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. He now says that people should read the Bible instead of believing stories made up by little kids.

The books of the Bible have stood the test of time.  Every archeological discovery in the Holy Land reveals that another part of the Bible is the truth.  The historical reliability of the books of the New Testament is approximately 10,000 times that of any other ancient writing.  Never the less, many people will take the word of a little kid who just woke up from a coma over the Word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus is right to warn us of false teachers.

Then there are the persecutions.  It is not enough for the false christs to lead people away from the truth, but they must also persecute those who remain faithful.  Jesus warns that people will even turn against their own relatives: Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13And you will be hated by all for my names sake. (Mark 13:1213) At another time, Jesus even warned, Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. (John 16:2)

Suffering, persecution, death what possible reason could there be for us to resist such cruelty?  Why should we not simply throw our hands up in surrender and go along with the world?  Why do our vows of confirmation ask people to remain faithful even unto death?  What could be so important that we would be willing to risk even death rather than give in to the culture?

Todays Gospel began with the temporary stones of the temple.  Those stones cannot save, but there is a stone that can save us.  The Psalmist said, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23This is the Lords doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:2223)

The Temple authorities rejected this stone with extreme prejudice.  They arrested Him and used political pressure to force Pontius Pilate to execute Him on a cross.  As He hung on the cross, it looked like His end was near.  As He died on the cross, it looked like His end had come.  As His cold body lay in the tomb, it looked like His end had passed.

His suffering and death was an end, but it was not His end.  It was the end of our slavery to sin.  It was the end of the condemnation and guilt that our sin earned.  It was the end of deaths reign in this world.  For on the Sunday after He was laid in the tomb, He rose from the dead.  He rose to live forever.  The stone that the builders rejected had indeed become the cornerstone.

This stone, of course, is Jesus Christ Himself, the Rock of Ages.  Those who believe in Him, believe in the only stone that lasts forever.  They believe in the living stone who is the foundation of the New Heavens and the New Earth.  Jesus said, The one who endures to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:13) The one who endures to the end is the one whose faith in Jesus Christ endures.  That one who believes that Jesus Christ is the only savior from sin is the one who endures to the end and will be saved.

Jesus encourages us to avoid false teaching and to endure persecution because these things only last a short time.  His salvation endures forever.

All things on this earth come to an end.  Todays Gospel talks of the beautiful buildings of the temple.  They have been replaced by a Moslem Mosque.  There will be a time when that mosque will also be gone.  Eventually, even the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars will all be gone.  Only Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages will remain to preserve us.  Those who followed the false prophets of this world will remain without salvation.  Those who endured in the one true faith to the end will be saved.  Amen

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