My God is Still the Same - Mark 13:1-13 – Pastor Scott
Amidst turmoil, God knows the future and is in control.
God doesn't always give us what we want but He gives us what we need. Even when we don’t know what it is we need. God cares about the situations in our lives and He cares about the more serious ones. When you get a pink slip at work or an eviction notice or bad news from the doctor. We need to remember our Central Truth this morning – Amidst turmoil, God knows all and is in control. As we continue our Passion Week Series, we will dive into Mark 13 (known as the Olivet Discourse) and answer the question: What does God want us to know?
The first thing He wants us to know is that nothing we see will last. Things of this world will eventually rust, decay, fade away or be destroyed. (vv.1-2) The temple was originally rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Ezra and greatly expanded and improved by Herod. It was the center of Jewish life for almost 1000 years. Herod expanded it to be 500 yards long and 400 yards wide. It took more than 80 years to rebuild. It is no wonder that the disciples marveled at what they saw. And for many Jews of that time, the temple had become an idol. The temple was a good thing but some allowed it to be more important to them than God.
The temple was a good example of how something that is so great and mighty can turn into an idol in the lives of people. And how even something of that magnitude can come crumbling down and be left in ruins. What about the things in your life? Are there things in your life that you put ahead of God? Does anything deserve to be put ahead of God? Your car? Your job? Your achievements? Jesus says in Mark 13:31, “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Consider your priorities. One thing about our future we should know. Nothing we see will last.
What else does God want us to know? He is in control. Even when tough times come, He is in control. (vv.3-4) Peter, James, John, and Andrew want to know when and what is going to happen. But the real issue isn’t when and what. It’s WHO. As in Jesus. As in Jesus is in control no matter how crazy life gets. No matter how out of control this world seems. These days may seem like the world is out of control! But it’s not. God is in control.
From the Mount of Olives, Jesus and His disciples had a great view of the temple and Peter, James, John and Andrew wanted clarification on what Jesus said earlier. When will the temple be destroyed? What will happen to it? The disciples perhaps assumed the destruction of the temple would come at the end of time. But Jesus corrects them. He says in verse 7 that wars will come but that is still not the end. In fact, the temple would be destroyed in 70 AD only 40 years later. And a mere 7 years after it was finally completed! And in 70 AD, the destruction of Jerusalem served as a prophetic preview of the last judgment, which will occur when Jesus returns.
No one knows when He will come back. (vv.5-6) We have heard people say they knew. They have given dates and times but no one knows and everyone who has claimed they knew have been wrong. When He does come, you do not have to wonder if that really is Him. You will know without a shadow of the doubt. The Bible says He will appear in the clouds with great power and glory.
So, when we see signs like wars, don’t be alarmed. Things like that are supposed to happen. There are many wars going on right now somewhere in the world. (v.8) These events are just the beginning of the birth pains. It may take a while. It’s been 2,000 years and we don’t know how much longer until Jesus returns. But we do know that one day, the end will come. Jesus goes on to more specific things that will happen during the lifetime of His disciples. (v.9)
This sounds like punishment or an inconvenience. They have to be handed over to local councils and be flogged (which means to be beat with a whip or a stick). And it does sounds bad but that’s what God is putting them in those positions for a reason as it says…you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. Isn’t that amazing? They will have the attention of governors and kings!
So, while times may seem bad, God is still in control! Jesus tells them that this persecution is not a sign of the end but is something to be expected. (v.10) We have a responsibility, a duty, a privilege to share the Gospel with as many people we can! Even in the presence of persecution. Or in times of tribulation, we need to speak the truth and let as many people as we can know about the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Many fall into the trap of believing their goal in life is to make as much money as they can. Or to climb up the corporate ladder. Or to be happy however they define that. And those are not bad things. But as believers in Christ who know that there is a very real heaven and very real hell, shouldn’t our goal in life be to try and help as many people as we can?
We do not know how much time we have. People are dying and worse than that, they are leaving this Earth without knowing and believing the one thing they need. They are unprepared and sometimes all it takes is for one of us to let them know what they need. If they reject it, so be it, that’s their choice. But at least they were told. We may be afraid to say something because we don't want to look bad or we’re afraid we will say the wrong thing or we will be judged.
But Jesus tells His disciples that they will be persecuted. They will be flogged. And that will be scary. Verse 9 says they will stand before governors and kings, they will be arrested and put on trial but Jesus says to them and to you and to me NOT TO WORRY! (v.11) Don’t worry? It said they would be flogged but don’t worry? Jesus says don’t be anxious when they bring you before trial and deliver you over? That seems like the perfect time to be anxious! But Jesus says to not worry. Don’t be anxious. Some say “seek God to find the answer.” But seeking God IS the answer.
You can’t always change what’s going on around you. But you can always change how you view it. Never forget that Jesus loves you! And when you have God on your side, you don’t need to change the storm. You can find refuge in Him and allow Him to help you. Even when you can’t pay your bills or you lose a loved one or you feel so lonely you can’t stand it. Maybe you feel rejected – Jesus will not reject you. Maybe you feel unloved – Jesus loves you. Maybe you feel hopeless – Jesus gives you hope and a purpose in life! Even with all the persecution and pain going on in the world, my God is still the same.
(vv.12, 13a) Persecution comes in many forms. I’ve heard of Christians in Japan being rejected by their families for their faith. Some even have funerals for their living children if they become Christian. In certain parts of the world, Christians are tortured, enslaved or killed. Every day, 13 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked and 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, while another 5 are abducted. Every single day! All of the disciples died as martyrs. Only John died of old age and he was banished to an island. Even when rejected by family and friends and the world, God is still in control. But notice the promise at the end (v.13b).
Sure, your faith will be tested. Your commitment will be challenged. But severe trials will weed out the fair-weather followers from those who are truly committed! Stand firm! You may be ridiculed at work or talked about at your school. You may be forced to make unpopular decisions and go against the flow of this world. Don’t give up! Don’t back down. Don’t waver in your faith!
Endure and you will be saved! Endures – this word makes it sound like salvation is in our hands. As long as we stand firm to the end, we will be saved. But it’s not so much what we do. “Endure” in the original language means to “remain under.” And who do we remain under? Christ. We are under His care, His guidance, His protection. When trials come, don’t look to run away. Look to remain under His care.
Saved – safe from danger but even more than that - spiritual and eternal salvation granted by God. Jesus tells us that trials and tribulations will come. But if you endure, if you stand firm and remain in Him, He will save you! Because He is and always will be in control!
The past year has seen enough craziness to last a lifetime. Sheltering in place, businesses closing down, racial injustice, racial hatred on full display, political differences, health scares and natural disasters. They have all beat us down and affected us in one way or another this past year. But no matter how crazy life has been, it is good to know God is with us, God knows all and He will always be in control.
Praise Singing: 10,000 Reasons, Good Good Father, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, King of Kings, Doxology