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Keep Awake to the End - Mark 13:28-37

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Mark 13:28-37 Keep Awake to the End 2020-04-19 Because Jesus will return, but we don’t know when, we must keep awake If you know me, then you know I’m a sports fan, and especially of endurance or ultra-endurance sports. Trail running, mountain biking, alpine touring, and extra innings baseball. I’ve enjoyed, and still enjoy to varied extents, participating in these events. I’d like to start this morning by giving you a good laugh at me as I share a couple of embarrassing sporting moments. First was my 10 year old Little League season, playing for Bobbio’s Pizza. Our baby blue tops with hot pink lettering were flashy, to say the least. One Saturday morning I rode my bike to the ballfields and arrived early enough that I had time to work on my bike tricks. I soon found a chain that was stretched between two posts at an entrance, and I thought I’d try bunny-hopping over it. My enthusiasm outpaced by ability on that day. I got the front tire over just fine, but my back tire didn’t clear the chain, I got caught up, and went down. I wasn’t hurt, but I was embarrassed. You see, not only was I trying to bunnyhop the chain, but the chain was stretched over some big mud puddles as well. There at the entrance to the ballfield for everyone to see I went down into the mud puddle, completely soaked and soiled. Another embarrassing sports moment was in my adulthood and involved a 5k running race in Drake Park, which is in downtown Bend. The race was organized as a fundraiser for high school cross country, and as most races in Bend are, was well attended. As the start time approached I figured one last visit to the outhouse was in order. While I was in the outhouse I heard a gunshot, and quickly realized that gunshot was the start of the race. I dashed out of the outhouse at the same moment as one of my friends came out of the outhouse next to me, and together we sprinted toward the start line, peeling off our warmup clothes and trying to catch up to the racers that were now well into their first lap. To this day my friend and I can still look at each other, and without saying a word give each other a smirk, and know that we’re both remembering that day. I share these stories because, even though I didn’t have a great start with either one of them, and wasn’t the greatest athlete competing on that day, I did finish. I might have been embarrassed, but I wasn’t ashamed, didn’t give up and walk away, but kept at it until the end. Scripture Passage: Mark 13:28-37 As we come to this final section in Mark 13 this morning, we are continuing to look at Jesus’ instruction to his disciples about radical events that would be taking place. Some in the nearer future for them, and some that would be further off for generations following after. And even as he gives instruction to them about the end, he admonishes them to not give up, to not give in, but to stay awake and alert all the way to the end. The Fig Tree and These Things Taking Place (vv.28-31) 1. v.28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson…” - Jesus now moves to teaching his disciples by the use of two parables, or comparisons, to help illustrate the truths he has spoken. 1. It’s important for us again at this point to review the chapter and what Jesus has been speaking about. First, his disciples were impressed by the Temple, and Jesus responded by saying that it would all be destroyed. Four of his disciples then asked him questions privately. They wanted to know when these things would take place, and what the sign of these things would be. Beginning in v.5 Jesus answers the questions of his disciples. He doesn’t give them a day and time, but tells them to not be alarmed, to be on guard, to not be anxious, but to endure. There would be false teachers, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and persecutions, but these are only the beginning of birth pains. Jesus continues to expand on his answer through v.23. Then, in v.24, he shifts focus and begins instructing his disciples beyond their question. In their minds the destruction of the Temple would probably coincide with the end of the world, but that wasn’t the case. Everything from vv.5-23 took place by 70AD, but that wasn’t the end. Jesus jumps further ahead in time and tells them about his return, which would take place after that tribulation (v.24). As is typical in the teaching ministry of Jesus, he goes beyond the questions he is asked. His return would be a great cosmic event, and Jesus would be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and his elect would be gathered from every corner of the earth. This is an event that we are still waiting on. So two timeframes: leading up to 70AD and the destruction of the Temple, and the visible return of Jesus. 2. Jesus gives this instruction first using a fig tree, and what they know about a fig tree signaling the start of summer. The fig tree would lose its leaves each winter, then as the weather would warm it would begin pushing out new foliage. Similar to what we see every spring here in the Valley, blossoms start on trees and we know we’re into the growing season. I don’t believe that the fig tree is meant to be representative of the nation of Israel in this lesson. 2. v.29 “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near…” - Jesus is making a comparison, that just as the leaves on the fig tree signal the beginning of summer, so also these things taking place would be a signal. 1. What are these things? If you’re tracking with me through this chapter you’ll remember the questions of the disciples in v.4 was about these things. Jesus answered this in vv.5-23. False christs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, the preaching of the gospel to all nations, the abomination of desolation. All of these things were accomplished prior to 70AD and the destruction of Jerusalem. So these things are like the leaves on the fig tree, and signal that something is about to happen. 2. What is about to happen? Our ESV reads, “he is near, at the very gates.” The NIV and KJV translate this as “it is near…” As one commentator writes, “the phrase means ‘he/she/it is near’, leaving the identification of the ‘he/she/it’ to be determined by the context. And here the context leaves little room for doubt. The disciples had asked when the temple would be destroyed and how they would know the time. Jesus’ reply, with the focus shifting emphatically back to the disciples again, now homes in directly on the latter part of their question: this is how you will know that it (the destruction of the temple…) is near.” I think this is made more clear by looking at the next verse. 3. v.30 “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” - If we were to understand this generation not passing away until Jesus returns, we’d have some difficulty with explaining that. I think the most natural reading is to understand this as the present generation Jesus was speaking to, the disciples’ generation, would not pass away until the destruction of the Temple was accomplished. 4. v.31 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” - What great comfort and constancy we have in God’s Word. I count on the sun rising each day. I can count on the words of Jesus even more. I count on the sky being above my head and the earth being beneath my feet each day. I can count on the words of Jesus even more. 1. The disciples’ world was about to be shaken. Where would they turn? The first readers of this gospel would see great difficulty. What would they hold to? Isn’t it always to the words of our Lord that we should turn, that we should get our direction and base our decisions on? To God’s Word that we should look for words that are more enduring than heaven and earth? Isaiah 40:7–8 “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 54:9–10 “‘This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” The Master and That Day Coming (vv.32-37) 1. v.32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows…” - Unlike the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which had signs preceding it to indicate it was coming soon, the coming of the Son of Man is known only by the Father. Here Jesus, by saying, “that day or that hour,” is again looking ahead to his return. This is the time of those days after that tribulation (v.24). Even Jesus, in full humanity and volunteer humility, didn’t know the day or hour that the Father had determined. 2. v.33 “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” - Jesus’ charge to the disciples, and the purpose Mark was recording this in his gospel for the recipients, and why the Holy Spirit inspired it and preserved it for us, is an admonishment to keep awake. 3. v.34 “It is like a man going on a journey…” - Jesus now uses another mini parable for comparison and to illustrate truth. 1. A man goes on a journey and gives his servants work to do. The one servant whose work is identified is that of the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper was responsible for watching to door and being ready to open when the master returned. The doorkeeper, then, must stay awake, remain alert, so he is ready when the master returns. 4. vv.35-36 “Therefore stay awake - for you do not know when the master of the house will come…” 1. Families, you’ve probably experienced something similar to this so that you can relate. I remember when our kids were younger the concept of time wasn’t grasped very well. If grandpa and grandma were coming to visit they expected it to be any moment, even though we would tell them it was 3 days away. They would keep asking, “Is it now? Is it today? When are they coming?” We’ve even had times when grandparents have arrived late, after the kids have been put to bed and given instruction to go to sleep. But they hear the arrival of the grandparents and come out to greet them. 5. v.37 “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” - Jesus’ instruction was first and foremost to the 4 disciples he was speaking to, who asked the question. But it was also for all the disciples. And Mark recorded it so that the Gentile Christians would receive the same instruction. And the Holy Spirit inspired it and preserved it for our instruction. Stay awake! 1. This is the unfolding of the drama of redemption, awaiting the final scene where Jesus returns victorious, triumphant, and conquering, and all wrongs are made right, and every knee bows, all tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This isn’t a dull movie that doesn’t hold your attention and puts you to sleep. This is the story of God’s salvation, started in eternity past and waiting to be fully accomplished when Christ returns. This isn’t time for sleeping, for drowsiness or inattention. This is time to be alert, awake, and vigilant! 2. 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6 “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” 3. This is a purifying hope 1. 1 John 3:3 “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” 2. Titus 2:11–13 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” 4. This is an invigorating hope 1. 2 Timothy 4:8 “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2. Hebrews 9:28 “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Conclusion: Our starts may not have been glorious. The beginning of your Christian life might be like coming out of a mud puddle or an outhouse, but your end will be glorious, and your work is to stay awake, to remain engaged and involved to the very end, to look with eager expectation to the return or our Lord Jesus.
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