Christianity 201

September 23, 2019

The Disciples Request Some Insider Information

Today we’re looking at a few verses in Mark 13.

Matthew 13:1 NIV As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Three years ago, I watched a most informative sermon on John 3 from Dr. Gary Burge, professor at Wheaton College who teaches at Wheaton College, given on a Wedneday night at Willow Creek. You can watch the sermon at this link.

One of the things he spoke about was how the coming of Jesus replaces the things that have existed as central to Judaism with new things. Burge says that “Jesus is abundantly replacing the things he encounters in his world.”

  • In his first miracle, Jesus takes the ceremonial water for washing and replaces it with wine.
  • In his encounter with Nicodemus (the subject of Burge’s message) Jesus reminds him that “you are Israel’s teacher and yet you don’t know these things;” (Jn. 3:10) and Jesus himself replaces him as Israel’s teacher.
  • In the text above we’re told that the temple itself will be replaced with something new, the temple of his body which will die and be raised within three days.

Continuing in the chapter,

Mark 13:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

jesus-core-group-peter-james-and-johnThis question sets the stage for the rest of the chapter, but the thing that struck me as I was reading it in The Voice Bible was a bit peripheral, but still worth noting. There’s a sense in which they are saying, ‘Just tell us — just the four of us — what the signs will be.’ As a group of people taken aside, they felt entitled to some insider information. Who would not be eager to be the chosen of the chosen?

But it’s also worth noting the inclusion of Andrew. We tend to think of the inner circle as consisting of a type of triumvirate consisting of Peter, James and John. In a natural sense, we can see Andrew’s inclusion here, after all, James and John were brothers and so were Peter and Andrew. Two sets of brothers. But usually (see Mark 5:37 and The Transfiguration in Matthew 17) Andrew isn’t part of this select group. So what we see here with Jesus is flexibility in choosing who is part of the core group at any given time. There’s a leadership lesson here, that some other people can be brought to the table as occasion arises; the group is not tightly closed.

Mark 5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

I find verse 11 somewhat paradoxical in light of other New Testament instructions such as,

I Peter 3:15b …Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope.

There is a balance to be struck between Holy Spirit leading and proper preparation. Having been in this situation many times in my contacts with seekers and non-believers, I can honestly say there are times when, even though I feel I can offer textbook-precise answers, I have to pause and ask God to speak through me.

As to the dominant theme of these verses, I think it’s interesting that all three synoptic gospel writes include something to the effect “these things must happen.”

Luke 21:9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Mark 13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Personally, I subscribe to what I call ‘The Domino Theory.’ When people say, “Jesus could come today;” I believe that’s true in the sense that Jesus might call me home today. (In other words, he might come for me.) The imperative of the gospel is ‘Choose today whom you will serve;’ (Joshua 24:15) and ‘Look: Now is the right time, today is the day for salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:2; in The Message: “Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.”)

As important as this is, it remains true that there are certain prophetic markers which must occur first. This is where the dominoes kick in. I believe that those markers could be staked like dominoes and fall together in rapid succession. So yes, “the end is till to come;” but don’t kick back and relax because of that. A wise person will not wait for the dominoes to start falling, but will be observant of the stacking of the dominoes.

So we jump to the end of the chapter and see Jesus saying,

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

Our desire should be the deepest intimacy with Jesus that was enjoyed by Peter, James and John (and Andrew), but if our goal in that is simply knowledge, we need to know that Jesus might not grant us insider information, because some things are not for us to know.


Read the full chapter of Mark 13 at Bible Gateway

 

September 15, 2016

You Don’t Have to Tell Everyone, Just Tell Us

Today we’re looking at a few verses in Mark 13.

Matthew 13:1 NIV As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Last night I watched a most informative sermon on John 3 from Dr. Gary Burge, professor at Wheaton College who teaches at Wheaton College, given on a Wedneday night at Willow Creek. You can watch the sermon at this link.

One of the things he spoke about was how the coming of Jesus replaces the things that have existed as central to Judaism with new things. Burge says that “Jesus is abundantly replacing the things he encounters in his world.”

  • In his first miracle, Jesus takes the ceremonial water for washing and replaces it with wine.
  • In his encounter with Nicodemus (the subject of Burge’s message) Jesus reminds him that “you are Israel’s teacher and yet you don’t know these things;” (Jn. 3:10) and Jesus himself replaces him as Israel’s teacher.
  • In the text above we’re told that the temple itself will be replaced with something new, the temple of his body which will die and be raised within three days.

Continuing in the chapter,

Mark 13:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

jesus-core-group-peter-james-and-johnThis question sets the stage for the rest of the chapter, but the thing that struck me as I was reading it in The Voice Bible was a bit peripheral, but still worth noting. There’s a sense in which they are saying, ‘Just tell us — just the four of us — what the signs will be.’ As a group of people taken aside, they felt entitled to some insider information. Who would not be eager to be the chosen of the chosen?

But it’s also worth noting the inclusion of Andrew. We tend to think of the inner circle as consisting of a type of triumvirate consisting of Peter, James and John. In a natural sense, we can see Andrew’s inclusion here, after all, James and John were brothers and so were Peter and Andrew. Two sets of brothers. But usually (see Mark 5:37 and The Transfiguration in Matthew 17) Andrew isn’t part of this select group. So what we see here with Jesus is flexibility in choosing who is part of the core group at any given time. There’s a leadership lesson here, that some other people can be brought to the table as occasion arises; the group is not tightly closed.

Mark 5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

I find verse 11 somewhat paradoxical in light of other New Testament instructions such as,

I Peter 3:15b …Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope.

There is a balance to be struck between Holy Spirit leading and proper preparation. Having been in this situation many times in my contacts with seekers and non-believers, I can honestly say there are times when, even though I feel I can offer textbook-precise answers, I have to pause and ask God to speak through me.

As to the dominant theme of these verses, I think it’s interesting that all three synoptic gospel writes include something to the effect “these things must happen.”

Luke 21:9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Mark 13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Personally, I subscribe to what I call ‘The Domino Theory.’ When people say, “Jesus could come today;” I believe that’s true in the sense that Jesus might call me home today. (In other words, he might come for me.) The imperative of the gospel is ‘Choose today whom you will serve;’ (Joshua 24:15) and ‘Look: Now is the right time, today is the day for salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:2; in The Message: “Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.”)

As important as this is, it remains true that there are certain prophetic markers which must occur first. This is where the dominoes kick in. I believe that those markers could be staked like dominoes and fall together in rapid succession. So yes, “the end is till to come;” but don’t kick back and relax because of that. A wise person will not wait for the dominoes to start falling, but will be observant of the stacking of the dominoes.

So we jump to the end of the chapter and see Jesus saying,

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

Our desire should be the deepest intimacy with Jesus that was enjoyed by Peter, James and John (and Andrew), but if our goal in that is simply knowledge, we need to know that Jesus might not grant us insider information, because some things are not for us to know.


Read the full chapter of Mark 13 at Bible Gateway

 

 

May 16, 2013

Facing End Times Without Freaking Out

Awesome article by K. W. Leslie at the blog More Christ; clicking through is encouraged,– there are a lot of great writing there. This one was originally titled Prematurely freaking out over the End.

If we’re gonna talk about the End, we need to begin with what Jesus said about it—not in Revelation, but in the gospels. So let’s start with the first gospel written, which would be Mark.

Jesus introduces the subject by discouraging his followers from prematurely assuming the End has come.

Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, facing the temple. On their own, Peter, James, John, and Andrew were questioning him: “When will this happen? What’s the sign when everything is about to end?” Jesus began to tell them.

“Look, don’t let anyone lead you astray. Many will come in my name, saying this: ‘It’s me!’—and many will be led astray. When you hear war, or what others say about war, don’t freak out; these things happen. But it’s not the End yet! One ethnic group will come against another ethnic group; kingdom against kingdom. Places will shake. Recessions will take place. They’re early birth-contractions.”

Mark 13.3-8 NLT

Despite these instructions, Christians still freak out over every major world event. Our nation goes to war; Christians proclaim the End. Israel goes to war with its neighbors; Christians proclaim the End. The economy shakes and shudders; Christians proclaim the End. The economy prospers and Christians proclaim the End. We look for signs everywhere, and anything can be a sign of the End. We’re worse than the superstitious.

And in fact that’s precisely what many of us have become when it comes to the End: Superstitious. We worry that any little thing might show up and take away all our worldly possessions, all our personal freedoms, all our temporary stuff. We stockpile food in case we have to hide, stockpile gold in case we need to buy things, stockpile weapons in case we have to fight—and put our trust in them, and not in Jesus. We live in fear. Not in confidence. Not in patience. Not in trust. Not in faith.

When Jesus talks about the End, he deals in very specific images. They’re apocalypses, so they’re not literally what’s going to happen, but they’re meant to be easy enough to figure out if we have half a brain—and if we’re using that brain to recognize the times we live in, instead of allowing our fears and paranoia to run wild.

So let’s deal with each of the things Jesus tells us to expect as part of the natural order of things, and not as part of the End Times.

The wrong leaders.

I’m not sure many people are interpreting Jesus correctly when he warns about the people who will lead his people astray. The most common interpretation is Jesus is talking about fake Christs—people who claim they’re Messiah, and aren’t. They take this from when Matthew repeated this story.

Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.”

Matthew 24.4-5 NLT

Here’s the problem with this interpretation. These so-called “fake Christs” come, as Jesus pointed out, in his name. Not their own names. They’re claiming to have Jesus’ endorsement to make these claims about themselves. And here’s the problem: How many fake Christs come in Jesus’ name? Darned few. Jesus is their competitor, not their ally; they pay him a little bit of lip service, but pretty much everything else they do is in their own name, which they seek to glorify. Not his.

So this is why I translate the Matthew passage thus.

In reply, Jesus told them, “Look, don’t let anyone lead you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m anointed!’—and many will be led astray.”

Matthew 24.4-5 KWL

We too often forget kristós means “anointed one.” It can be translated either “Christ” and “Messiah”… or “anointed one.” It doesn’t mean these preachers are claiming to be fake Christs. It means—as we all too often see—these preachers are claiming Jesus anointed them to be the leaders of his people. But he didn’t, and they’re leading Christians astray.

All too often, self-anointed leaders are demanding very inappropriate degrees of honor and privilege and loyalty because of it. They want us to obey without question, and misquote, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” lest we dare stand up to them. They want to be treated just like we should treat Jesus. Yet they know better than to use the sacred title Messiah… so they stick to “anointed,” and hope we never notice. And we often never do. And we are led astray.

Any preacher who makes too much of their own anointing needs to be watched carefully. Any preacher who’s surrounded by followers who make too much of their preacher’s anointing, likewise needs to be watched carefully: Some of these folks are clever enough to stay humble in public, but they deliberately surround themselves with suck-ups. A truly humble preacher will discourage people from puffing them up, lest they start to seek praise, and not Jesus, as their reward.

So watch out for fakes. Look for fruit. Stay away from fruitless Christian leaders. Yeah, it might be okay to listen to their podcasts or radio shows—after all, Jesus told his students it was okay to listen to the Pharisees, but don’t follow their personal examples. (Mt 23.2-7) After all, hypocrites can preach the truth. They just won’t live the truths they preach. (Of course, defending their bad behavior might worm its way into what they preach, so remember to listen to them skeptically.)

The wrong harbingers.

As a superpower, the United States doesn’t really know how to worry about war. Our worries are that war is too expensive and kills our soldiers. We don’t worry at all about foreign armed forces invading and destroying our nation. We haven’t had to fight on our own soil since World War II, and haven’t encountered a serious conquering foe since the Civil War. Americans have more fear of our own government—which, considering how much it lets us get away with, just goes to show you how overly secure we are.

That’s not the case with most other countries. An invading army can destroy their nation: Overthrow their government, kill their soldiers, murder and rape and enslave their citizens, and wipe out their way of life. Israel has been on the receiving end of such wars far too often. God bailed them out a whole bunch of times—though not against the Assyrians, neo-Babylonians, or Romans. Still, when Israel’s enemies look enviously at it, and try to actually start something, many Christians will flinch at those events and claim, “There we go. This is it. This is gonna bring about the End Times.” And then we go lining up which anti-Israel opponent corresponds with which apocalyptic vision, and start publishing books.

No, said Jesus; they’re only early birth-contractions.

Wars happen. People get angry, and pick fights. Diplomats try to diffuse the disagreement, but too many people on either side are far more interested in vengeance against their enemies than in reconciliation, and too often they silence their diplomats and start shooting. It doesn’t mean the End is near; it only means people, as usual, are sinning.

And contrary to popular belief, sin doesn’t bring about the End. Jesus does.

This is going ahead in the narrative a bit, but the End comes because Jesus has finished sending out invitations to the Kingdom. It’s not because the world gets as evil as it’s ever gonna get. Ever since humans started sinning, it’s always been evil; it’s been in periods of great darkness, and with God’s help it’s been in periods of great light. But evil never forces God’s hand. He’s Almighty. He does as he wants. He’s going to make sure the good news reaches every single person he wants, and then the End will come. Not before. And not because of war, or antichrists, or persecution, or economic depression, or anything other than God’s will.

Till the End, Israel is always gonna have enemies. As will Christians. Big deal. Concentrate on loving them and making friends of them. Stop looking to the newspaper so you can fearfully catch signs of the End, and concentrate on lovingly bringing it about by sharing Jesus.

October 22, 2011

Just Because It Didn’t Doesn’t Mean It Won’t

Got friends emailing you to ask what happened to yesterday’s “end of the world?”  Tennessee pastor Clay Gentry offers some advice from his blog Sharing The Good News that you can copy and paste and email back.  Or better yet, you can link them to his blog, where this appeared under the title Live Every Day Like It Is The Last Day.

Today is October 21, 2011, and according to Harold Camping, the Lord is supposed to return today… again. You might recall that back earlier this year, Harold Camping predicted that the Lord would return on May 21st, well obviously He didn’t (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

It’s little wonder that the likes of Harold Camping and other date setters are unsuccessful in predicting the Lord’s return, because the Lord Himself, in characterizing His return by saying,

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” I will come (Matthew 25:13). 

And, the apostles, Paul and Peter, both established that the Jesus’ return would be unannounced, like a thief coming in the night (cf. Matthew 24:42-44).

“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” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). 

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).

These passages clearly establish that we cannot know the day, nor the hour, that the Lord will return. However, while the passages clearly show that the likes of Harold Camping and other date setters will always fail in their predictions. They do teach us, that as believers, we need to live everyday as if it is our last day on earth. We must live everyday as if it is the day of the Lord’s return. We need to live every day, as if it is the last day we will have breath and life.

Let me ask you a question; are you ready, are you ready to meet your maker? Are you living every day, are you living today, as if it is the last day? The same passages that we would you to establish that Harold Camping is wrong in his predictions, are the same passages that encourage us to live every day as if it is truly our last day.

I hope that you are making preparations in your spiritual life to stand before your Lord and Maker. If I can help you in any way with that, just drop me a line at clay [at] claygentry.com. I would love to hear from you. God bless you.

~Clay Gentry

Digging a little deeper:  Today’s reading for those of you who like to process things on a deeper level is a longer piece Clay wrote about how obeying God’s commandments begins with loving Him.  I encourage you to click over to It is Enough Just To Love God.