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The Good News About the End of the World
There is a phrase in the middle of Mark 13 that instantly catches the attention of the careful Bible reader. The phrase is, “let the reader understand” (Mark 13:14). It is the only time in the entire book of Mark that the author specifically addresses his readers. Mark’s original readers all nodded with understanding, while today we shrug our shoulders at the meaning. This was an important point of contact Mark had with his first readers that has been lost on today’s audience. The best interpretative guess I have heard on “the abomination that causes desolation” that Mark points too (Mark 13:14) is that it is a coded reference to the Roman general Titus who after conquering the rebel Jewish armies who had captured Jerusalem, commanded the final assault on the temple and took possession of the ruined site in A.D. 70. The destruction of temple in Jerusalem was not the end; it was but a beginning of yet another series of horrible crises.
“Let the reader understand.” What would Mark want us to understand today? The cotton candy Christianity I described this morning will not produce disciples who can stand in the face of difficulties. Rather, it produces Christians with a shallow root system. This is not a new problem as Isaac Watts penned the following words in the middle of the 19th century:
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
He answers his question in another verse:
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
(Am I A Solider of the Cross)
Disciples of Jesus have never been promised a life of financial security or physical protection. When we read Mark’s Gospel we are told just the opposite! However, we are promised that we will be given exactly what we need to bear up under any trials that come our way. May God make ALL of us into the kind of spiritually hearty, robust disciples who can keep our focus on the darkest of nights and can continue to love and serve when all around us are in a panic. That is picture of Jesus from the Garden to the cross and that is what the Spirit will produce in us if we let him.