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. 

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Byron FikePreaching Minister

Byron has been the preaching minister at Clear Lake since 1999. He and his wife have three grown children, who have also devoted their lives to serving the Lord. In his personal time, Byron likes to read books, watch movies, and play with his little dog Willie. He also is an avid follower of Alabama football, having grown up in Tuscaloosa during the glory days of Bear Bryant.


3 Responses to “The Good News About the End of the World”

  1. avatar Amanda says:

    I really appreciated your treatment of this passage. I love knowing the story behind the words! I defenitly came away with a clearer understanding of this text.

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    “What would Mark want us to understand today?”

    Well… nothing, right? He wasn't writing to you. He had no idea who you are or what time you live in.

    So if we're going with “his words about (maybe) the desecration of the temple were inspired by God and thus have an infinite number of meanings for anyone who reads this”…

    Then, I guess it's about whatever the heck you say on Google Blogger. Because who's gonna argue with that logic?

  3. avatar tommytwotoez says:

    Well I’m not sure about Anonymous there but I enjoyed the sermon. Your historical narrative was very…well…historic! As I’ve learned from you in the past, history is a way of not only telling a story but connecting a story together. I got a real sense as if I was quantum leaped back to 70 A.D (minus Scott Bakula!)

    I think it is extremely important for not just biblical history but for all history that we understand the circumstances that transpired. We must not beam our own culture and stand it in place over the other. Instead, just as you’ve done with your sermon and how you’ve tirelessly taught us through the years, to place ourselves, singularly within the mindset and events of the part of scripture we are investigating. I feel it is unfair to the original authors to represent American culture in place of the original audience. But that doesn’t mean we, modern history, cannot learn something from our ancient brothers and sisters. The must prevalent lesson I picked up on was perseverance through hardship and to worry about the troubles of today because tomorrow has enough of its own.

    Thanks for the lesson Byron! It goes without saying that I love history, but I also love a good theological lesson as well. Thanks for the two-for brother Fike!

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