Rattled by Jesus’ prediction, the disciples eagerly inquire about the details of the impending threat of the Temple’s destruction. “When will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Rather than directly answering the questions, Jesus issues further warnings and a staggering prediction of fearful things to come: earthquakes, famine, war, disasters, and messianic imposters. Like the disciples, we may cringe upon reading Jesus’ list. But unlike the disciples who tremble in fear of the future, we cringe because the list seems all too familiar in our world.
The disciples await the unfolding of Jesus’ pronouncements while today we watch with bated breath to discern if we’re truly living in the last days. The warnings Jesus enumerates are just the tip of the iceberg. The chapter continues with a longer list of persecution, political opposition, familial wrath, and betrayal that his followers will have to endure. Jesus warns people so they will not be alarmed but instead remember that these are “birth pangs”—the necessary process of suffering that results in the birth of God’s reign.
No matter how intense the persecution, however frightening the world events, those who trust in Jesus can take comfort in knowing that God’s plan unfolds according to the word of the Son. Jesus’ warning holds true, but the assurance of the resurrected Christ is equally true, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). And until that day, we look to our Lord Jesus, Author and Perfecter of our faith, our strength and shield, our one true ruler.
Lord, in these times of unrest and natural calamity, may I be a light in this dark world and be a vessel of your gospel of peace as we, your people, await your coming. Amen.
The inability to have a child brings pain to many today, and this was equally true in ancient times. In that context it was sometimes even worse, for Peninnah openly ridicules Hannah for being unable to conceive. But as a result of her desperate, heartfelt prayer, God blesses Hannah with a son, Samuel, who will become a powerful prophet. Hannah then rejoices in a God who exalts the poor and needy. Hannah provides an example of the boldness with which we also can approach God now because of Christ’s sacrifice. The destruction of Jerusalem is the focus of the passage in Mark. Jesus here predicts the demolition of the Temple and the city, which the Romans executed in 70 ce.
• Read 1 Samuel 1:4-20. When have you felt trapped by circumstances not of your own making? How did the situation resolve itself?
• Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10. When has a situation in your life changed because you persisted in prayer? What did that experience teach you?
• Read Hebrews 10:11-25. Do you perceive God’s remembering your sin no more as encouragement or license? Why?
• Read Mark 13:1-8. What signs make you anxious about the world’s future? What helps you rest easier?
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