After the Dystopia, After the Apocalypse / Mark 13:1–13 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 14th 2021 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 14th 2021: Season of Pentecost / Mark 13:1–13 "After the Dystopia, After the Apocalypse"
And as [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
And as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. The disciples were not wrong when they described the Temple in Jerusalem as wonderful; they looked at the massive stones and the beautiful buildings and found themselves in a kind of utopia. Some of the stones were 60 to 67 feet in length, about 7 ½ feet in height and up to 9 feet thick. These are great big stones, very impressive. Everything was gleaming white stone and in many places gold was used as a decorative covering which would have looked amazing in the light of the sun.
Now they had just been sitting “opposite the [Temple] treasury [where they had] watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And [Jesus] called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on,” and earlier that very day the Pharisees and Herodians had questioned Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar, this is where Jesus responds by saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” so they had had a day full of teaching from Jesus where Jesus was trying to help them understand their priorities in life, where it actually was that they needed to be placing their trust. Not in governments, not in their own money and now … not even in the physical building of the impressive Temple right before their eyes. In The End Jesus was telling them that whatever might come their way they needed to have their trust in God not in the things that will pass away.
Having our priorities straight in life is likewise hard and we too need to learn lessons along the way. We like to put our trust in things, the kind of things we can touch and feel; people, places and in the concrete things of this life. Yet the Psalms say, “put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Likewise the Wisdom of Solomon says, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” And Saint Paul instructs the younger pastor and Bishop Timothy, to instruct the rich in this present age not to be conceited in their wealth, “nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” In fact one time, years earlier, while Jesus was “speaking to the people, behold, His mother and His brothers stood outside, asking to speak to Him. But [when His teaching was interrupted with this news Jesus] replied to the man who told him [asking], “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, [Jesus] said “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” On the one hand that part is tough. Many people love their families, on the other hand think of the people who have no family, perhaps no family left due to death or perhaps they have small families that they are separated from because of complex circumstances or great distance, for them having brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus is a mercy, it’s a great and wonderful thing. This often boils down to perceptions and perceptive. Remember the rich young man who asked Jesus “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus responded saying, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And [the rich young man] said to [Jesus], “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Disheartened by the saying, [the young man] went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Where did he put his trust? His trust was in what he had, in what he had in his hand right then in the moment not on what Christ Jesus gives today and promises to give in eternity. The young man’s perspective in life, his priorities were out of step with the Truth. The Word of God is Truth; the Word of God makes us holy.
Often overlooked in the Gospel reading appointed for today is the change of location. It starts with them leaving the Temple in Jerusalem but quickly Jesus is sitting down on the Mount of Olives to continue to teach them their lesson. The Mount of Olives is across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem and from there you can sit and look at Jerusalem, and on that day you could sit and look at the Temple with its white stones and golden decorations.
However across the valley … the stones don’t look so big, not so impressive from afar: a little distance helps bring perspective. And so it is in our lives too. Even a nightmare that is terrifying as its happening in the night starts to lose its grip on the mind in the light of the day. All the same some things stick with us, thoughts and moments, things said haunt us, for soldier’s things they saw in war. All through the Kidron Valley Saint Peter, James, John and Andrew must have thought about Jesus’ words when He said about the Temple, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down,” because once on the other side of the valley with the Temple now much, much smaller in the distance Saint Peter, James, John and Andrew ask Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” Jesus knows that what they were asking about would happen in the year 70 A.D. almost 40 years after the events of our Gospel lesson today when the Roman Government, in a state of exasperation with the Jewish people, would order the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.
Another often overlooked detail in the Gospel reading appointed for today is the timing of the conversation. While Saint Peter, James, John and Andrew were specifically thinking about the Temple the hour of Jesus’ greatest need was coming, our reading today comes to us during the first couple days of Holy Week in the days leading up to Jesus’ Crucifixion. The week had started with loud cheers of “Hosanna” with the crowd calling out “help us!,” “Save us!,” “Rescue us, Saviour,” Jesus had made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the day we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, and after clearing the Temple of the money changers Jesus had begun each day to teach there in the Temple. The Scribes and the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Elders of the people had day in and day out tried to upstage Jesus, tired to publicly catch Him in His words, to prove Him a false teacher, but they failed over and over and over again, and as they failed they secretly continued to plot another way to get rid of Jesus. Just days after our reading today Jesus would again be on the Mount of Olives this time at night and the disciple Judas would lead Temple Guards into the Garden of Gethsemane to betray and arrest Jesus, to march Him back down and up the Kidron Valley past the Temple to the High Priest’s house to start the kangaroo court proceedings that would eventually lead to Jesus’ Crucifixion.
Saint Peter, James, John and Andrew were asking about the stones of the physical Temple building they saw built in the city, wondering about the future of the structure when in the immediate future something catastrophic, earth shattering and strangely wonderful was about to happen to a different Temple, the true Temple a Temple not built with hands. Thinking again to priorities, the people in person of Jesus Christ had God in the flesh right before their very eyes, they had His Words in their ears, Words that permeated their hearts and yet they were blind and deaf to what was before them. And even Saint Peter, James, John and Andrew who knew who Jesus was still could not see what was to come in just a few short days. They were still learning what Jesus was teaching them, it had not all sunken in yet. Remember on the Sunday, at the beginning of the week, when Jesus had cleared the money changers from the Temple the Jews questioned Him asking, “What sign do You show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” [But the Gospel of Saint John tell us Jesus] was speaking about the Temple of His Body.”
Upon the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion not “one stone” of Jesus’ body, the true Temple, was left upon another that was not thrown down. With fists and whips, with twisted crown of thorns, with nails and rough hewn wooden beams, with insults and with spit they tore down the true Temple until Jesus called out “it is finished,” breathed His last and died. The heart of Jewish worship was to be God not the Temple made with the hands of man. If the Temple didn’t point to Jesus what good was it? And once the incarnate true Temple of Jesus’ body was torn down and raised up on the third day by God the Father than there was no more need for the Temple in Jerusalem. When Saint Peter, James, John and Andrew ask about the Temple Jesus both spoke of what was to happen that week, what was to happen within their life in the year 70 A.D. and what would happen at the end of the World, at The End of Time.
Three Apocalypses, three dystopias: For you this is something to consider and prioritise in your life. The first dystopia, the Apocalypse of Jesus hung dead upon the cross of Good Friday ends with Easter Morning and Jesus risen from the dead, life eternal made manifest in Him and promised to you. The second dystopia, the Apocalypse of the destruction of the physical Temple in Jerusalem and the razing of the city by the Romans, a siege that began on 14 April 70 A.D., three days before the beginning of Passover of that year ultimately ushered in exponential growth of the body of Christ, the continued growth of the Church who has bore you like a mother, the place where you come to hear the Word of God read, and preach to you, where you are fed in Holy Communion with the crucified, risen and ascended body and blood of Jesus our Lord for the forgiveness of your sins, strength in life and eternal life in Him.
So what then should we expect with the third dystopia, what should we expect with The Last Apocalypse, The End of Time? Jesus says “do not be anxious,” “do not be alarmed,” “bear witness,” He says, “you will be hated,” He says, “be on your guard,” people often become anxious when they don’t know what is coming, or could come. Knowing what to expect can actually help a person be less anxious. We have been shown what will happen. In our Gospel reading Jesus tells them plainly and tells you plainly of the coming dystopia Jesus relates all these things when they come to labour pains saying, “These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” And as you know the contractions of birth pains, when they start, will come and go but they come closer and closer together until the baby is born. Will “the baby” be born in our life time? Will the Last Day come in our lifetime? Through History many people have thought, “I am living in the Last Days,” perhaps you have thought the same about the days we are living in now and in a way — even if The End for the World is yet far off — there is a way in which this is true of all of us, for we each only have so many days and we do not know when our personal Last Day will come. One way or the other the end is coming. Now should you be afraid of it? As Christians, baptised into Christ Jesus should you be afraid of it? No. Because you know what will come, Jesus has shown you already. Jesus will come on That Day; and on your Last Day, should that day come first, Jesus promises to come and take you to Himself that where He is you may be also.
For you then The End will not be zombies, or an Alien invasion from outer space like Hollywood says, and it will not be an asteroid and nothingness, it will not be extinction like the Materialist says, no it will be Life, it will be the Resurrection, it will be Peace and Rest from the troubles of this life. When the birth pains are over and “the baby” is delivered it will be joy. As Jesus says, “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” … but you say, “I’m not sure if I can endure the pains of this life right to the end?” “I’m weak.” Dear one, find your forgiveness in Jesus He endured all even death on the cross without fault, like it says in Hebrews He is faithful, all your forgiveness is found in Him and remember what Saint Paul says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The grace of God is sufficient. Jesus knew that His disciples, the ones who endured to the end, would all share the experience of hardships for their faithfulness to Jesus. St. Paul would also write that we Christians actually “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Therefore take heart, whatever you are suffering in the moment it will not last forever. Just as Jesus lead His disciples across the Kidron Valley to help them gain perspective about the Temple and their priorities in life, see how Jesus shepherds you across the valley of death, the valley of trouble and hardship, of grief and lose, of pain and sickness to show you the size of it from afar. As St. Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” And remember Jesus is with you when everything is overwhelming and big, when it’s immense and more than you can handle, He is with you likewise in the shadow of the valley and He is with you on the other side of your dystopia, your personal apocalypse, your tragedies and hardships. Trust in Him, trust in the Word of God, stand firm in your faith, endure, make this your priority for in The End you know what comes after, it is Jesus, and you need not be anxious or afraid. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Concordia Commentary Mark 8:27-16:20 Voelz & Mitchell, Concordia Publish House 2019, Pg 949
 Mark 12:41–44
 Mark 12:17
 Psalm 146:3
 Proverbs 11:28
 1 Timothy 6:17
 Matthew 12:46–50
 Mark 10:19–22
 John 17:17
 John 2:18–21
 John 19:30
 John 14:3
 Hebrews 10:23
 2 Corinthians 12:10
 Romans 5:3–5
 Romans 8:18
Photo Credits: Main Photo Wailing Wall Jerusalem from Pr. Ted Giese; Model of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem from Wikimedia Commons; Detail of Coins from pexels; Bitcoins and USD Cash from pexels; Across the Kidron Valley, Mount of Olives from Jerusalem, Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Walls around Jerusalem, Another View Across the Kidron Valley, Mosaic of The City of Jerusalem and Crosses craved by the Faithful in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Pr. Ted Giese.