Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost


Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 28)
November 18, 2012
Text: Mark 13:1-13

            Jesus is talking about the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in our Gospel this morning.  The disciples were bragging about the Temple architecture.  It was an impressive display, built by Herod to gain the favor of his Jewish subjects.  It was the place of sacrifice.  It was the place of God’s dwelling with His people, Israel.  It was also big business, though that was never what God intended.  Wonderful stones, wonderful buildings to be sure, a house of prayer, a place of grace and forgiveness for those looking to God for salvation, those anticipating the Messiah.  Just look, Jesus.  Be impressed.  And Jesus responds, “Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2; ESV).  It’s a prophecy, and it was fulfilled about 40 years later, in AD 70, when the Romans utterly destroyed the Temple.  But, you see, there’s no need for these buildings anymore.  Because Jesus is here.  There’s no need for the sacrifices of bulls and goats and sheep, because Jesus is the once for all sacrifice for sin offered on the altar of the cross.  There’s no need for the Temple curtain concealing the Holy of Holies as the dwelling place of God with men, because now God dwells with men in the flesh of Jesus Christ.  He dwells with His Israel, His Church, in the flesh.  His Church, His Body, is your place of prayer.  His Church, His Body, is your place of grace and forgiveness.  The Messiah has come, Jesus Christ.  God in the flesh is your salvation.

            So there is an end to the Temple of Jerusalem, and it is that of which our Lord speaks.  And yet, in speaking of the end of the Temple, He speaks simultaneously of another end, the end of the world, the end of time, Judgment Day, of which the end of the Temple is but a foreshadowing.  When will these things be?  We all wonder. The disciples voice our question: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (v. 4).  Jesus doesn’t give them a direct answer.  Instead, He gives a warning and an admonition.  The warning: Do not be deceived!  See that no one leads you astray” (v. 5).  There will be false teachers aplenty in these grey and latter days.  They don’t come with flashing neon signs saying, “I’m a false teacher!”  They come “in Jesus’ Name”.  They come saying, “I am he!” (v. 6).  Some are more easily identifiable, those that claim to be Jesus or the Messiah, the cult leaders.  We have no problem pegging them for what they are.  But most false teachers are not so easily identified.  They talk a good talk.  They walk a good walk.  They use the Bible a lot.  They give practical advice and a “relevant” message.  They make you feel good, inspired, uplifted.  But for all their God-talk, they do not preach Christ crucified.  They do not kill you with God’s crushing Law and preach you back to life with the Gospel of our Lord’s death and resurrection for sinners.  They do not drench you with the blood of the Lamb.  They are mere ear scratchers.  And the snake oil they’re peddling is poisonous.  While they distract you with the shiny objects of their meaninglessness, the Lord will come like a thief in the night, and then what?  Do not be deceived.  That’s the warning.  See that no one leads you astray.

            Instead, read the signs.  Wars and rumors of wars (v. 7).  Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, famines (v. 8); are these things not happening?  What does it mean?  As surely as these were signs of the end for the Temple and Jerusalem, just as surely they are signs of the end of the age.  Jesus is coming.  Be prepared.  Repent.  Cling to Christ.  Cling to His Word.  He is your only help in that Day.  He is your only Savior.  In Him you are safe.  Outside of Him, you are doomed.  You see, all these disasters Jesus mentions He says are “but the beginning of the birth pains” (v. 8).  There’s more to come, and much worse.  But if you’re in Jesus, this pain will be like that of a woman in labor.  The pain will not compare to the joy of the delivery out of this vale of tears into the blessedness of heaven.
            The Lord does not promise an easy life to His Christians.  Quite the opposite.  He promises persecution and difficulties.  He tells His apostles they’ll be delivered to councils, beaten in synagogues, and bear witness before governors and kings, most of them by dying for the Name of Christ and His Gospel (v. 9).  But such is their office, their calling.  They are to preach the Gospel to all nations (v. 10).  The Holy Spirit will be with them as they testify before the hostile world powers.  He will give them His Word to speak (v. 11).  But it won’t be easy.  Even family members will betray them to death on account of Christ (v. 12).  They will be hated by all for the Name of Jesus (v. 13).  But here’s the promise: “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (v. 13).  The one who is not ashamed to call Jesus his Lord, to confess Him as Savior and God, the one who believes in Jesus, even to the point of death, will have eternal life.  Because the Lord Jesus purchased such a one with His blood, and has sustained such a one by His Spirit. 

            This is hard to hear, and perhaps hard for us to imagine here in our American context, but if this is how the unbelieving world treated the apostles and the early Christians, beloved, can we expect to be treated any differently?  It is an indisputable fact that we in America enjoy unprecedented religious freedom, for which we should give thanks to God.  We dare not take it for granted.  It is an indisputable fact, attested by our founding fathers, that our religious freedom is always in peril, and the trend in our society today is to place more and more limitations on religious liberties.  And if you don’t believe that, it’s time to wake up.  This is not a partisan statement.  This is not a commentary on the recent election.  It is simply a fact that mandates on religious institutions in the United States are increasingly burdensome for the Christian conscience, the birth control mandate, for one, which includes mandatory coverage of abortion inducing drugs, not to mention proposed legislation which would make it a hate crime to preach that homosexuality is sinful.  Christianity is openly mocked by the entertainment industry, and openly silenced on university campuses.  We’re called bigots and haters.  It is just as Jesus said it would be: “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”  What is a Christian to do?  Certainly we Christians bear some responsibility in our vocation as citizens to fight against the trend.  But ultimately what does Jesus tell His disciples?  Don’t be afraid.  Bear faithful witness.  Confess the Lord Jesus.  And then suffer it.  Just as He suffered it for you, and for your salvation, all the way to the cross.  Suffer it, to death if necessary.  Because the promise is also for you: “the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

            See that no one leads you astray.  Heed the signs.  Confess Christ.  Trust Him.  Be in Him, beloved.  Be in Him, by being in His Word and at His Table.  He is the sacrifice.  He is the Temple, the dwelling place of God with men.  He is God in the flesh, for you, and for your salvation.  The end is coming.  That is the focus of these last couple Sundays in the Church year, and it’s one of the major themes of Advent.  Christ is coming again, visibly, to judge the living and the dead.  It will happen just as the Prophet Daniel describes it in our Old Testament lesson (Dan. 12:1-3).  Those who are in Christ by Baptism and faith will be judged innocent, righteous, on account of the suffering, blood, and death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection from the dead.  They will shine like the brightness of the sky above, like the stars forever and ever.  Those who are not in Christ, who do not believe in Him, who reject Him, will be judged guilty of all their sins, and will have to bear them for all eternity in the God forsakenness of hell.  Jesus is the Judge, because He has conquered death and the devil and hell and every other authority which could make a claim on us.  Jesus is King, because He created us and redeemed us and has made us His own by faith.  So these things will happen, as surely as the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70.  There will be false teachers.  There will be wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and famines and every other kind of disaster.  There will be persecutions.  These are the signs, the beginning of the birth pains.  But do not fear and do not be deceived.  Because the Lord Jesus is coming to deliver you and me and all who believe in Him.  Fight diligently.  Confess boldly.  The end is near.  And in that day, when Jesus appears for all to see, every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           

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