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 15, 2015

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 28)

November 15, 2015
Text: Mark 13:1-13

            Texts like our Holy Gospel, with all the talk of conflict and destruction and “the End,” can be scary for us.  There is something that is right about this.  We should fear God.  We are sinners.  God cannot abide sin.  Therefore we should fear His wrath, which is a real thing.  Hell is real, and real people go there.  So also, the conflict and destruction our Lord speaks of in our text is real.  And the End is coming when our Lord will return visibly to judge the living and the dead, to separate the sheep from the goats, to give eternal life to all believers in Christ, and send unbelievers to the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his evil angels.  Daniel tells us about this in our Old Testament, that the dead will be raised on that Day, and judged: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2; ESV).  But the End our Lord speaks of in our Holy Gospel isn’t just THAT End, the big one at the End of all time.  It is first of all about an end that has already taken place in history.  That is to say, the sack of Jerusalem by future Roman emperor Titus, and the utter destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70.  The disciples, remember, are pointing out to Jesus the marvelous architecture of the Temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world.  They wanted Jesus to be impressed by this triumph of human ingenuity and spectacular display of piety.  And Jesus takes the opportunity to teach where human ingenuity and outward piety will inevitably lead.  Destruction.  Not one stone will be left upon another.  They will all be thrown down (Mark 13:2).
            The Old Law is at an end.  Jesus has fulfilled it.  There is no more need for this Temple.  Jesus is the new and better Temple, the dwelling place of God with man, God in the flesh.  And there are consequences for the Jews having rejected Jesus.  What was it the chief priests and Pharisees said?  Because of Jesus, “the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48).  It happened, about 40 years later, not because the Jews accepted Jesus, but because they rejected Him.  Our Lord wept over Jerusalem, longing to gather her to Himself, but they would not (Matt. 23:37).  So this is the end of which Jesus speaks this morning, the end of Jerusalem as the Jews knew it, and the end of the Old Testament Temple and sacrifices.  But to be sure, this end points to THE End, and Jesus teaches us about both this morning.  The end of Jerusalem and the Temple is a sign that points to the End of time and the return of Jesus Christ to judge.  So are all other kinds of conflict and catastrophe.  The signs are apparent through the whole history of the world, from the fall of our first parents into sin to the present day: false christs… those claiming to be Jesus or at least to be some sort of savior; wars and rumors of wars… the Middle Eastern crisis isn’t going to end any time soon, nor will the threat of nuclear holocaust; earthquakes in various places; famines; genocide; abortion; human exploitation; and your own sin and suffering.  These are all a sign that the End is near.  Jesus is coming soon.
            And the point is what Jesus tells the disciples: “Be on your guard” (Mark 13:9).  Be vigilant.  Be watchful.  Because these things are happening all around you.  Now, the devil would lull you to sleep with shallow comforts and a false sense of security.  He sweetly sings his lullaby, just waiting for the opportunity to plunge his dagger into your heart.  In this case, the hand that rocks the cradle really does rule the world.  He is the prince of it.  And he wants you for his kingdom.  It’s a sham.  You are not safe.  Not with him.  Not with his followers, most of whom don’t even know they’re following him.  But understand what will happen to you in these gray and latter days if you are watchful, if you expose the devil’s lies for what they are, if you follow Christ and confess him.  You will suffer trials and persecution.  Why would the devil keep up the illusion of comfort and security if you’re on to his scheme?  The veil will be removed.  And they will deliver you up, Jesus says, to authorities religious and secular who will accuse you and beat you and rob you and kill you.  Has that not happened to you, my dear Americans?  You’re the few lucky ones.  Our brothers and sisters throughout the world suffer and confess Christ on pain of death.  There is still time for you.  If you escape it, praise be to God.  If you don’t escape it, thanks and praise be to Christ who counted you worthy to suffer for His Name.  Jesus says, “You will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness,” to martyr unto them, the Greek says (v. 9).  Understand, Jesus leaves you in the world to do this very thing.  Because “the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations” (v. 10).  You suffer for the sake of the Gospel.  Your suffering is a witness.  It is a martyrdom.  And it is a sign.  Jesus is coming soon.  Therefore repent and believe the Good News.  All your sins are covered by His Blood.  He died for you.  He is risen and lives for you.  He wants you for His own Kingdom.  He snatches you from Satan’s claws and declares you His beloved.  He writes His Name on you and defends you from all evil.  He is your true comfort and security.  And on the Last Day He will raise you from the dead, in your body, and pronounce you righteous with His own righteousness.  He has already done it in Holy Baptism.  You are justified.  Eternal life is yours. 
            Now, even when they bring you to trial for your confession of Christ, do not be afraid.  On that day, “do not be anxious,” Jesus tells you, “what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour,” for you see, “it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (v. 11).  What a precious promise.  If you’re anything like me, you worry about what you’ll say when it comes down to it and you are the one on trial, with your very livelihood or maybe even your life in the balance.  Will I be faithful?  Will I say what I should?  Will I confess Jesus Christ and entrust myself fully to Him?  Don’t worry about it, Jesus says.  The burden is on Him, not on you.  Perseverance under trial is His work and His gift of grace.  First of all, you already have the words.  You know the Creed.  And if you know the Creed, you know the Scriptures.  You know the teaching of the Lord, for the Holy Spirit has taught you by bringing you to Church.  And as far as speaking it when and as you should, that, too, is the Holy Spirit’s work.  He will put the courage into you.  I don’t know where he got it, but our Synod President, Matt Harrison, is fond of saying “Courage is fear that has been baptized.”  I like that a lot.  Of course you’re afraid.  You’re a sinner.  But you are baptized.  The Holy Spirit is in you.  You are clothed with Christ and all His righteousness.  And God is your Father.  He won’t desert you when the going gets tough.  You will confess, not because you are faithful, but because He is faithful.  And He has promised. 
            So, you know what is coming.  Family members against family members.  Brother delivering brother over to death, and a father his child, and children their father, and on and on it goes.  They’ll think they’re doing God a favor.  “Let’s get those hateful Christians.  Let’s expose them for the ignorant bigots that they are and outlaw their hate speech.”  Have you ever noticed how those who call us haters are full of vile hatred?  “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v. 13).  Why?  Most of them don’t know why.  Love them, beloved in the Lord.  Speak Christ to them.  Forgive them.  Pray for them.  Serve them.  Do not compromise the Lord’s Word, but bend over backwards wherever you can to establish peace.  And recognize that the source of their hatred is the evil one, who is absolutely desperate.  Because he knows he has lost.  And he knows Jesus is coming to cast him out. 

            Hold on to the Lord’s Promise: “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (v. 13).  The one who remains in Christ, who clings to His Word, the one who is baptized and nourished by the Supper of the Savior’s Body and Blood, the one who believes and confesses the Lord Jesus… you… will be saved.  So, in the midst of all these signs, in the midst of the conflict and destruction and persecution, be of good cheer.  Look up.  Stand up straight and tall.  For your redemption is drawing near.  God’s wrath is not for you, you who are in Christ.  God’s wrath has been poured out on Jesus for you.  All your sins are forgiven.  And you know the judgment, which Jesus will announce publicly on the Last Day: You are righteous!  You shall not die!  You will live, forever and ever, with God, with Christ.  And your joy will be full.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          

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