Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This does not end well: Mark 13

While I have the utmost of sympathy for those who have been, in times past, let down by the doom and gloom predictions of the end of the world, it is time to admit the truth. This world does not end well. Whether you want to contemplate the end of human history or the destruction of the Earth, whether you think Jesus comes back and takes some of His or if you think He waits until all of His are set, things are going to get ugly someday.

How do we know that? Take a look at todays’ passage, Mark 13 (link [oh, and please, if you click through, disregard the poor choice of words on the NLT section heading.]) In this passage, Jesus speaks to His disciples about the things to come before He comes to finalize justice on this earth.

The occasion that sparks the discussion is when one of the disciples points out the beautiful stonework and construction standards at the Temple. This disciple, unnamed in the Synoptic Gospels, was highlighting the work the people of Israel had done to honor God. It has a bit, also, of a redneck feel to it for me: I think of how I feel at fancy churches and big buildings, like the State Capitol, and how I am sometimes awestruck at the beautiful buildings and the amazing stone work.

Then, though, I think of changing the lights in those chandeliers and I get over my awe pretty quickly. I do think that whatever disciple it was who said this was likely one who had come from a more rural and distant setting, away from Jerusalem. He would have been one to be around the Temple only at major events, when the place was crowded. Now, he’s here in a lull time, up close and astounded.

What has astounded him, though, is temporary. No matter how impressive it looks, no structure built by human hands will hold up. Even the secular efforts of the History Channel show us this: take a look at their Life After People series sometime. You’ll see how the simple ravages of time will ultimately destroy everything mankind has built.

Except what Jesus goes on to teach in this chapter is even more bleak. The works of humanity will not have the opportunity to fall to the ravages of time, for the ravages will not have time. Instead, nations will war against nations and kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes and famines. And those things are just the beginning. It goes downhill from there.

It will be so bad that you should not stop to get your coat or pack a few things. You will not want to grab your evac pack or your Bear Grylls Limited Edition Super-Duper Survival Combo Gear. Pregnant women and those nursing will have terrible times, and winter will make it worse! (Note to modern folks: consider that this was a no-formula-because-it-does-not-exist time. Why is it bad for nursing mothers? Because that’s any woman with a child under two. Hard for her, hard for the child.)

Alongside these events will be the shift in humanity from any form of compassionate society into an every man for himself! mindset. Parents will turn on children, friends and brothers on each other, and the whole world will hate the people who follow Jesus. That’s what He says, not what I say. When we start feeling like the world is turning against us as believers, we might consider that this is actually a good thing.

This area of life is a major debate topic in the current day. There are those who view life from a godless perspective, who feel that someday mankind might extinct itself. Those who think man will go on until the Sun expands, and will hopefully move onwards before that happens. Then there are those who look to the text of Scripture and see that God will come in a very different way than He is always present now and address the issue of a world corrupted by sin.

When that happens, it will not be good for a time. This world does not end well: the stones of the Temple? Torn apart by Romans to get the gold that melted between the rocks when they destroyed it by fire. A fire and destruction, for the record, that their commander attempted to prevent but the typically very disciplined Roman Army did not follow orders. Nothing stops the Word of God from being fulfilled.

The world at large will also be purified via fire and other means that feel destructive. The human-driven chaos will give way to divine work of wrath and cleansing.

The question for us is not really whether or not it will come. It is not even relevant when it will come. What is relevant is this question: when it comes, when He comes, how will you see Jesus? Will you see Him as the fulfillment of all you have hoped for or the fulfillment of all you have feared?

Either you will face the wrath of men or the wrath of God. One is as temporary as the Temple. The other is less so.

Today’s Nerd Note: This is heavily nerdy. The fact that the disciple who comments on the stones is unnamed just drives my curiosity crazy. And with the much larger issues roaming through the rest of the chapter, the identity of that disciple is not a heavy topic of discussion.

The story is present in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but none of them give an identification for the Architectural Disciple. Was it one of the Twelve? A different disciple? Was this Mattathias?

There is a theory that it’s Judas but he is not named because he turned out as the traitor, and there’s no real negative commentary here, so there’s no value in naming him. That’s just one theory, and it’s not heavily supported. It’s an argument from silence, and those are always sketchy.

What’s an argument from silence? It is where you look at what is said and try to infer what happened. In this case, since the disciple is unnamed, you try and guess why he’s unnamed, and argue (reason) from why you think someone would not be named.

It’s dangerous to argue from silence. When there is no evidence, there is no clear argument, so do not build too much on silent foundation. It may not be there when you need it the most.

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