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MARK 13:1-37
Series:  The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Forty One

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 24, 2019

Last Sunday we looked at 4 verses.  Today, we’re moving through 37 verses - which is all of chapter 13.  Which is nuts.  Except that - as we’re going to see - these 37 verses all tie together and really need to be looked at all together if we’re going to understand what Jesus is teaching here.


So, we’re going to approach this a little differently.  Because that’s a lot of verses.  Rather than standing together - as we come before God’s word - and reading all 37 verses out loud together.  I’m going to read for us and we’ll take these in sections according to what’s being taught.


So, before we get to verse 1 - will you join with me in prayer.


Verses 1 to 4 are the Setting and Questions - the where and when and the backfill of what Jesus is teaching here.


We’ve been moving through Jesus’ final week of ministry heading to the cross and His crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  The day we’ve been looking at for several Sundays now is… Tuesday.


Which began in the... morning.  Jesus and the disciples traveling into Jerusalem from Bethany - which is about 2 miles away.  Passing the withered fig tree.


And Jesus always “on task” teaching - what has been His ministry and message since Day 1 of His ministry and His message:  The kingdom of God is at… hand.  Repent and believe.  The truth of Who Jesus is and what it means to have a relationship with God by repenting and trusting in Jesus - what God has done for us in Christ.  (Mark 1:15)


Throughout the day - on Tuesday - we’ve seen tag team groups of religious leaders and their cronies that have come up to Jesus with questions about His authority and allegiances and education and doctrine.


Questions that are designed to take Jesus… down and out.


Questions which Jesus reframes and rebuts so that finally no one has the guts to ask Him any more questions.


Finally - last Sunday we saw Jesus - using the giving of the rich folks who valued the esteem of the crowd more than the esteem of God.  Jesus contrasting that with the giving of the widow who more than anything or anyone - she valued the esteem of God and God’s verdict on her life.  The widow who gave - not out of her excess - but gave everything she had in total trust of God.


Jesus using that contrast as a real time example of what it means for His disciples - for us - what it looks like if we really are trusting God at the heart level.


If we’re really understanding Who Jesus is - the Messiah - God in the flesh and blood of our humanity - and all of what Jesus has done for us on the cross - then are we really “all in” repenting and trusting Him with all we are?  Or are we still trying to give value to what’s around us and trusting something or someone other than God with our lives?  Even just a little bit?


Which is the back fill on verse 1.  The kingdom of God is at hand - repent and trust in Jesus.


Verse 1:  As He came out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”


Late Tuesday - Jesus and the disciples are heading out of the temple - and the disciples are doing the tourist thing.  Maybe they picked up a couple of brochures - took a few selfies.  They’re impressed with the architecture.


Which is understandable. 


This is the picture of the model in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  Which doesn’t do it justice.  But kind of gives us an idea of what the temple looked like to the disciples.


Herod the Great had done a major renovation of the temple that Zerubbabel had built coming back after the exile.  Herod had spend decades renovating and improving the temple and the temple complex.


The whole temple mount - side to side to side - is about 20 football fields.  It’s designed to host 100,000 plus worshippers on high holy days.  Surrounding the temple was the Court of Gentiles which was open to anyone and it was surrounded by different structures where different activities took place.


On the south side was the Royal Porch which is where the Sanhedrin conducted court.  It was magnificent.  162 monolithic marble columns in four rows with Corinthian capitals holding up a roof of carved cedar.  And that was just one section.


Then the whole complex was surrounded by a strong wall and several gates.  Some of the stones used in the construction weighed upwards of 10 tons.  And if we were down in the Kidron Valley - which is where the disciples probably came out and headed into - if we were down in the Kidron Valley looking up that would be like looking up at a ten story building.


Then rising above the whole complex - the temple itself was constructed of white marble and covered with heavy plates of gold.  It was conspicuous and jaw dropping dazzling.


It is very understandable that the disciples were impressed.  Which of us wouldn’t be?


“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.”


If you were to go to Jerusalem today and look at the foot of the western wall - just south of the wailing wall - archeologists have excavated these stones.  Which are the stones from Herod’s temple.  That in 70 AD - when the Romans - when they were finally crushing the Jews as a nation and destroying Jerusalem in the process - when they destroyed the temple they threw these stones down here.


Notice the broken up paving stones.  Those are from the time of Jesus.  Jesus Himself may have walked on those paving stones that have been broken up because of the impact of the stones from Herod’s temple being thrown down on them.  Just as Jesus predicted they would be.


Jesus - “on task” - the value of the temple - the center of what’s religious in Israel - jaw dropping in its magnificence.  The value of that verses repenting and trusting in Jesus.  Jesus bringing His disciples back to what He’s been teaching since they passed the fig tree that morning.


Verse 3:  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?”


This is what that view looks like today from the Mount of Olives.  Today the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are on that same temple mount.  And if you have about 2 hours to wait in line you can go up and be a tourist there.


Leaving the temple complex Jesus and the disciples would have descended into the Kidron Valley.  And been looking up those 10 stories at the walls.  Then they would have gone through the Garden of Gethsemane and up to the top of the Mount of Olives.  And seen this view - but with the temple still standing there.


It’s not hard to imagine that as they’re walking - Peter, James, John, and Andrew were probably chewing over Jesus’ statement.  And doing some comparisons between what Jesus had said and the jaw dropping seemingly indestructible solid construction of the temple complex


When they get to the vista point they asked Jesus privately - meaning not publicly in front of a large crowd that may be have been following:  “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”


Which are the great questions that usually get asked.  Right?  When we’re talking about future history - prophecy about what’s coming.


“When” - meaning when that happens what will that be like - especially for us?  And, “what signs” - meaning what are looking for?  How do we know when we’re getting close to all that happening?


Beginning in verse 5 is Jesus’ answer.  What is known by theologians and commentators and other students of the Bible as The Olivet Discourse.  Because it’s a discourse that Jesus gave on the... Mount of Olives.


Which is why we’re looking at 37 verses this morning.  Because there’s no way to break up this discourse into smaller pieces without potentially missing the big picture of what Jesus is teaching.


So, let’s be clear on what that big picture is.


No matter how much we may be tempted to think that the focus of what Jesus is teaching here is about prophecy and what comes next and how to recognize what comes next just before what comes next comes next - the focus of what Jesus is teaching here is not about when and how but about what it means to have faith in Him.  Repenting and trusting in Him because the Kingdom of God is at... hand.


Verses 5 to 8 - Olivet Discourse - Part 1:  Evil Will Continue.  


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.”


Sometimes I get asked, “Do you think that the events in the Middle East are setting us up for the return of Jesus?”  Well sure.  Events in the Middle East have been setting the stage for the return of Jesus for as long as there’s been a Middle East.  Without question the return of Jesus is one day closer today than it was yesterday.


Are there earthquakes?  Yes.  Famines?  Yes.  Is this it?  Maybe.


With a lot of prophecy there can be more than one fulfillment of the same prophecy.  Past fulfillment that helps to clarify what a future fulfillment will look like.  And there is a whole lot of interpretation and speculation and debate that’s gone on for centuries about what all that means.  Which we’re not going to get into because it isn’t part of the big picture.


Jesus predicting the future of Israel and the world is talking in very general - it’s been a part of human history since there was human history - terms.  Some of these events have happened - are happening - will happen.  What we need to grab out of that is that evil has, is, and will continue to rule on this earth for some time.


False Messiahs will rise up.  Man will act inhuman.  Bad things will happen.  But those things are not necessarily the “signs” we’re looking for.  All that is insignificant to what’s coming.


Verse 9 - Olivet Discourse - Part 2:  Believers Will Be Persecuted.


“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.”


With all the talk in the US about tolerance and enlightenment - somehow that has led to greater attacks on the Church and God’s people.  Around the world - we know - that the last century was the worst in human history - the most severe in its persecution of God’s people.  And this century is worse.


Jesus gives examples of what that is like.  What that will be like.  Not if.  But will be - is.


And persecution not just coming from “out there” somewhere.  But persecution - affliction - rejection - coming from within.  From our own families.  From “all” - which is pretty inclusive of pretty much everyone.


Jesus teaches that all that persecution is the means by which the gospel will be “proclaimed to all nations.”  “Nations” translating the Greek word “ethnos” meaning people who are not Hebrew.  Gentiles like us.  The whole world.


If we choose to follow Jesus the world will resent it not support it.  And when we stand in God’s truth what’s coming against us from the world will only increase.


And that has happened and will happen according to God’s plan for His purposes and His glory.


Verse 14 - The Olivet Discourse - Part 3:  Transition & Great Tribulation.


“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.  And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!  Pray that it may not happen in winter.  For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of creation that God created until now, and never will be.  And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved.  But for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.  And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there He is!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.  But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.


Verses 5 to 13 are pretty much status quo evil and man’s messed up world of sin operating under the rule of Satan.  But here - starting in verse 14 - Jesus shifts to a specific event that will interrupt the flow of all that.

The beginning of what seems to be a transitional period of time.  A transition from the present ongoing kingdom of evil on a rampage to the Kingdom of God.  What Bible scholars have labeled “The Great Tribulation.”


Not that there’s anything “great” about it.  Except that it is “greater than” anything before it and anything that might come after it.


Jesus taught that the event that would be the sign of this transition happening is that the “abomination of desolation” would be standing where he ought not to be.


Now we get to the good stuff.  Is Donald Trump the antichrist?  Or maybe it’s Bernie Sanders?  Or maybe it really was Henry Kissinger?  Who or what is “the abomination of desolation”?


The term in Greek describes anything or anyone that is totally repugnant and revolting.  Literally - it’s something spiritual that makes you want to hurl.


It comes from the prophet Daniel where Daniel used the term to describe a coming act of gross sacrilege that was to be committed against God. 


In 168 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes - who hated the Jews - Antiochus Epiphanes storms into Jerusalem and butchers the people - kills children - crucifies 100,000 people who refused to worship his false gods.  Fries them alive in oil.  Dismembers them.  Laughs at their agony. 


Then Antiochus defies the high priests - enters the Temple - builds a pagan altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings - offers a pig as a sacrifice - then rips down the curtain to the holy of holies in the temple - takes the blood from the pig and sprinkles it around the sanctuary - defiling the whole place.  Ends the regular burnt sacrifice with an abomination that makes the Temple desolate - unusable.


The people of Jesus’ day - the disciples would have looked back to 168 BC as an example of what Daniel was prophesying forward about.  Jesus is teaching about future history.  Expect the same.


About 7 years later - 40 AD - the Emperor Caligula orders a statue of his image to be built on the altar of burnt offerings and to be worshipped by the Jews.


In 67 to 68 AD - Jewish zealots occupied the temple.  Murdered their Jewish brothers and piled up the dead in the holy of holies and elected their own pretender priest.


Which was part of the Jewish revolt that led to the Romans - in 70 AD - under the future emperor Titus - laying siege to Jerusalem - conquering this city - and throwing the stones over the side of the temple mount as the temple was destroyed.


Somewhere in all that upwards of 1 million Jews died by crucifixion and famine and other horrors.


What was a literally fulfillment of Jesus has prophesied.  That some of those hearing Jesus would see take place.  And yet, as “great” as that was it is not a “great” as what is coming.  But it gives us an idea of what to expect.


Some speculate that the “abomination of desolation” is a social movement or political ideology or some kind of an act that stands where it should not stand as though this signal will have a will of its own and legs to stand on.


Which may be part of what’s behind what’s here.  But Mark give us the indication that the “abomination of desolation” is a person.  And always in the past there has been a person tied to the abomination.


Jesus teaches - when you see the “abomination of desolation” - “understand” - meaning think “this is it.”  Meaning we won’t need to be speculate because God’s people will know this is it and if it really is an it or a who.


The signal of transition to the last last days of upheaval and pestilence and conflict and persecution and disaster and horror and deception and depravity and unleashed evil in a quantity and quality that has never been seen before.


In the midst of all that tribulation, false Christ’s will rise up.  False Christ’s who will be given supernatural power from Satan - to serve him - to lead the gullible and foolish away from God.  And even to attempt to lead God’s own people away from God.  As if that was possible.


Jesus tells us that God will shorten those days of transition and tribulation for the sake of His people.  Which means, some of us may see those days.


The Olivet Discourse - Part 4:  The End of the World.


Finally!  After the transition and tribulation - the end of the world as we know it.


“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”


We’ll know were in those days - not because of earthquakes and famines and other ongoing events - but the sky will go dark - no sun - no moon - no stars.  The powers in the heavens will be shaken.  No scientist or astronomer or philosopher or astrologist will be able to explain that.  There will be no way to misread its purpose and what it points to. 


What Jesus is teaching about is what the Old Testament refers to as “The Day of the Lord.”  Which is an event where God will bring human history to an end.  Period.  We’re done. 


Daniel was given a vision of that day.  What those listening to Jesus would have picked up on with Jesus’ use of the title “Son of Man.”


Daniel 7:14,15:  I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.


What Daniel was given a vision of - when God brings human history to an end - Daniel saw Jesus being enthroned at the right hand of God.  A position of dominion and glory and a kingdom - the kingdom - the everlasting kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ - when He returns - He will gather His people from every nation and language - He will gather His people to be with Him - He will gather us - to be in His Kingdom with Him forever.


It is at that time that God - through His Messiah - will bring the forever restoration and peace and prosperity and blessing to Israel that those in Jesus’ day - and before and since - that God’s people have longed for and expected the Messiah to bring to them.


The Olivet Discourse - Part 5:  Reassurance in Regularity.


“From the fig tree learn its lesson:  as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place you know that He is near, a the very gates.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Our fig tree - despite all the frost and cold - and despite my best efforts at gardening - our fig tree still lives and pretty soon is going to put out leaves and we anticipate - if everything goes as it’s gone in past years - that our fig tree will begin the process of producing figs.


Same thing happens in Israel.  Any person with reasonable powers of observation would have been aware of that and would know that summer is coming.


Point being - the events that Jesus is describing - are observable and easily discernible and regularly - repetitively - ongoing.  When we see them, we’ll can confidently know that’s what they are and that’s what they point to.  We can count on what comes next, coming next.


Jesus promised that “this generation” would not pass away until these things take place.  Which is a statement that has led to no end of speculation and confusion as to what in creation Jesus meant by that.  Because almost 2,000 years later we’re still here waiting and the disciples - generations past - aren’t.


The most likely explanation is that Jesus is referring to the generation that’s alive when the events He’s describing take place.  “This generation” refers to those who will witness the great coming tribulation and who will see Jesus the Messiah return to rule as King.


Then - recorded in verse 31 - is this promise:  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”


When the sun and moon go dark and the stars fall and the heavens are shaken and evil goes on a rampage know that what Jesus has taught is truth that will not fail.


As surely as we know that a fig tree will produce figs with the almost boring -  taken for granted - regularity of winter turning into spring turning into summer - we can count on what Jesus has said as happening with the certainty of already completed future history.


There is a huge reassurance in that for us.  The signs point to a tribulation that has an end point - no more than a generation.  The signs point to the coming of Jesus - who will return and rule and reign.  It’s a done deal.  Count on it being exactly as Jesus said it would be.


Finally - The Olivet Discourse - Part 6:  Warning & Waiting.


“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard, keep awake.  For you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.  Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all:  Stay awake.”


Two points for us to hang on to.  Point One:  No one knows when.  Not even Jesus in His humanity.  Only God the Father knows when.

Someone said,
“As soon as you predict that’s when, you can be sure that isn’t when.”


Remember this?  Family radio - Harold Camping predicted that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on May 21, 2011, whereupon the saved would be taken up to heaven in the rapture, and that there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011, with the final destruction of the world.


But we’re still here.  And Harold’s died.  And He still doesn’t know.


There are some really solid Bible teachers that have fallen into the trap of stating with great certainty what will happen and how.  Prophetically speaking - with great certainty - on and on they go - prediction after prediction - all wrong.  All cheapening the purpose of God’s prophetic word.


With compete clarity.  Clear as mud.  The disciples ask Jesus, “When and what?”  And Jesus never really answers their question.


Let’s be clear.  Prophecy is not about knowing events.  Prophecy is about knowing God.


God doesn’t give us a list of signs to look for and debate about so we can impress each other with what we know.  God gives us prophecy so that we can know God.  Not know about God.  But know God.  Deeply.  Intimately.


Prophecy is intended by the Sovereign God to draw us closer to Him.  To give us a glimpse behind the scenes of history showing where and how and why God is working in His relationship with mankind.  To grab His sovereignty in order to increase our knowing Him - how He works and what He’s passionate about.  In order to go deeper in our trust.  To live by increasing faith.  To strive towards greater obedience.


So, no matter how much we may be tempted to think that the focus of what Jesus is teaching here is about prophecy and what comes next and how to recognize what comes next just before what comes next comes next – the focus of what Jesus is teaching here is not about when and how but about what it means to have faith in Him.  Repenting and trusting in Him because the Kingdom of God is at... hand.


Point Two - Jesus says repeatedly:  Stay awake.”


Jesus tells this parable about the master leaving and returning unexpectedly.  We don’t know when but we know He will.  So, be ready.


It’s what the theologians call the “immanent” return of Jesus.  His return is always soon.  Sooner today than yesterday.  When?  Soon.  Could happen NOW!!!!  Possible.


“Stay Awake” means to… “Stay Awake.”  The opposite of the disciples and their epic fail in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Remember that?   


“Stay awake” means to keep being alert - keep active - keep watching - keep being ready.


Let’s be clear.  Jesus’ emphasis isn’t on the signs but on what they point to.  The bottom line of the prophecies of Jesus’ return is not “when” will He return - but that He “will” return.  The assurance of that.  What’s important is how we live today knowing that He is coming back.


Are together on that?  That’s a much more crucial question for us than “when”  But “how?”  How do I live today knowing that Jesus is coming back?


Processing all that… Four takeaways.


First:  We need to be listening to Jesus not to what others say or all the craziness in the world around us that can be absolutely terrifying.  Jesus is  to the point blunt about the truth of Who He is and what He’s teaching.  We need to cling to that.  Eyes open and Bibles open focused on Him.


Second:  We need not be surprised by the suffering of God’s people.  Good news and bad news.  Good news:  Things are not as bad as the could be.  Bad news:  They’re going to get worse.  But even that really is good news.  That’s an opportunity to live and possibly die testifying of God to His glory alone.


Third:  We need to make obedient use of the time God gives to us.  That get’s said a lot to the point where we almost go numb to it.  Falling asleep rather than being awake.  But it’s a bottom line question we need to think about how we’re answering.


Ask a 10 year old about growing old and dying and probably they’re not thinking too much about it.  Ask a 90 year old and that may be all they’re thinking about.


If you knew when and how you would die - especially if that time was really close - would it change the way you live today?


There’s a certain urgency in that - in the immanent return of Jesus - especially in the time given to us by God here and now - that we cannot take for granted and we must be using wisely.


Personally in our own relationship with Jesus - the discipline of that in our drawing ever closer to Him and living in obedience to Him.  But crucially - essentially important - by being obedient and proactive in our sharing the gospel with others.  Time is short and getting shorter.


And finally - Fourth:  We need to hang on to the sovereignty of God in the growing insanity of where and when we live.  Someone said, “God is sovereign.  It doesn’t always seem so.  But it is so.”  And because it is so - we can always live by faith and not by fear.





Series references:

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).

Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2:  Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.