I’ve been reading about and reflecting lately on how Jesus calls His followers to lay down their lives. How He calls us to give our lives to Him and to realize the “cost” of following Him before we even start down that road (Luke 14:25-34).
In the midst of this, I was given the opportunity to teach in the kids class a couple of Sundays ago at our church, and our topic was very related.
Our church is going through a series on the end times as we study through the book of Mark, because we have reached Mark 13:1-27. I got to teach the kids class as we studied Mark 13:1-13.
Here’s the over simplified breakdown of these two sections:
Mark 13:1-13 Tells us what to do UNTIL the end comes
And Mark 13:14-27 tells us what to do WHEN the end comes (and when that will be)
Mark 13 begins with two very important reminders:
- God values people and their hearts more than their places of worship and accomplishments.
- Jesus knows the future and is not wringing His hands nervously, wondering how it’s all going to play out.
In these first few verses, the disciples are admiring the grand temple in Jerusalem, to which Jesus responds that not one of its stones will remain on top of another (that the entire thing will be completely destroyed and dismantled).
It reminds me of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4, where Jesus tells her that one day people will not worship at the mountain or the temple but in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:21-24).
It’s a great reminder of God’s priorities: people – not buildings or places of worship.
It was never the grandeur of the place that made it wonderful: it was God’s presence.
Fun fact: Jesus’ statement about the temple being destroyed must have seemed impossible. It was MASSIVE (even larger than the one Solomon built). However, when Rome unintentionally set it on fire around 70 AD (a drunk soldier set it ablaze when they were cracking down on a rebellion) all the gold of the temple melted into the cracks between the stones, and so the Roman military took the temple apart stone by stone in order to collect all of the gold.
Knowing What To “Pack”
Just like the situation with the temple, Jesus knows what will happen next.
He even goes into great detail in Mark 13:14-27 warning us of what to expect near the end of time…
But in verses 5-13, Jesus tells them of problems they (and we) will experience until the end does come… and He tells us how to handle them.
This is extremely important because Jesus is telling us how to set proper expectations for a life of following Him, and how to respond to the life problems that come our way.
And having correct expectations for life is like knowing what to pack for a vacation.
If you were going on a special trip,
but you didn’t know where you were going,
you would have a really hard time packing for the trip.
Will it be cold?
Will you be swimming?
Or will you be snowboarding?
Without knowing WHERE you’re going, you will have no idea what to pack.
Similarly, if we don’t know where following Jesus will lead us, we won’t know what to expect or how to respond.
Which is why Jesus gives us insight into what to expect from now until the end comes.
He is giving us clear expectations so that we’re not caught off guard.
And, with each warning of things to come, Jesus gives us something we can do to prepare for the life ahead.
Many will try to deceive… But do not be deceived (Mark 13:5-6)
This first warning from Jesus is the foundation.
People will give out “false gospels” and spread lies about God. Whether good intentions or not, we see people spreading half-truths about Who God is and what He wants for our lives.
And Jesus gives a clear command: “do not be deceived”. We are to know the Truth of Scripture and to not be influenced by lies.
You will hear wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and troubles… But do not be troubled (Mark 13:7-8)
It’s easier today than ever before to be troubled by national and global events.
Because of today’s technology and social media, we’re bombarded with issues throughout the world and we’re aware of situations and problems on a greater scale than history has ever known.
And, throughout it all, Jesus tells us to “not be troubled”. For just as He knew of the temple’s upcoming destruction, He’s fully aware of the what is going on, and He’s working in the midst of all of it.
Please note that I am not saying that we should passively sit by as problems arise. Jesus said to not be troubled; He didn’t say to be passive. We can be active in helping others in small and big ways – all while not “being troubled” and trusting Him through it all.
You will be rejected by religious and political leaders… But be submissive to them and a witness to the Truth (Mark 13:9)
The Church has experienced many seasons of persecution throughout the world. Sometimes by other religions, sometimes by political groups, and sometimes by both.
Jesus makes it clear that these people are not the enemy, Satan is. And although we will go through times of persecution or having to go against what is popular, Jesus tells us to do so as a witness to the Truth.
This means that we are to be submissive to the laws and rulers, to the extent that they don’t contradict God’s Word. And if we have to disobey to stay in good conscience, then we are to fully accept the consequence laid out by the rulers of the land (consider Daniel’s example in Daniel chapter 6).
You are to share the Gospel with all nations (Mark 13:10)
This is directly connected to the verse beforehand. While following Jesus in our daily lives and being a “witness to the Truth” we are also told to proactively share the Gospel with everyone near and far.
You are to trust in, walk with, rely on, and speak from the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11)
Again, tied back to verse 9, we are to rely on the Holy Spirit in the mist of all persecution and in general life where we are to live as a witness to the Truth.
As it’s been said: “a supernatural calling requires supernatural power.”
That’s exactly what we have here: we are called to live supernaturally powered by God’s Spirit in order to give the best witness to the Truth in all areas of our lives.
You will be hated and betrayed – even by your own family… But you are to endure until the end so that you may be saved (Mark 13:12-13)
This “heads up” capstones the rest.
Jesus already told the disciples that they would be persecuted by religious and political leaders… but now it gets real: you can expect to be hated and betrayed… even by your own family.
This is probably one of the hardest teachings of Jesus to swallow.
To be abandoned by and even turned against by your family is heartbreaking, but God promises that it will be worth it.
That even when we lose our family, friends and loved ones…
We are being brought into a new family…
Adopted into God’s family…
Make no mistake: Jesus doesn’t say these things lightly.
Counting the cost of following Him is one of His most common (yet overlooked) teachings.
He didn’t promise peace with others,
But He did promise peace with God.
He didn’t say that following Him would always be popular,
But that He would never leave you.
I encourage you to look at this list and make mental notes of which ones are most difficult for you personally, and ask Jesus for the grace to follow Him in the midst of it.
And, don’t forget, regardless of how difficult it sounds, Jesus promises to be with you every step of the way.
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.Matthew 28:20