Friends, we started this journey with Mark on New Year’s Day; it’s been three whole months. We are now seventeen days away from the moment that changed our lives for Eternity! This devotional writing and your support have been a true blessing to me.
Welcome Jesus, We Are Open!
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?”
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. 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.” Mark 13:3-13
Keep in mind that Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask a question very relevant for Mark’s churches. The early church eagerly believed Jesus at his word that he would return from Heaven one day to consummate all creation. Paul writes his Epistles with this tension of the already/not yet of the Kingdom of God. When Lord, when?
Jesus answers that all the bad things in life, such as wars, natural disasters, and persecutions, are not the end signs. Instead, these are akin to the Braxton Hicks contractions of creation. All these are practice runs for the real thing. But then Jesus instructs them to “Be ready.”
Ready for what? They know because they have heard this before. In Matthew, we get the “Sermon on the Mount,” a consolidation of many teachings Jesus delivered over the past three years. In it is captured the Beatitudes (blessings), words that capture what Mark records here:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
Friends, American Christians often flinch if society challenges them about the faith, and sometimes they fold like a cheap suit. Other Christians get aggressive and go on the offensive, often turning people off to the faith. But these boys were listening and stayed on message through the power Holy Spirit. Don’t believe me? Here is proof from Peter thirty-plus years later:
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, ALWAYS BEING PREPARED to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:14-17
We are not supposed to obsess about Jesus’ return; that’s a certainty. We are supposed to be focusing on living the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That is how we can “be ready.”
Help us be earthly good, trusting that your Spirit is with us even in difficult times. And when you return in all your glory, let us have the “WELCOME” mat out!
Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen!