As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs. Mark 13:1-8
We are 33 days from a cataclysmic end, a mere 792 hours from the end. That is 47,520 minutes left to get right with God. December 21, 2012 is coming! The end of the world has escaped most of us, having been replaced by other pressing issues. Such as, the beginning of the NBA season, the coming end of college football, this never-ending political drama, or that thankful holiday that visits us towards the end of this week.
There seems to be a peculiar fascination with the end of the world predictions. We have had our fair share of end of times prognosticators peddling their visions and calls to repentance in this nation. We have a litany of prophetic voices calling out in to the wilderness demanding our attention to the end of the world; Harold Camping (4 times), Pat Robertson (twice), Nancy Lieder, Tim LaHaye (wrote books about it), Jerry Falwell, Jonathan Edwards, Edgar Cayce, Isaac Newton, Hal Lindsey (lost count), Marshall Applewhite, and Rollen Stewart.
Y’all remember Y2K? I spent that year at a party and as midnight approached I dismissed myself and went outside to pray and meet the end of the world. I meet Y2K with fear in my heart and standing alone in the ally of an apartment complex. The end was surely near.
*Story of Harold Camping and May 21, 2011…I spent it on the road from NYC to DC. I spent that day unaware of the end, paying tolls on a road that carried me to a new life.
In today’s text we hear Jesus telling us the end is near. This is nothing new for those that were listening. There is a rich and proud tradition of Jewish, Greek, and Roman apocalyptic prophets that have lead folks to the brink of destruction or predicted the end, only to have it pass on by. I imagine many heard Jesus’ words in a like manner as we hear those “crazy” sign-wielding prophets of our day.
Jesus points to the buildings and warns that nothing will be left standing. All the progress, the comforts, the protections…all shall be lost. The pride, the ingenuity, the capital invested in those buildings will not last. These things are impermanent at best. We work to create lasting impression and legacies that will influence and shape the future. It is our way of eternity.
Jesus goes on to say, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. Crazy…this sounds a lot like our times. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, global warming, wars, terror, terrorist, economic woes, and political division…I cannot imagine a time filled with so many false prophets. There are far too many false prophets preaching a false gospel to keep up with. The bearers of the real gospel truth got to be tired maintain the peace in the face of thy wicked enemy.
The truth is the “real gospel” depends on your theological, politic, or cultural camp. The “haves” have a different gospel truth than the “have not’s” have. The end of the world is more about losing, gaining, or maintaining power than we would like to admit. The end of the world evokes a powerful imagery of redistribution of power to those that suffer in the margins of society. There has always been enough for all of creation to exist. Human greed, fear, and dominance keep the abundance of God from all of God’s creation.
The end of the world is near. I am not sure it is the end we all have been hoping for. The end Jesus is warning us about is the end that we in fact are causing. It is us, God’s beloved creation, that bring about the end. We are the riders of pestilence, war, famine, and death.
The end of the world is not the end of the Kingdom of God. Human institution and princely kingdoms shall end. Pestilence, war, famine, and death are part of this physical realm. We ought not embrace it and resign ourselves to its fate. We are to realize that we are its riders and that God has given us enough to advert these
The end is near. The end has always been with us. The end is part of the story. For without the end there cannot be a beginning. Jesus’ words here warn us of the coming end, an end not to be feared as much as it is to be engaged. We are to engage the end with courage, faith, and hope. The end of our world is the beginning of God’s.