The Servant King Unveils the Future – Part 2 – Mark 13:9-13
We have been talking about the end times as we come to a close in our study in Mark. We talked about a resurgence in our interest in the end times, especially on television on film. In the past, when our world was messed up, we went to the movies and watched to escape. Now our worlds are still messed up and we love to go to watch a world even more messed up on film and television.
What we’ve been saying in this chapter is that we want to be biblically balanced in how we view the end times. We don’t want to be end-time junkies fanatical and obsessed, but we don’t want to be end-time “lazies” either, apathetic and uncaring, especially since Jesus wants us to have our eyes open to these things. We are here to fight over these things, but to grow as those who know Him to long for His return and be ready every day, waiting for our King to make things right and the Lover of our souls to take us home.
Also, as we study this chapter, we are looking at it from a certain framework. I am not going over all the views here again. Some say everything in Mark 13 happened in the first century. Others say this chapter is only for the future and none of it happened. What we are saying is that both is in view. So were there earthquakes, famines and wars and believers persecuted and the Gospel moving like crazy in the first century? Yes. But the same is true in every century as well and will escalate and culminate until the second coming of Christ.
So take note here that Jesus is skillfully weaving together a unified discourse a prophetic scene involving two perspectives: (a) the near event, the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) and the first century events that are going to happen and (b) the far event, the coming of the Son of Man in clouds with power and glory. The former local event was a forerunner of the latter universal event. In this way Jesus followed the precedent of Old Testament prophets by predicting a far future event in terms of a near future event whose fulfillment at least some of His hearers would see (cf. Mark 9:1, 12–13). So what you are going to hear are signs in Mark 13 that will characterize every century, but as they increase, they will lead to the end, culminating with the second coming. We are asking this question: In light of the signs unveiled by the Servant King for the end times, how should we live? So, five signs and what the Lord wants our responses to be in light of them.
- Rising Religious Deception: Don’t be led astray
(vv.1-6, vv. 21-22)
False Christs will arise in every century, escalating to the time when the AntiChrist will show up (more on that next week). The response? Don’t be led astray. Keep your eyes open. Stay close to the real Jesus and you will avoid the counterfeits.
- Escalating Human Suffering: Don’t be alarmed
Earthquakes, wars and famines are there in every century, but the future will have even more. Keep your eyes open, but don’t freak out either. God is sovereign, as “these things must take place.” Now thirdly:
III. Increasing persecution and adversity: Don’t be anxious (vv.9-13)
Once again, Jesus has a response for us to have before He details the future: “Be on your guard.” Edwards remarks, “A more fitting translation would be, “You must be clear in your own minds”—with emphasis on “you.” The point is to rid believers of utopian fantasies and remind them that adversity and persecution are not aberrations of the Christian life but rather the norm.” This leads us to the first sub point:
- Adversity is to be expected (vv.9, 12-13a)
Look at Jesus’ words here in v.9 and vv.12-13. Notice the word “will.” Expect adversity. It’s going to happen. Notice the word “death” repeated in v.12. This stuff will happen and the Holy Spirit will speak through you in the midst of this, but notice it doesn’t say. “And after the Holy Spirit speaks through you, you will be freed and everyone will get saved.” The Holy Spirit will speak through you, the gospel will be proclaimed and you might still die and they might still not believe. No promises like that here. It will end badly from our perspective.
Jesus says, just like He faced, believers will also be persecuted by Jews (synagogues) and Gentiles (governors and kings) alike. Both secular and religious people will go after them for being followers of Christ. There will be widespread persecution by everyone, even by family (vv.12-13). Everybody you thought were on your side gives up on you. Not only will there be trouble on a global level; there will also be trials and persecutions on a personal level. And when that happens, Jesus says don’t be anxious about how to handle this because the Holy Spirit at the time will help you persevere.
When we went through Acts (4:1-22; 5:17-42; 12:1-19; 21 27– 28: 31), we saw Jesus’ prediction here unfolding. Believers are persecuted, but the Gospel keeps expanding. This is true even now. There are several truths here for us to unpack and sit on for today. This is directly talking about being persecuted for our faith, but the truths we will glean today will apply towards all kinds of adversity and suffering a believer may face.
I don’t know how prosperity gospel teachers understand this. You might get saved only to die for the gospel. It reminds me of 1 Pet. 4:12 and 2 Tim. 3:12. Church tradition informs us that all the apostles, with the possible exception of John, died as martyrs. Some have estimated that more than 70 million Christians have given their lives for their witness to Jesus, 45 million in the twentieth century alone (ZENIT.org, “20th Century”). In the last decade “there were on average, 270 new Christian martyrs every 24 hours,” or approximately one million in the last 10 years (Weigel, “Christian Number”).
When I hear about our brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world, they get this. Adversity and suffering is not unusual. So many of them know that if they get baptized publically, it’s a death sentence for them. Here we are afraid to talk to our unsaved loved ones about Christ just because they might not like us or to even pray in public for fear of ridicule. Tim Keller writes,
Today we are more shocked and undone by suffering than were our ancestors. Did you know that in medieval Europe approximately one of every five infants died before their first birthday, and only half of all children survived to the age of ten? The average family buried half of their children when they were still little, and the children died at home, not sheltered away from eyes and hearts. Life for our ancestors was filled with far more suffering than ours is. And yet we have innumerable diaries, journals, and historical documents that reveal how they took that hardship and grief in far better stride than do we. We are not just worse than past generations in this regard, but we are also weaker than are many people in other parts of the world today.
Despite all the advances and technology, have we really progressed or evolved? It sounds like we have regressed and devolved. Keller talks about Dr. Paul Brand, a pioneering orthopedic surgeon in the treatment of leprosy patients, who spent the first part of his medical career in India and the last part of his career in the United States. He wrote: “In the United States …I encountered a society that seeks to avoid pain at all costs. Patients lived at a greater comfort level than any I had previously treated, but they seemed far less equipped to handle suffering and far more traumatized by it.” Brand’s theory for why this is so: “It is because the meaning of life in the United States is the pursuit of pleasure and personal freedom that suffering is so traumatic for Americans.”
So when the meaning of life is our personal comfort and pleasure, everything that comes that mess it up, we see as interruptions and hiccups that we have to get past instead of realizing that this world is broken and not to be elevated as the ultimate source of our happiness.
There is a great clip of a sermon from Matt Chandler, pastor down in Dallas at the Village Church, where one of his points was, “Following God may end badly.” Don’t misunderstand him. He’s talking about it from our Western perspective. One of his illustrations was from the life of Moses. Moses doesn’t get called into ministry until he was 80 years old. He spends the next 40 years with a whining, complaining congregation. 40 years! Just as it was about to get awesome and enter the Promised Land, the guy dies. Who wants that ministry? Yet we see him on the Mt. of Transfiguration with Jesus (Mark 9) and no regrets.  Isaiah gets an amazing awesome glimpse into the glory of God that totally shakes and rocks him. He wants to go into ministry to and says, “Here I am Lord! Send me!” And God says, “Actually you want to see what ministry is like?” If I was Isaiah I would have been super excited, God’s going to tell me how the rest of my life is going to look like! Awesome right?
Well, God says (this is Is. 6), “Nobody is going to come to your church. No one is getting saved. Outreach ministry will fail. In fact, the more you preach, the harder the people’s hearts will get and the more they want to kill you. This is all going to end with the people going to exile as a result.” Who wants Isaiah’s ministry? Tradition says Isaiah was cut into two pieces at the end. But there is no OT book more quoted in the NT than Isaiah’s book.
My point is not that we should be looking out for suffering all the time and just be cynical and pessimistic. I am saying that we should not be surprised or afraid of it, either. Don’t waste your sorrows. God doesn’t owe us a non-adversity life. He promised an abundant life and the only way you experience His abundance is in the midst of our complete emptiness. Secondly, along with this:
- Adversity reveals our idols (vv.9-13)
Notice Jesus is going into detail here about the varieties of suffering. You will be beaten—pain in your body; you will have to stand before people you don’t want to—inconvenience and your time and your rights taken away; you will be tempted to be anxious; your closest people in your life—your sibling, your child, your parents—will betray you; you will be hated—people’s approval lost. Why share all these details?
These are all our idols. These are the things that can potentially replace Christ in our lives—our pleasure, comfort, our rights and our family and adversity reveals them. As Pastor Tullian Tchvidjian says in an article, “if the foundation of your identity is your things-the thing that makes me who I am is this position, these relationships, having this name, having this money, and so on-then suffering will be pulling you away from the uttermost foundations of your joy–and that will make you mad, bitter, and sad. But if your identity is anchored in Christ, so that you are able to say, “Everything I need I already possess in Him”, then suffering drives you deeper into your source of joy. Suffering, in other words, shows us where we are locating our identity. Our response to suffering reveals what we’re building our life on and what we’re depending on to make life worth living.
This means that suffering itself does not rob you of joy-idolatry does. If you’re suffering and you’re angry, bitter, and joyless it means you’ve idolized–and felt entitled to–whatever it is you’re losing. Entitlement and self-pity stem from our belief that we deserve more than what we’re getting–love, attention, respect, approval. The gospel, however, frees us to revel in our expendability! The gospel alone provides us with the foundation to maintain radical joy in remarkable loss. Joylessness and bitterness in the crucible of pain happens when we lose something (or think we deserve something) that we’ve held onto more tightly than God. Suffering reveals that there are things we love too much, or we love God too little in proportion to them.
As Paul Tripp so probingly asks, “How is your present disappointment, discouragement, or grief a window on what has actually captured your heart?” When we depend on anything smaller than God to provide us with the security, significance, meaning, and value that we long for, God will love us enough to take it away. Much of our anger and bitterness, therefore, is God prying open our hands and taking away something we’ve held onto more tightly than him.”
- c) Adversity is a platform for gospel expansion (vv.9-10)
Notice in vv.9-10 that the persecution’s purpose is to lead to gospel expansion. Again, there is no promise that this gospel will be accepted, only that it will be proclaimed to “all nations,” i.e. all people groups. Though Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide with an average of 180 Christians are killed each month for their faith, according to the Joshua Project, an average of 160,000 a day hear the message of redemption in Christ for the first time. Every hour, over 1,600 people decide to follow Jesus Christ! In 1800, those who had never heard the Gospel were almost 75% of the globe’s population. Today the percentage of those who have not heard is about 28%; a major move forward…still work to be done! Wycliffe Bible Translators say there are about 1,900 languages that still need the Bible in their language and they are hoping to get that done in 10 years, in 2025.
This is not saying that when every single person hears the Gospel, then Jesus will come. But it is saying that God doesn’t waste one beating or one person hating you because the Gospel because through it, He is expanding the Gospel. Like the Russian atheist, politician and revolutionary, who hated Christians, Yemelyan Yaroslavsky, once said, “Christianity is like a nail. The harder you strike it the deeper it goes.” Can you pray that with each struggle? “Lord, I don’t want to waste my sorrows, but the harder I feel like I am struck, the deeper the Gospel would go into my heart?” As Chandler said in that same clip of Moses, God may bury the messenger and man of God, but continues the message forward. Nothing is ever wasted!
- Persevere through adversity with minute-by-minute grace (vv. 11, 13b)
You might be thinking, “Ok. I get it. Adversity is inevitable, it’s revelatory, it’s purposeful, etc.” But the real question is will I be able to survive in the midst of it? Will I be ok? C.S. Lewis once said, “We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
Do you know that according to Amazon, the most highlighted passage in all books read on Kindle (as of November 2014)—highlighted almost twice as often as any other passage—is from the second volume of The Hunger Games: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.”
That is very revealing. There is anxiety over not feeling competent to handle things that come people’s way. Christ here says don’t be anxious. How? Two resources of grace are given. One is perseverance: “Those who endures to the end will be saved.” One author says, “Perseverance is the proof that our profession is real. It may be tough, but our Lord will be faithful to keep us by His power. Vance Havner used to say, “Faith that fizzles before the finish was faulty from the first.” This means you will receive the grace to move forward. Yes you might hit rock bottom, but even then you will see God to be the rock at your bottom.
The second is the Holy Spirit. Notice the Holy Spirit will speak through you “in that hour.” Not one minute before, not one minute after, but right at the right time and moment you need. In other words, God is saying, you will have to depend on me totally for the appropriate grace when you need it. The weaker you feel, the stronger you will find me to be. When you can’t walk an inch further, the Holy Spirit will be your legs, but like a baby who learns to walk by learning to put his weight on his legs, you have to learn to put your weight on the Holy Spirit. How do you do that?
Notice the Holy Spirit is speaking for you, but let me propose also that the Holy Spirit speaks TO YOU as well. This means He is your defense attorney. Remember when Jesus says, “I’m going to send you another Helper”? The word for “helper,” could be translated as advocate. What’s an advocate? It’s a defense attorney. What does a defense attorney do? A defense attorney doesn’t just stand beside you and hold your hand, but speaks for you, stands in your place on your behalf.
But Jesus says, another advocate. Wait, who is the first Advocate? 1 John 2:1 says, “If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is not just standing with us, but standing in our place speaking to the Father—Father, my people have sinned. Your law says wages of sin is death. This is the real suffering they should fear, but I have paid it. It would be unjust for you to charge for the same crime twice. Then when the Father sees us, we are a beauty not condemned, but accepted.
The Holy Spirit is second advocate. Just as the first advocate speaks for you, the Spirit of God, the second advocate, speaks to you for you. The second advocate is appealing to you about the first advocate.
He says, “Look at what Jesus has done for you. Look at how he loves you. Look at what it cost him. He stood before God’s judgment seat and took your blame, rejection and criticism, so now you can stand before anybody for Him declaring His praises. At His point of greatest need, He got the silent treatment from His Father, so at your point of greatest need, you will have Him, the Holy Spirit speaking for you, holding you up and supporting you.”
With that in mind, there is a fictional story from Elisabeth Elliot that rebukes and comforts me:
One day Jesus said to his disciples: “I’d like you to carry a stone for me.” He didn’t give any explanation. So the disciples looked around for a stone to carry, and Peter, being the practical sort, sought out the smallest stone he could possibly find. After all, Jesus didn’t give any regulation for weight and size! So he put it in his pocket. Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey. About noontime Jesus had everyone sit down. He waved his hands and all the stones turned to bread. He said, “Now it’s time for lunch.” In a few seconds, Peter’s lunch was over. When lunch was done Jesus told them to stand up. He said again, “I’d like you to carry a stone for me.”
This time Peter said, “Aha! Now I get it!” So he looked around and saw a small boulder. He hoisted it on his back and it was painful, it made him stagger. But he said, “I can’t wait for supper.” Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey, with Peter barely being able to keep up. Around supper time Jesus led them to the side of a river. He said, “Now everyone throw your stones into the water.” They did. Then he said, “Follow Me,” and began to walk. Peter and the others looked at him dumbfounded. Jesus sighed and said, “Don’t you remember what I asked you to do? Who were you carrying the stone for?”
In that story, Peter is obeying for what he thinks he can get out of it. He’s not doing it for the Lord. He’s not in it for the Lord. He’s in it for himself. We follow Christ to get Christ. He is the most valuable thing in the Universe! How do we see that? Well I would like to add to that story:
Some time later, Jesus is carrying not a stone, but a cross. Peter asks, “Who are you carrying this heavy cross for?” Jesus said, “For you. I’m walking through journey to the cross because I’ll get you at the end of it.” To the degree I see that He carried the ultimate burden in His ultimate suffering to get me, then when my little suffering exposes my idols, I am thankful, because I can let them go to get Christ and suffering is a small wound than anything else.
Keller says, “Jesus took away the only kind of suffering that can really destroy you: that is being cast away from God. He took so that now all suffering that comes into your life will only make you great. A lump of coal under pressure becomes a diamond. And the suffering of a person in Christ only turns you into somebody gorgeous.”
Listen to your defense attorney in the Holy Spirit: “So why are you upset? Why are you worried at people’s criticism? Why are you worried you won’t be able to handle pain? Worried you can’t suffer well? Someone as all-powerful as God loves you like this? And He delights in you, going to infinite depths and lengths to save you at infinite costs to Himself? He says He will never let you go and nothing on earth or Heaven or time and eternity will ever make Him lose you? He will hold on to you, transform you and one day will make everything sad come untrue? Then why are you worried about adversity? Why am I fearful? Lift up your hearts. Ground your identity in Jesus Christ and you will be able to face anything.”
Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 166). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 393). Grand Rapids, MI;
Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition
Commentary) (p. 309). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Akin, D. (p. 310).
Keller, T. Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Kindle Locations 293-306). Penguin Group, USA.
Ibid. (Kindle Locations 417-418).
Tchividjian, T. (2010, November 10). Suffering Does Not Rob You Of Joy-Idolatry Does. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/tchividjian/suffering-does-not-rob-you-of-joy—idolatry-does-11641141.html
Akin, D. (p.310).
Carter, J. (2014, July 31). 5 Facts About Christian Persecution. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://erlc.com/article/5-facts-about-christian-persecution.
Encouraging Mission Trends. http://joshuaproject.net/assets/media/assets/maps/encouraging-mission-trends-map.pdf Retrieved November 28, 2014.
Smith, S. (2014, September 19). Wycliffe Bible Translators President on Inspiring New Generation to End ‘Bible Poverty’ by Translating Last 1,870 Languages. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://goo.gl/U9rYDF.
Ortberg, J. (2008). Faith and Doubt (p.76). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
C. S. Lewis [CSLewisDaily]. (2014, Jun 25). “We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” ~ #CSLewis [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/cslewisdaily/status/481823015194218498.
Shiffman, M. (2014, November). Majoring in Fear. Retrieved November 29, 2014, from http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/11/majoring-in-fear.
Akin, D. (p.310).