Pentecost 2618 (PR 28) – “The Beginning of the Birth Pains!” Mark 13:1-13
Pentecost 2618 (PR 28) – “The Beginning of the Birth Pains!” Mark 13:1-13
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel according to St Mark, the 13th Chapter:
“1 As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
2And 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.”
3And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8For 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.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
We are coming to the close of the Church Year. These next Sundays will declare the coming Day of Judgment which shall befall this sinful world. When that day will come we do not know. We know only that it is coming. As Children of God we live in expectation of that day when we shall see the object of our faith, Jesus Christ in all His glory. That day will be glorious and a vindication before the world of the hope to which we hold.
While we walk this world we are in anguish of heart and soul. The deadly trials and struggles of the world abound on all sides. Jesus proclaims these events to be expected by all. They are inevitable and compared to the birth pains of a woman who is with child. The woman knows the time of birth is coming. The contractions in her belly signal the birth process is begun. Yet, how long the labor will be and when the child will be born is not known. There is only the expectation and hope that labor will soon cease.
While we wait for that Day to arrive, we are to be vigilant, preparing to welcome our Lord. We are not to be comfortable in our minds with the things of this world. Rather, we are to see them as temporary and not as eternal. Wonderful as somethings are what we see and use in this world today will no longer be usable or needed in the world to come.
Consider the disciples who walk with Jesus as they leave the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They marvel at the magnificent buildings and massive stones used to form these buildings. Do you hear the awe in their words? “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
Truly there is something awesome about this Temple in Jerusalem. King Herod commissioned the Temple to be renovated. This renovation began in 20 B.C. and was finished 80 years later. The Temple proper towered 15 stories tall. This imposing sight could be seen from any point in the city and from a distance outside the city walls. This is what the disciples were seeing. Their eyes were filled with the glory of manmade things.
Thinking on these things it is easy to believe that nothing would be able to destroy this building. The massive stones certainly were immovable. Their foundation was sure and true. They were fit together with precision. The massive gates would protect the Temple from any force known to man. The Temple is as eternal as the sacrifice and ceremony that regularly took place in its court yard and Holy of Holies. God decreed this sacrifice and ceremony and He put His name upon the Temple and the City. Surely it will stand for ever.
Jesus breaks their celebration and brings the disciples back to reality. Jesus takes their comment and turns it into a question. Jesus seeks to correct their vision and turn their hearts to things eternal. “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” This is a truly sobering comment Jesus makes. Perhaps it is lost on us, because we have no connection to the Temple in Jerusalem today. But, for the disciples Jesus is saying something truly amazing. Jesus speaks not only of the destruction of this place of worship. Jesus speaks also of the end of the sacrifice and ceremony that were offered in the Temple. The way of worship for the Jews was coming to an end.
What reality do we need to see? We have many institutions we hold to be eternal. If not eternal, we expect them to remain as they are for a long, long time. I remember growing up in Michigan in the heyday of the auto industry. My high school class mates dreamed of working in the auto factories in Flint like their fathers. They expected the factories to remain as they had for decades before. Such dreams were shattered by reality of the down turn in production and the cost of doing business. Jobs once lucrative were sent to other states and other countries where labor was less. Such jobs will not return.
What other institutions have we built on fleeting foundations and massive facades that will not stand the test of time? Can we maintain our nation by its constitution? Such a document is valid only as long at the nation’s leadership thinks it is necessary. Even the laws of our nation have changed over time to reflect the infection and infiltration of sin in society. What was unacceptable 25, 50, or 100 years ago now is seen to be normal. Truth and reality are now rejected for feelings and emotion. Who you are is based on how you identify yourself.
Lest we forget, Jesus gives further warning of the birth pains leading up to Judgement Day. Nations and kingdoms will rise up against nations and kingdoms. There will be individual nations fighting each other. There will be coalitions of nations fighting each other. There will be the accompanying destruction and loss of life and limb as well. Such things we see today the world over. The war on terror will never be ended. The political and economic wants of nations will never be satisfied. This is so because the sinful men and women of this world are never satisfied with some. They always desire more. It is the Old Adam in us that rises up and seeks to be recognized.
The Church is not exempt from such turmoil. As long as we are in the world The Church will be affected by the world. Jesus warns of false Christs arising and leading many astray. How many cults have arisen which promise peace and prosperity, but instead bring dissension and despair. There are marks to recognize such false teachers. Some claim to be Jesus Christ. Some claim to have new revelations from God. Some seek to isolate and separate their members from family and society. Some control through fear and manipulation.
Not only from within is the Church affected, but also from without. Jesus warns that families will be divided by the Gospel. For the Gospel indeed separates us from those who have no faith in Jesus Christ. Members of our families will rise up against the believers in Jesus Christ. Communities will persecute those who call Jesus Lord and Savior.
Last week we offered prayers for one such woman. In her Pakistani Muslim village, she and her husband are the only Christians. Her neighbors denounced her over drinking water from the same cup as they used. For eight years she suffered in prison convicted of blasphemy against Mohammed. Recently she was acquitted and released from prison. Yet she still faces death because her neighbors are seeking her life.
The birth pains will continue in each generation. These are signs Jesus gave of His impending return. They happen in every generation. They are suffered in every generation. They are seen in every generation. They will continue in every generation until Jesus returns in judgment and glory. Every generation must be taught what these signs mean and prepared to meet our Lord on His return.
It is why this house of God is here today. The imposing Temple in Jerusalem is gone. The sacrifice of animals is no longer needed. In its place Jesus offered His own blood to atone for our sin and rebellion, war and disobedience. We bring to the world the very grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ. The congregation of believers is body of Jesus Christ among sinners. Amidst the turmoil of this world we have the word that alone gives peace and security. That word is applied to the hearts and souls of those who gather with us. That word allows us to see Jesus by faith as he comes to us through water, bread, wine and preaching.
Jesus sat with his disciples on Mt Olivet and taught them the future events. He called those event the birth pains leading up to the day of His Return. Jesus looked past the Temple in Jerusalem to the Temple in the New Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem has a foundation that will never be shaken or destroyed. The new foundation will be laid out on Golgotha Hill. It will not be made of massive stones. Rather it will be made of the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His body given for the sins of the world.
This is the reality to which we hold. Your life and your salvation is not self-determined. Your life and your salvation is given you by a God who knows you intimately and fully in Jesus Christ. Our God was present at your rebirth in Holy Baptism. In that rebirth you were given the Name that is above every name. That name was placed upon your life and marks you as one redeemed by Jesus Christ. That name defines you as an heir of salvation and eternal life. You are called a son of God.
You are called a son of God because God recreated you to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. To this end God gave a full measure of His Spirit to create faith in you. Such faith gives you hope and confidence as you live through the trials of this world. We live because we know such trials are temporary, they have and end. The end will come when our Lord returns. It may be during our life time. It may be after we are laid out in death. Regardless we have the assurance of God that these birth pains of the faithful will result in glory and praise when Jesus returns.
God keep you in true faith for that day. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen