By Simon ManchesterSunday 8 May 2022Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
A three-part series on Rediscovering Jesus by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2’s Christian Growth podcast and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra, Sydney.
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We’re in Mark 13, the chapter where Jesus has commented on the fall of the Jerusalem temple. The disciples are astounded, what future is there if the Jerusalem temple disappears? Jesus simply says It’s over, the temple is over. And now, disciples, you need to get ready for trouble in the world, you’re going to be accused, and you’re going to be arrested. And then he says, And let’s think about the long-term, where the end of the world will come, and I will return. He will return.
It’s difficult to focus on things today, we’ve got information coming from all different directions, you’ve probably got 100 things to think about at the moment. It’s hard to avoid being shallow as you try and process lots of things, you don’t tend to think very deeply about anything.
In the book called ‘The Painter and the Pastor’, the story of the two Bali Nine men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran who were both executed three years ago for taking drugs into Indonesia. It’s interesting to see that they live their last months, not knowing which minute they will be taken out of their cells and taken off to be tied to crosses and then shot by a large firing squad.
And because this focuses their mind on the end of their lives so severely, how they spend their days and their weeks are significant and weighty. They’re thinking about every project, every conversation and every letter that they might right. Now, it’s not easy for us to borrow the circumstances of those two on death row, but we can adopt the wisdom of Jesus. And if we take it seriously, it will govern our days for good.
So what have we seen so far in Mark chapter 13? We’ve seen Jesus talk about priorities for his disciples, the soul is to be safe, the mind is to be clear, the heart is to be keen, and we’ve also seen that he has made a double prediction, Jerusalem will come to an end, and it did, the world will come to an end.
I want you to look at the text, and to notice two little phrases. One is in verse 29, Jesus begins to talk about these things. Verse 29. Then if you look down to verse 32, he begins to talk about that day. So these things and then that day.
Why am I making a big thing of this? Because in the middle of the passage, Jesus says, “The generation will not pass away until these things take place.”
People have jumped on the passage, and they’ve said, “Well, here we realise that Jesus has made a mistake. He’s obviously got limitations. He says everything is going to come to an end before the generation is over, but it doesn’t come to an end in his generation. Therefore, he got it wrong, he was misguided. He’s obviously got deficiencies.” But that would be to insult him because he says very carefully, “These things will take place in this generation. That day will come anytime in the future.” So please notice that. It’s a discredit to the faithfulness of Jesus to accuse him of something that he’s not said. We’ll see this more clearly in a minute.
I’ve got two headings, perhaps the worst two headings I’ve ever come up with. The first one I’ve called,
- Being sure of these things which are coming soon and my second heading is
- Being faithful before that day coming eventually.
Being Sure of These Things Which Are Coming Soon
The disciples had said to Jesus at chapter 13:4, “When will these things happen? You’ve just said the temple is going to be destroyed. When will these things happen?” And Jesus doesn’t give them a date. He simply begins to tell them that they’re not to be deceived, but they’re to be ready for the possibility of arrest and being dragged before councils and synagogues.
Then he says, a very great evil will take place, chapter 13:14, a blasphemy. Something is going to take place, and he obviously means in the temple and to the temple, which is going to be insulting to God. And this is the warning he gives them. He says, “You need to be generally ready, but there is going to take place an event which will be absolutely evil in the temple.”
We know that what took place in AD 70 was that the Romans came in and they desecrated the temple, they piled up dead bodies in the temple. And this is what Jesus is talking about. But he says in the Gospel of Luke chapter 21, ” You can be watching for the armies that will circle the city. Now, that’ll be the sign that things are going to change very drastically.”
So he gives them a kind of a warning for the future, army circling the city, a blasphemy taking place in the temple.
In other words, you’ve got to watch because it’s going to be like the change that takes place when summer comes. When summer comes you can’t miss the signs, the trees change, the weather changes, fruits begin to appear in this country, which you wouldn’t get in the winter season, and the mowers begin to be heard again as people know their lawns, and white flabby bodies come out of their winter clothes. These are the things that you can see demonstrably.
Jesus says they’re going to be signs like there are signs of summer, but these are going to be signs of the end of the city. And when it comes to these temple things, he says in verse 30, “This generation will not pass away until these things have taken place.”
He spoke the truth that the signs of the end of the city and the ends of the temple came true before the generation that he was speaking to all passed away.
In fact, Jesus’ predictions always come true.
- Did he say to a man on one occasion, “Go home, and your servant will be well,” and he went home, and his servant was well?
- He said on another occasion, “We are going to go and visit dead Lazarus, and I will raise him,” and he did.
- He said to the disciples, “If you go around to the next village, you’ll find a donkey tied to a post. I’m tired, I’m going to ride it into Jerusalem,” and there it was.
- He said to them, “I want you to follow a man carrying a water jar to an upper room and set it up for the Passover,” and they found a man with a water jar and they set it up for the Passover.
- He said to Judas, “You’ll betray me.”
- He said to Peter, “You’ll deny me.” Peter said, “I won’t deny you.” Jesus said, “You will deny me,” and he did.
- He said that he would be arrested, and he was, that he’d be killed, and he was, that he’d rise, and he did.
- He said the Spirit would come, and he did.
- He said the disciples would face troubles and arrest, and they did.
- He said that Jerusalem would be attacked, and it was, and he said, many things would take place before the generation had disappeared, and they did. Again and again and again, the things that Jesus said to do with the future came true. He is the perfect predicting prophets. He speaks the truth, and he describes himself as the truth.
Now one day he says in verse 31, “Heaven and earth can pass away, my words will not pass away.”
In other words, there’s nothing more foundational for you to stand on than my promises. Even if the heavens were to disappear, and the earth was to disappear, He says, “My word will not disappear.” The one thing you can count on is that his word is forever true.
When the time comes for you to face, sadness, difficulty, and even mourning, and your own passing and you find yourself standing on the promises of Jesus Christ, you’re entirely safe. How firm a foundation you servants of God, you saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word.
This verse 31 of Mark 13 has been engraved over the door of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate, where I worked for three years in the early ’80s. It was decimated by an IRA bomb in 1992, and they repaired the church, and they have restored it and made it even more useful, and they have carved over the new door, Mark 13:31, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
A wonderful text in the face of IRA bombs. I met the architect Quinlan Terry, who’s a very Godly man in his home, and he showed me the framed picture which he had drawn of the door of St. Helen’s, which of course meant a lot to me being the church where I worked and the text. Then he lifted the picture off the wall and gave it to me and said, “You can have it,” and it sits on my wall at home.
Mark 13:31, “Heaven and earth may pass away my words will never pass away.” Well, you see what Jesus is saying, these things to do with the temple will take place before the people of this generation die. That’s what the disciples asked him about, that’s what he tells them about. There’s no safer foundation for you than to plant yourself on Jesus promises.
Now, friends, I hope you collect promises. Our hope is you live your life, and you’re reading the Word, you come across a promise every now and again, and you think to yourself, that’s going to be written down, that’s going to be remembered. Collect the promises, don’t live the whole of your life on John 3:16, go beyond, memorise and learn some great promises. You’ll be glad of them in your ministry to other people, and you’ll be glad of them yourself when the time comes. Some have come to me in the last weeks, I treasure them, some I’ve never noticed before.
I was reading that a lady has just died in New York who was a secretary at a law firm. She’s died at the age of 96. And every time her boss asked her to take some of his money and invest in shares, she assumed that he was a wise man, and she invested a little of her money in the same shares. And she’s just died at the age of 96, leaving $9 million behind.
Now, if she can collect a few shares shrewdly along the way, you can manage a few promises along the way.
Being Faithful Before That Day Coming Eventually
Jesus changed up the topic in verse 32. He says, “Let’s talk about that day.” This is the day where the Son of Man will come, and Jesus says, “I have no date to give you.
In fact, I don’t know the day that I will return.” It’s a remarkable verse. He says, “No angel knows the day, I don’t know the day, you can be absolutely sure no preacher knows the day, no cult leader knows the day, no paperback can tell you, no dream that you will have will give you the day, no personal imagination will tell you the day, only The Father knows the day that Christ will return.”
So Jesus declares his ignorance on this subject. I mean, his knowledge is encyclopedic, but in this area, he is not in the light, he is ignorant of this particular issue. But notice he’s not ignorant of his ignorance, he knows exactly what he knows, and knows what he doesn’t know, and that’s why he always speaks with authority.
People have been shocked by this verse, and they’ve said, “Gee, maybe when Jesus emptied himself,” We know from Philippians 2, he emptied Himself, “maybe he emptied his mind.” But no, no. When Jesus emptied himself, he emptied himself of his dazzling, spectacular glory and came as a servant. He didn’t lose his deity, he didn’t lose his mind.
Other people have said, “Well, maybe Jesus is just playing along with his contemporaries.” You know, this is what’s called the accommodation theory that he had misgivings about certain doctrines, he didn’t really believe them that, you know, people around him did believe them, so he thought, “Well, I’ll accommodate to their simple ways, and I’ll pretend that it’s all true.
Now, this is a terrible insult to somebody who never was dishonest, never compromised, never caved into anybody.
What we see here is that his return is something The Father Knows, has determined, and will eventually announce, and Jesus has to submit himself entirely to The Father’s decision in this matter.
In fact, I think we would say that by having no date, the Christian Church has been able for 2000 years to stay expectant and to stay faithful.
Well, now, what does he expect us to do? I want to spend just our last couple of minutes thinking about. This is an important subject, “What should we be doing while we’re in the world?”
This section gives excellent clarity to us on how we should live, because we live in a world where people don’t know why they’re here. They don’t know where they’re going, they don’t, therefore, know what to do.
There’s a great deal of emptiness and aimlessness, but not for Christians, we’ve been told by God where we’ve come from, who we are, where we’re going, why we’re here. We could not be more privileged.
We can summarise what Jesus expects in two words, in verses 32-37.
They both begin with “W.” One is to watch, and one is to work.
He says in verse 34, we’re like servants, we’ve been given a task, and he has given a job to each one of us. Every single Christian has been given a task, we are not independent agents. Please, whatever you do, don’t go through this world thinking to yourself, as the world tells you, “My life is mine, and my life is my business.” You cannot think like that when you’re a Christian anymore. You cannot go through this world thinking, “Jesus is my unpaid servant. His job is to make sure that my life and my business goes well.” That is utterly contradictory to the Bible.
The Bible tells us that he made us, that he owns us, and if you belong to him, he has saved you, he has sent you, one day he’s going to assess you.
Therefore, you’ve got to say to yourself, “I’m on his staff, he’s not on my staff.” Nor can we fall for the mistake that our life is useless as some people sadly think.
You may be the sort of person who says, “Well, you know, some people seem to be very useful and gifted, and I’m useless and ordinary.” And every now and again, each one of us falls into the trap of thinking our life is pretty useless, but you cannot think like this when the Lord Jesus has chosen you and called you and sent you. If you’re a believer, he has a role for you to play in the world, that’s why you’re here. Every day that you get up, there is a role to play in his service, and he is delighted to bless and use you. And it doesn’t matter how weak you feel because usefulness is not measured by muscles, usefulness is not measured by IQ, usefulness in Christ’s service is measured by willingness.
- It is a new day, Lord, how can I serve you today?
- How can I be useful?
- How can I pray for something profitable?
- How can I say something profitable?
- How can I do something profitable for you?”
That’s the way we think.
Some of the most influential servants of Christ have been those who have been in limited and restricted circumstances but bless us enormously, and some of them are here today.
Their faith, their faithfulness, makes a significant impact beyond the way the world would measure anything.
So twice Jesus says, “The time is anytime,” verse 33, verse 35, “be alert, keep watch.”
Twice he says you’ve got something to do, Verse 34, verse 36, you’ve got some work, don’t sleep. So these two words work and watch, or watch and work, are how we are to think about our time in this world. But I want to say something important to you. Your security is not built on your watching and your working, your security is not built on your watching or your working primarily, it’s actually built on the watching and the working of Jesus Christ.
It is a fact of the New Testament that Jesus was watchful unto death. He knew the battle, he stayed alert, he never so to speak, fell asleep spiritually, and he watched right to the end, and because he watched right to the end, he didn’t fail.
He did his work, and his work was to live perfectly, die in the place of his people, rise from the grave, finish the task. And he did his watching, and he did his working, and that’s why the believer is secure.
One writer has said this, “No sooner was the guilt lying on us extinguished through the death of Jesus on the cross than Satan’s throne was undermined. It was on God’s part at once a victory, and a display of all God’s attributes to the irretrievable ruin, dismay, and confusion of satanic powers. He did his work most wonderfully, and you and I who throw ourselves on him are eternally secure.” But having said that, he tells us to watch and work in order to be useful, and maybe we might even say to be joyful and to be fruitful.
We watch, and we work as safe people, but we also want to be useful people, you and I need to, therefore, grab the task of the opportunities that he has given to each one of us individually with both hands.
Don’t say to yourself, I belong to myself I’ll please myself. Don’t tell yourself, “I’m useless, and I could never do anything,” say to yourself, “He’s called me, he’s given me a task for the day.” Even as you head home today, you’ve got something to do in his service, something to say, something to pray, something to serve him.
John Wesley put it like this in his hymn, “Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go,” that the verse says this;
“The task thy wisdom hath assigned, O let me cheerfully fulfil. In all my works thy presence find and prove thy good and perfect will.”
I hope you’ll absorb these two words, “watching” because it’s a spiritual battle, we’re not in a playground, we’re in a battleground, “work,” that is there is something to be done as his servants every day.
I hope you’ll absorb these and that they’ll soak down into your life. You must say to yourself, “I’m his servant. He’s given me time, gifts, opportunities, which I appreciate, and I want to use them. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have a complete waste.”
I fear for those people who have just taken doctrine and stuck it in their back pocket and then live just like a pagan. I really fear for those people, because you will meet Christ, and he will assess your life. So don’t fall for the ads of the world, the tell you to go your own way and to get all that you can for yourself. This elementary teaching of Jesus is liberating to wonderful.
The day that Jesus said to His disciples to watch him to work, he basically launched a whole army of millions and millions of people in every country, in every generation who serve him. They pray to him, they thank him, they make sacrifices, they look for opportunities, they want lost people to be found, and they want found people to be mature.
They wait for him, they expect him, they rejoice. It’s a most useful work that Jesus has done in giving us this teaching.
So, my friends, don’t live in this world like an unbeliever. Don’t confuse your peers so that they look at you and say, “He seems just like a normal pagan.”
Don’t sit in the church year after year as a spectator in a seat, but think of yourself as a servant with a task.
Don’t come to the church and wait year after year thinking, “One day I’m going to be useful suddenly.” Today’s the day to be useful. So, plan your Christian role and work your Christian role. This teaching can greatly revolutionise you. You say to yourself, “I’m saved by the work of Christ, and now I’m sent by the grace of Christ.”
How amazing it is as Jesus thinks about what’s coming and what’s finally coming, that despite all the troubles of the world and all the opposition and all the setbacks, he makes it absolutely clear that his work will proceed, the Gospel will go out to the world, and all the saints will come in.
We’ll turn around at the end, and we’ll say, “You have done everything amazingly, astoundingly well.” So work, you won’t regret being in his service, and watch, you’re in a battle. Don’t be easily knocked over. The watch on your wrist is called a watch because it’s to help you remember time is short, but a clever word for an instrument, it’s a watch. The end of Jerusalem has come and gone, the end of our lives will come and go. Jesus has made our life secure. Let’s make our life useful.
Let’s pray. We give you great thanks, our Heavenly Father, for speaking into our ears, our world. We thank you for sending your son to make new life possible, and we pray that you would help us, not only to receive the new life which Christ died to bring but then to live it to your praise and to the good of many. We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.