Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/12/15 Sermon - Be A Lert

“Be A Lert”

Mark 13:23-37

 

I have a story I would like to share with you.

A young girl asked her Sunday School teacher, “What’s a lert?”

“A what?” the teacher asked.

“A lert?” she said again.

“Why do you want to know?” asked the bewildered teacher.

“Because the pastor said that we should ‘be alert’, so I want to know what a lert is, so I can be one.”

In the passage we are studying today, Jesus used three different Greek words of command:

“Keep alert” (agrypneo)

“Beware” (blepo)

“Keep awake” (gregoreo)

Each of these commands was stated in the present imperative, which implies a continual action.

Let’s take a look and find out why we are to be continually,

“Alert, Aware and Awake”. 

Today’s passage from Mark chapter 13 concludes Jesus’ answer to the question Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, after leaving the Temple, and commenting how massive the building appeared.

Just a bit of review, because I think it is important to remember the big picture of what is happening, not just the snippet of reading we have heard today.

At this point in the story, Jesus was walking the latter part of the last week of his time on earth as a human. He has just spent the entire day bantering with the religious leaders in the Temple and the understanding Jesus proclaimed was the leaders of Jewish faith had turned away from their first love. They had focused on their own needs and not the needs of the people. In doing so, the leaders had not been following God’s commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

The disciples were confused. All their lives, their Jewish faith, had taught them that to be wealthy meant God was shining down on you and that if you were not of the wealthy and healthy, then it was because of your sin.

They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but the concept of Messiah had them confused as well. The disciples were ready to fight for Jerusalem and conquer the Roman government. They believed the Messiah would win…….but

Now Jesus was telling them that their Temple was going to be destroyed, not one stone would be left on another. Did that mean the Romans were going to destroy them?

Can you begin to understand the disciples’ confusion?

Mark wrote Jesus’ explanation in a literary style known as apocalyptic literature. Again, I would like to remind you that apocalyptic means “to reveal” not “to predict”. In the final section of Jesus’ revelation of what was to occur, Jesus continued to warn the disciples to be on their guard. He has already told them that there would be wars and rumors of wars, family members would betray each other, false Christs would come and try to deceive them, and following all that,

The sun will be darkened,

The moon will not give its light

The stars will fall from the sky

The heavenly bodies will be shaken

And the Son of Man will come in the clouds with great power and glory. His reason for coming will be to take those who believe in him to live with him forever.

This particular section of the coming of the Son of Man comes from the image that was written in the book of Daniel.

Daniel 7:13b “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven.”

All of this to say, that the first century readers of Mark’s book would have been in the midst of the war with Rome. Remember, Nero had decided the new sect named “Christians” was his scapegoat for the burning of Rome and anyone found faithful to Christ would have experienced suffering for their faithfulness. Mark was letting them know that the time would come when they would be rewarded for their faithfulness and their persecutors would be punished and destroyed. However, that time was not during the war with Rome, but only when the Son of Man returns.

Then we have the fig tree being used as a lesson again. But this time the fig tree lesson has to do with the destruction of the temple.

Jesus completes his answer of the disciples’ question of when will all this happen. Jesus was making it clear that it was the very destruction of the Jewish Temple, the old order of religion had to end, in order for the new religious order to begin.

Then Jesus says something that confuses many scholars. He states that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

Hundreds of generations have passed away and Jesus hasn’t returned yet. I have no doubt the first century Christians believed Jesus was returning within their generation. Upon researching what this may mean there are two groups of thought.

One group suggests that the “these things” that will happen in this generation, which Jesus was referring was the destruction of the Jewish Temple, which occurred in 70 AD.

Another group suggests that the word “generation” when used by Mark in other contexts has meant, “unbelieving, adulterous and sinful people” (8:12, 38; 9:19). So Jesus could be stating we will never be rid of unbelieving, adulterous and sinful people, until Jesus returns again and brings us to the new heaven and the new earth.

The overall meaning brings us to what we have come to realize, that we will not be able to live in a world, this side of heaven, without wars, rumors of wars, nations against nations, earthquakes and the division of families.

Jesus concludes his apocalyptic speech with the statement that No one knows when Jesus will return, not even Jesus himself, only God knows. Then Jesus uses a parable to explain how we are to wait. He said it is like a man who goes away and leaves his house in charge of his servants, each with an assigned task and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Then look at what Jesus states, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back, Whether in the evening, Or at midnight, Or when the rooster crows, Or at dawn.

If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”

We will discover as we keep reading on in the next chapter that Mark divides the scenes leading up to the crucifixion in the same precise order:

      1)      Last Supper – in the evening

2)      Jesus’ prayer and betrayal – middle of the night

3)      Jesus’ trial and Peter’s denial – when the rooster crows

4)      Trial before Pilate – as soon as morning arrives, at dawn

Another way to understand Jesus’ request to watchfulness was that he was declaring that his return – when the heavens shake and the sun is darkened – occurred the precise moment when he was nailed to the cross, and we see God’s love come down and poured out over all the earth. This was when the ultimate happened. God sent his son, because of his love for all of humanity to be the sacrifice needed to free us from our sin. It was at that point that the old age ended and the new began. That was when hope sprung eternal. This coupled with Christ’s resurrection assures us of a future without wars and pain and sorrow.

Where does that leave us now?

Well, today we are living in the in-between time. Between the time of Eden, the beautiful garden where nature, animals, humans, and God existed together, and the new heaven and new earth.

The in-between time is exactly as Jesus described it. Wars, rumors of wars, nations against nations, earthquakes, famines, family members against each other, those faithful to Christ being martyred.

The image Jesus gave of these being the beginning of birth pangs is an excellent one. New life requires birth and giving birth requires pain, contractions, pushing and the bearing down of creation. This shouldn’t be a frightening experience, it should be like the birth of a child, it should be a miraculous blessing. Our Maker is in labor as He prepares a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Where will you be found when it eventually happens? 

It is my prayer that we are found:

Aware

Awake

And

Alert.

I don’t think this applies just to Jesus’ second coming, I think it applies to what happens in our everyday life. I would invite you to:

BE AWARE  of the needs of those around you,

BE AWAKE to God’s presence in the responses to your own needs and

BE ALERT to the opportunities where you can

BE CHRIST INCARNATE.

So often we go through our days, ambivalent to circumstances around us. We get caught up in the hectic day to day busyness of life and forget to keep our eyes open for the opportunities God gives us to be more attentive to the vulnerability and need of those around us. We also need to be more honest and open about our own need, so that we may receive the care of others.

In closing I echo Christ’s words,

Be A Lert! The world needs more lerts.

 

Let’s pray.