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A call to persevere. Mark 13.5-13. St Mark's day 2024

Mark 13:5-13

‘When you hear of wars and rumours of wars’

It is rather an appropriate passage.

Jesus is being asked when the temple will be destroyed. He does sort of answer their question, ‘within this generation’, but he expands the destruction of the temple so that it becomes a picture of what the end will be like.

And rather than talk about time, Jesus instead turns the conversation around and challenges them. It is not a matter so much of when the end is coming, but of how we should live before the en

And Mark 13 is a call to us to be aware, to be alert, to keep awake (it is repeated at least 6 times in this chapter). It is a call to not be afraid, to be courageous, to endure to the end.

We are called to beware of false ‘Messiahs’.

We are called not to give in to the fear caused by wars, and rumours of wars, and earthquakes and famines – the fear which leads us to misplace our hope in the real Jesus, the Son of God, who lived 2000 years ago in Palestine, who was crucified, rose from the dead, is ascended and who will come again – but in a way that is so obvious that nobody can miss it, by putting that hope in human beings.

We may be able to think of people who claim to be Messiah, or at least claim messiah authority for their own personal agenda of people who take advantage of the fear caused by wars, rumours of wars, famines and earthquakes – who misuse the name of Jesus and claim his authority for their personal agenda – but let’s turn this round and ask if we have ever done that, or made people look to us rather than him – maybe from even what we think are the best of motives.

It is very easy for vicars to think that: in the absence of the physical Jesus and in the face of so much trouble, fear, division, hatred or injustice – we have to sort it all out ourselves.
One of my curates told me of how, on one occasion, when he was telling his spiritual director about what he was doing and who he was supporting, his spiritual director said to him: ‘There is only one Mes

And we are called to be courageous and not to let go of our confidence in the coming Kingdom of God

Yes, there will be wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes and famines, but these are ‘but the beginning of the birth pangs’. We look to a new heaven and a new earth, a transfigured heaven and earth, a resurrection body heaven and earth. And yes, there is desperate pain now but there will be overwhelming joy them.

And we are called not to be discouraged when we face opposition because of our faith in Jesus
And don’t be surprised if there do come times when that opposition is intense, brutal, inter-family, inter-generational: ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death’.

One of the reasons that I chose to learn Russian at school was not only contrariness, but because I learnt of the women and men who were faithful witnesses to Jesus and suffered dreadfully for their Christian faith under communism. 
I think of Fr Kiril. He was sentenced to 10 years hard labour for his faith. Not once, not twice. But three times. When we met him he was an old man. He was the father confessor of the seminary in St Petersburg. He could have been so bitter, but he wasn’t. His face shone.

And we are encouraged to speak. 
I always thought that that verse – about being brought in front of governors and kings and being given words to speak – meant that in such situations we would be given wonderful sermons to preach.
I don’t think it is saying that. I think it is saying that even in such circumstances, so long as we are willing to open our mouth and to speak of our Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit will use our stumblings and stutterings. Holy Spirit will use the wrong things we say.

I hate interviews – I am pretty fluffy in interviews – and later as I reflect I think of all the things that I could have said.
But isn’t that like all of us? The best answers come 2 hours later.

But the promise here is that so long as we open our mouth and are willing to give testimony to Jesus, the Holy Spirit will use our gibberish – and that through us the good news will be proclaimed to all the nations.

And finally in these verses we are called to persevere: 
‘The one who endures to the end will be saved’

Mark, John Mark, does not get the best press in the Bible. There needs to be change in his PR team.

Some interpreters say that he is the young man who is so desperate to get away from Gethsemane that he leaves his cloak behind and runs away naked. Later, we hear that he bottles out on one of Paul’s missionary journeys, and that leads to an argument between mission driven-Paul and relational driven-Barnabas.

Being courageous, ‘enduring to the end’ is not really very Mark

But tradition tells us that Mark did not give up. He continued to travel and to preach. And he ended up in Egypt, in Alexandria, where he had oversight over the church. And a mob came for him, and they tied a thick rope around his neck and they dragged him along the streets until he was dead.

Wars, rumours of war, earthquakes, famine, persecutions:

We are called to be courageous
- to stand firm on Jesus Christ, the only Messiah
- to keep our hope in the coming Kingdom of God
- to trust the Holy Spirit even in the face of brutal persecution and suffering

Most earlier images of Mark show him standing with a bible beside a lion. Yes, his gospel is described as the gospel of the lion, but here we are called to be courageous, lion-like.

‘The one who endures to the end – whenever it comes – will be saved’.


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