The One Who Endures

Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) – Deacon Rex Watt

Daniel 12:1-3 / Hebrews 10:11-25 / Mark 13:1-13

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  +  Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  We are nearing the end of the Church Year.  Next Sunday is the Last Sunday of the Church Year we call Year B in the three-year lectionary cycle.  We will transition from reading and hearing about our Lord Jesus’ second coming in the Gospel of Mark, and begin to read and hear about Jesus’ first coming in the Gospel of Luke as we enter the season of Advent.  But before we can begin Year C in the lectionary cycle, we need to come to the end of Year B.  We begin that this morning in the 13th chapter of Mark with Jesus sitting on a hill looking across the Kidron Valley toward the Temple, one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

Herod’s Temple, a refurbishing project of the temple originally rebuilt by Zerubbabel following the Babylonian Captivity, was some 35 acres in footprint, and took a little over 80 years to remodel.  While it was not “officially” listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it  ranked right up there amongst the marvels of first century construction.  Some of the largest stones used to construct the Temple measured about 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 3 ½ feet tall!  No wonder the disciples were impressed.  As Jesus and His disciples were coming out of the Temple itself, they said to Him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”  And Jesus responded with words that shook them to the core, “Do you see these great buildings?  There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

You know that those words took them by surprise.  There is no more discussion recorded until we see Jesus and His disciples sitting on the Mount of Olives, about a 25 minute walk from the Temple itself.  They were sitting there probably admiring the beauty of the countryside, the Kidron Valley, and the view of the Temple itself when four of his disciples could no longer hold it in.  They had to know!  They come to Jesus privately and ask, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”  They wanted to know when, and how, it would all end.  And I’ll bet that you want to know too!

Jesus’ response wasn’t quite what the disciples were looking for.  And I’m willing to bet that it isn’t quite what you’re looking for either.  If the plethora of End Times programs, books, movies and podcasts are any indication, Christians are infatuated with the idea of the End.  We want to know which Blood Moon is going to be the last one before Jesus returns; we want to calculate the number of years since the re-founding of the Nation of Israel in 1947 to get a jump on the Rapture; we read our Bibles with the newspaper open to see what’s going on in the world and then try to fit current events into the Bible rather than let the Bible dictate how we see current events.

I think that the first sentence Jesus speaks in our pericope for today, and the last sentence, are key to everything He has to say both to His disciples and to us.  “And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See that no one leads you astray…. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’”  My brothers and sisters in Christ; everything in the middle of those two sentences, is peripheral.  All the wars and rumors of wars; nations rising against nations; kingdom against kingdom; earthquakes, famines, persecutions; even family divisions are not the main point.  Jesus, your Jesus, does not want you to be led astray.  He wants you to be saved.

We certainly have our share of false prophets today.  But that’s nothing new.  Solomon wrote that there was nothing new under the sun.  Moses warned the Israelites over 3,400 years ago about the coming of false prophets and we read about them throughout the Old Testament.  Jesus warned about wolves coming in sheep’s clothing.  Paul wrote, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Ac 20.29)  The Apostle John wrote about the Antichrist (one who speaks against/falsely about Christ) saying that even at his time, “…many antichrists have come.”  False teaching, especially false teaching about the end times, has plagued the Church since it’s earliest days.  In our modern era we’ve seen William Miller, founder of the Adventist Movement, who predicted that Christ would return in 1843.

John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren who created the Rapture doctrine and Dispensationalism which is prevalent throughout American Evangelicalism; Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who made numerous false predictions about building the New Jerusalem in Western Missouri and that the lost tribes of Israel would be restored; Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who predicted the world would end in the battle of Armageddon in 1914; Hal Lindsay, who as a disciple of dispensationalism, wrote The Late Great Planet Earth where he claimed to detail the movements of the armies lining up for the great Battle of Armageddon, which would in all likelihood take place during the late 1980’s  (By the way, he’s still on television trying to figure out what went wrong!  I don’t suggest you waste your time!); Pat Robertson who claimed Christ would return in 1982; Benny Hinn who predicted Jesus would return in 1993; Harold Camping who predicted numerous dates; Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claimed to be the Messiah; Jim Jones; David Koresh; and the list could go on!  Dear Saints of Redeemer, Jesus says to you today, “See to it that no one leads you astray.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

“But how do I know if I will be able to endure to the end?” you might ask.  The temple in Jerusalem, that grand structure that had the disciples awe struck, didn’t last; it didn’t endure.  The Romans came in 70AD and sacked the city and tore the temple to pieces just as Jesus had predicted, leaving not one stone upon another.   But that’s the way it had to be!  Why?  Because the old had to give way to the new.  The Old Covenant must give way to the New Covenant; and Jesus is the New Covenant!

Our epistle readings for last week and this week show us who it is who endures.  We read last week that “Christ has entered, not into the holy places made with hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own…But as it is, He has appeared once for all…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”  And as we read this week that the Old Covenant priests stood daily offering repeatedly the same sacrifices which could never take away sins, “…Christ…offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…[by which] He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (and that’s you, my friends!)  And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us, saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord; I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’”

My dear Saints, your dear Jesus came into the world and took upon His body all of your sins and lawless deeds.  He is the one who stood before councils, governors and kings on your behalf.  He is the one who was beaten, brought to trial and delivered over to death on your behalf.  It was His body that was nailed to the Cross, along with your sins, so that His shed blood could wash away all of your unrighteousness.  He was laid in the tomb and raised from the dead, so that when you are laid in the tomb, you also will rise from the dead.  All this He has done for you and now appears in the presence of God on your behalf.

The disciples in our text today were overly impressed with the Temple.  The people in Jesus’ day also were overly impressed with the Temple.  After Jesus had cleansed the Temple of the money changers and was challenged by the Jews who asked Him for a sign to prove He had authority to do such things, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”   The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”   But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”  (Jn 2:19-21)  Dear Saints, “see to it that no one leads you astray.”   Contrary to popular “Christian” teaching, there will not be a new Temple built, at least not with God’s approval.  Jesus is the New Temple.  And you, dear Saints, are part of that new temple, having been baptized into Christ wherein,

“…you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Eph 2:19-21)

Unlike Herod’s Temple, which did not endure, Jesus endured all for you.  Because He endured to the end for you, you also, in Him, will endure to the end and be saved.  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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