Not One Stone

Mark 13.1-8

 

When Mary, my wife, was growing up, her familyóshe and her mom and dad, her two brothers, and her sisterówould all load themselves into the car on a Friday night and go to the drive-in movies.Mary sat in the front seat between her mom and dad.Her siblings would be in the back seat.

And everyone, the whole car, would enjoy the first movie, the feature film.So much so, they would decide to stay for the second, the second movie.No one wanted to go home.

But, as the second movie progressed its way across the giant screen, the hour would grow late.And, first, her younger brother would fall asleep in the back seat.Then her sister and then her other brother would both succumb.Mother would then say to father, We should go home and put the kids to bed.And father, agreeing, would reach toward the keys in the ignition.

No!We canít go now, Mary would protest.We have to see how it ends.As the hour grew even later, even mom and dad would fall asleep.Everyone in the car was asleep but Mary, the one who always had to see how the movie ends.Her eyes, barely above the dashboard, were wide awake and glued to the screen.When finally she saw, when the movie ended, she would wake her dad and he would drive all the sleepy heads home.

When?When will all of this end?When will it all come to an end?This is what people were asking, what they were wondering at the time the Gospel of Mark was written.

At about that time, there had been an uprising in Judea, a revolt, an attempt to throw off Roman rule and establish the kingdom of God.Rome, to no oneís surprise, invaded.The legions were sent.And as the legions made their way, people fled the countryside to Jerusalem, to the city.The Roman legions encircled that city, laying siege to it for months on end.When, finally, they broke the walls, they burned the city and its temple.They demolished the temple.Not one stone was left atop another.The Romans killed many of Jerusalemís inhabitants and the refugees who had fled there for safety.They enslaved those they didnít kill.

Terrible.But that wasnít all.Now there was tension in the synagogues.Those who were following Jesus were finding themselves in trouble, were being dragged into court, betrayed and handed over as troublemakers.

And, When?When will all of this end?That was the question people were asking in those terrible times.I think you can understand why, why they would be asking, When will it all end?

It was in those terrible times that the Gospel of Mark was written.And the people heard, when Markís gospel was read aloud, they heard Jesus say of the temple that not one stone would be left atop another, that it would all be thrown down.They heard Jesus say that some of them will be betrayed: Brother will betray brother, a father his child, and children will rise up against parents.Some of them will be dragged into court.Some of them will even be put to death, put to death as troublemakers.

Terrible times, very difficult, indeed.And when?As these people heard Markís gospel read aloud, they heard his disciples ask Jesus, When?Tell us when this will be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?Tell us when all of these things will come to an end?When will all these terrible things come to an end?

But you know what?Jesus doesnít say when.He doesnít give us a sign.He canít.He canít say when.Why?Because not even he knows.Further on in chapter thirteen, he says that no one knows.Not the angels in heaven, not the preacher on the television, not even the Son knows.No one but God knows when, when it will all come to an end.

Wars and rumors of wars.Nation against nation.Earthquakes and famines.Jesus doesnít tell us when all of that will come to an end.He doesnít say.He doesnít say because he canít.And he canít because not even he knows.

He cannot tell us when, when all of these things will come to an end.But he does sayóand this he knows.He does say that they will.These thingsówar and rumors of wars, nation against nation, earthquakes and faminesóall of it will, will come to an end.It will all end.

Just as surely as springtime follows winter and summertime follows the spring, so will all of these things come to an end.

It will, it will all end, he says.So be watching, watching for it, he says to us.Stay awake.Be watching.Donít lose hope.Donít lose your hope or your courage.

And he gives us a glimpse, a preview, of how it is things end.In chapter thirteen of Markís gospel, he says, You will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.Then he will send out angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

He doesnít tell us when, but he gives us a preview of how, how things end, what the end, of what our end is.

But we already knew.We already knew how the story goes and how it ends.Sure you do.

You know, donít you, that Jesus, himself, was betrayed?That he was betrayed by one of his own disciples, by one of his closest friends, and then handed over to the authorities?You knew that and that Jesus, himself, was dragged into court the next day.And you know, donít you, that he was sentenced to death and crucified by the Romans as a troublemaker, that he died and was buried in a tomb?

You know all that and you know that that wasnít the end of the story, isnít how things ended, that three days later some women came to the tomb.The stone had been rolled away.And the tomb was . . . well, it was empty.And you know why it was empty, donít you?You know what happened, how the story ends.He was raised.God raised Jesus.Even from the dead did God raise him.

And so it comes as no surprise to you when he says to you, when Jesus says, when he says to you, You will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.This comes as no surprise to you, does it?

Now, we donít know when, but we know how.We donít know when the end will come, but we do know what that end is, what it is like.

From the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens, we will be gathered.And the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food . . .

A feast, a banquet table, will be spread.A table like the one here at our church.For all peoples, a feast of rich food.For all peoples.There will be a place for you at that table just as there is a place for you at the table here in our church.

And there will God destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples.He will swallow up death forever.Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth.

That table.That table above and the one here in our church.Let that be our hope, our hope and our courage.Our hope and our courage, come what may.

Neal Kentch, Cottage Way Christian Church, Sacramento, California, November 15, 2009