Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

1st Sunday after Sleebo - the Festival of Cross

"No One Knows!"

by Jerry Goebel

Gospel: St. Mark 13: 24 -37

Mark 13:24-37

[Mk 13:24] "But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, [25] AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. [26] “Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. [27] “And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

[28] "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. [29] “Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. [30] “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. [31] “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. [32] “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

[33] "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. [34] “It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. [35] “Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— [36] in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. [37] “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”

Mark 13:24-27
[Mk 13:24] “But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, [25] AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. [26] “Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. [27] “And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.”

“In those days...”
As they left the temple, the Apostles could not help but stand in awe of its grandeur. The temple was awe-inspiring and its land mass covered over one-sixth of ancient Jerusalem. It was actually a series of buildings with grand porches, separate buildings and multiple courts which surrounded the inner temple. The porches were outside the court and they were immense. Solomon’s porch itself was 1,562 feet long. The royal court was 921-foot in length and decorated with 160 columns stretching along its length. The massive, white, stones that the disciple mentioned in awe measured twenty-five by eight by twelve feet and weighed more than one hundred tons.

To the Jews of Christ’s time this represented permanence; it was immovable and unconquerable. They were not unlike us, putting pride and confidence in buildings and structures—even institutions—that we think will stand for all time. Yet, it takes no more than a terrorist act or a natural disaster to remind us of the temporality of our edifices or how unprepared our institutions are for man or nature’s fury.

All the parables that Christ tells in this chapter (as the Disciples leave Jerusalem for Bethany the last time) have three major points:

The impermanence of man, his institutions and his endeavors

The permanence of God and his inevitable judgment
That we should always be ready for his return and to be held accountable to his immortal standards
Jesus tells the disciples to prepare, to be alert. Through them we learn that the way of Christ is anything but easy and comfortable. This is a sinful world and sin has affected the entire cosmos:

Romans 8:18-22
[Ro 8:18] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [19] For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. [20] For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope[21] that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

2 Peter 3:11-12
[2Pe 3:11] Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, [12] looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

Jesus warns the disciples of the upcoming hardships and then takes the original four disciples (John, James, Andrew and Peter) aside on the Mount of Olives and gives them deeper counsel. Our Lord knows that 1) they need the extra encouragement, and 2) they will be at the forefront of the fledgling church during these intense trials.
Still, his promise to them was consistent:

Life will get difficult
However, the more difficult it gets the more he will be present to them
Jesus offers us the same promises. At first glance the promise of difficult times doesn’t sound like good news. However, what Jesus offers us is that the hard times in our lives will help us to see him more clearly every day.
As we have seen in Christ’s life over the last few studies, Jesus used the adversity and anger of those around him to clarify his messianic claims to the people. The harsher Christ’s opposition became the clearer his claims were revealed. That is what he is offering to us during our toughest times. If we count on Christ during times of duress, if we seek his strength while facing adversity for his kingdom, our Lord will be increasingly revealed.

Mark 13:27-32
[27] “And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

[28] “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. [29] “Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. [30] “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. [31] “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. [32] “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

“My words will not pass away”
There are two wonderful words here that give us a glimpse of the fullness of our Lord’s promise. The first word is logos [NT:3056]. When logos is used by Jesus we should not see it in mere human terms. Jesus isn't speaking of human words, he is speaking about God’s Word. God’s Word is not just a contract that is as “only as good as the paper it is signed upon.” It is the very promise—the living promise—of Élohiym, the Mighty God. God’s very son was the signature of his eternal covenant.

The other wonderful word is “pass away” [NT:3928 parerchomai]. This is not just a term that means to disappear or dissipate. The phrase is something closer to overrule or overcome. Jesus, the promise of God—the very Word of God—can never be overruled. He can never be overcome. Could there be any greater promise in our lives?

Jesus is God’s Word, he is God’s signed contract. That contract will never be broken or overruled by any power or principality in the universe. Whatever trial we face--no matter how bad the adversity or condition of this world--God’s Word, Jesus Christ, still stands.

“Of that day or hour no one knows”
The disciples pressed Jesus for dates and times. Who can blame them? Think of the trials Jesus told them they were going to face. Yet, what good does it do us to know when we are going to face adversity? It is human nature to either avoid or procrastinate until the last moment before we prepare ourselves for impending disaster. Consistently, Jesus tells us that we must always be prepared; we must always be alert.

The word used for knowledge in “no one knows,” is eido [NT:1492]. The term does not just mean that no one has been told. It means no one could possibly comprehend the mind of God. In fact, it would also imply, “And you shouldn’t try!”

Jesus tells us that the Angels do not seek to know this and neither does the Son of God (an indication of how incarnate he became); they are more concerned with doing what God has required of them. And what is it that the Lord requires of us?

Micah 6:8
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

However, the Lord does give us many hints for when the time of judgment will come:

Mark 13:10
[Mk 13:10] “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.”
And, through Peter:

2 Peter 3:8-9
[2Pe 3:8] But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. [9] The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

When will the Lord return? He will return when the work is done and the harvest is in. How soon do I want the Lord to come and restore justice to his creation? How hard am I working?

We might compare those who look for exact dates and times to those who watch the clock at work. Instead of spending their time furthering the community's goals, they spend their time trying to guess whether the clock reads 4:58PM or 4:59PM. Conversely, anyone who has ever worked a harvest knows that quitting time begins when the entire crop is in. We don’t quit at five if there is still ripe fruit on the trees in danger of falling to the ground. We stay until every fruit is picked.

Jesus did his part. Are we doing ours? We have our commission; what’s holding us back?

Matthew 28:19-20
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Mark 13:33-37
[33] “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. [34] “It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. [35] “Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— [36] in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. [37] “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”

“Be on the alert!”
Can there be any doubt about the responsibility of the commission that Christ has given to us? We are responsible for nothing less than the House of God! In Hebrew, that term, “Élohiym Bayith,” meant the “Daughter of God.” Because they were a nomadic people, church did not mean a “place.” It was a community where even the least little one would be raised in the safety and knowledge of the One Lord of Israel.

Is that how my church is known in my community? Does my church have a reputation for offering the least little one a place of safety and the tangible embrace of God’s love? Is my church constantly expanding that offer to the world? Are we going out to the world with this great offer of safety, opportunity, and love?

In one of our weekly sessions with juvenile offenders the kids told us that they looked for two things from their community:

To be physically and emotionally safe
To be given fair access to opportunities regardless of race, religion, or socio-economic status
Is that the work for which people in my community know our church? If not, whose house am I minding? How alert are we? This is the accounting by which God will evaluate our tenancy. Did I take what he gave me and make it more fair, more loving and more just?

“Be on the alert,” our Lord tells us. The word alert [gregoreuo NT:1127] means to be vigilant and watchful. It comes from another work, egeiro [NT:1453], which means to “wake up!” It is a very pointed word; it would be used for waking a drunk from a stupor or shaking one out of inactivity. It also means to literally slap sense into someone who is facing ruin or obscurity.

Jesus is slapping us back from oblivion. He is telling us to take up his mantle, his mission, and to get to work: To become the Élohiym Bayith, the “House of God” wherever we find ourselves; To become known for providing safety, opportunity, and justice for the “least, little one.”

Is that what I am known for? Is that what my family is known for? Is that what my church is known for? Is that what my community is known for? Our nation? Our world? We have our commission; let’s go do it.

About the Author

Jerry Goebel is a community organizer who started ONEFamily Outreach in response to gang violence and youth alienation in a rural community in Southeastern Washington. Since that time, Jerry has worked with communities around the globe to break the systemic hold of poverty by enhancing the strengths of the poor.

CXoyright Jerry Goebel: 2007 © http://onefamilyoutreach.com

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 1st sunday after Sleebo

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