Words of warning are sometimes the greatest act of love imaginable.
I just finished a book entitled The Splendid and the Vile, which detailed the first year of Winston Churchill’s leadership during World War II from his first day in office, when Germany invaded Holland and the Netherlands. It was a nail-biting, page turner of almost 600 pages, that made me tense with anxiety about who would win this war that had ended over 70 years ago.
As Germany pummeled England with nightly bombings during what is called “the worst year of the war,” Britain scrambled to find an early detection system that would give them enough warning to fight back. Radar, invented by Robert Watson-Watt, gave them their advantage. By 1939 radar was able to detect incoming enemy flights while they were still 100 miles away, giving them enough time to launch counter attacks and get civilians to safety.
Jesus used his last week to warn all his disciples, both then and now, about the end of the age. This week we get to pay attention to them.
Hard Words of Warning
As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, we come to the chapter that is the hardest to understand in this gospel–possibly in the whole New Testament. Scholars disagree on its interpretation. Two sources I consulted, Kent Hughes commentary on Mark and Tim Chester’s Good Book guide to Mark 9-16 gave differing views on the return of Christ.
Tim Keller in King’s Cross skipped this chapter completely. Should we skip it, too, and move into the more familiar terrain of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday?
No. Warnings are too important to skip. And these words are meant for Jesus’ followers, ordinary people like Peter, Andrew, James, John, you, me. If we didn’t need them, he wouldn’t have spoken them and had them recorded for us. In Mark 13 Jesus wants to address our expectations, warn us of real danger, and give us hope. What a gift his words are to us. Though they are hard to understand, it’s worth the effort.
Let’s study together expecting to understand more that we have before. That way we can heed the warnings and hold the promises close to our hearts. Let’s also draw near to our Savior’s heart as he looked at Jerusalem one last time before heading to the cross.
He warns us because he wants us to be ready. That’s the good news of this chapter.
Day 1: Context — Review Mark 11-12. Read Mark 13:1-4
- What had happened during the preceding days starting with Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem?
- What conversation occurred as Jesus left the temple for the last time? How did his opinion of the Temple differ from the disciples’?
- What two questions is Jesus answering in the rest of this chapter? See Mark 13:4.
- What would you say is on Jesus’ heart as he faces the cross and the empty tomb?
Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 13 as a telescopic view of the future, unfolding in stages.
- Read the chapter looking for time markers — when, but, first, after, day, hour. What stages can you divide the prophecy into based on that?
- Which stage is not about the temple being destroyed? Which stage is about the temple’s destruction?
- What is the lesson of the fig tree? How is this a conclusion to what he has said so far, in answer to their question in 13:4?
- How does the final section of the chapter, 13:32-37 differ from the rest of the chapter?
Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 13 as the Good Shepherd’s words of warning to his sheep.
- What does he warn them (and us) about?
- What does he want them to count on?
- Is there anything he tells them not to worry about? What? Why?
- What does he instruct them to believe or to do?
- How certain are his words?
Day 4: Application — Read Mark 13 as a personal word from your Savior to you today.
- How does Jesus’ perfect knowledge and control encourage you in light of today’s trouble–both in our world at large and in your personal world? Pray your fears and believe his sovereign goodness.
- How does this chapter increase your expectation of Christ’s return? Pray your hopes and seek the alertness he describes.
- How does this chapter sober your view of your friends and family who are outside of Christ? Pray for them with the zeal that God has stirred in you.
Life gets busy this time of year as we try to wrap up school, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Even those with preschool children feel busy. And of course, life for a single woman is full to bursting as she takes care of everything solo.
Jesus spoke these words to ordinary, busy people like you and me. Don’t worry if you don’t get to answer every question I’ve written. But do read this chapter and ask God to help you hear this word of his to you.
Words of warning are always words of love.