Proper 28 · Mark 13:1-10 · November 15, 2009
By Timothy P. Dost
In this text Jesus encourages his disciples—and us—to look not to present things, no matter how externally impressive, but rather to find our hope in Christ, who has sent his Holy Spirit to defend us even in the greatest difficulties. These difficulties are the preparation for the Gospel, which will be preached to the whole world. Our comfort is that it is Christ who is telling us of the tribulations to come, and therefore he knows and controls the extent of these calamities. As believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we know that although the earthly temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, Christ was not destroyed when the temple of his body was crucified and died. Rather, he rose again from the dead. We know that we too are being built into his temple not made with hands—the church—and that we too who have died and risen with him by baptism will rise again to be with him eternally in heaven. Furthermore, we have the privilege of testifying through the Holy Spirit to the truth of this gospel and this kingdom.
Apart from the text given, 1 Peter 2:5 where we are described as living stones that God is building up; John 2:19 where Jesus says that he will destroy the temple of his body and on the third day rebuild it; review of the importance of the temple in Ezekiel 40 and following; 1 John 2:18ff. on deceivers and antichrists; 1 Corinthians 10:13ff. on God not testing us beyond what we are able, but also providing a way of escape; Hebrews 10:12-14 on the many temple sacrifices compared to the one real sacrifice of Christ; John 1:29—John’s declaration of Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world; Mark 13:31—Jesus tells us that heaven and earth may pass away, but His words will never pass away; Hebrews 12 on why and how God through hardship disciplines his sons; 1 Corinthians 3:11ff. on no other foundation being laid but Christ and the relationship of our Christian lives and works to that foundation. 1 Peter 4:13 and 2 Corinthians 1:4ff. tell us that we can rejoice in our participation in the sufferings of Christ as we wait in hope for his revealed kingdom.
Law for the text
The disciples took pride in the temple in Jerusalem built by Herod, which was a spectacular and wonderful building. Jesus points out the futility of such thinking. Furthermore, we are easily deceived by all kinds of false teachings that sound right, but are simply deceptions. Moreover, when things really get rough in our lives we often turn to the wrong places for comfort. God would have us trust only in him, through the means he has provided—his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who is with us and sustains us.
Gospel for the text
First, Jesus is making this presentation on the destruction of the temple, and there is much comfort in his power to control the situation and protect those present, using what happens for his godly purposes. Second, there is the promise that the Holy Spirit will help us during difficult times to uphold us and speak through us. Therefore, we need not despair but can instead find hope in difficult circumstances, even in the face of death.
More direct parallels that bring in the Gospel can be developed for this text. Christ is the true temple in whom atonement for the sins of all people has been accomplished. He is the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. By his stripes we are healed. Not only is this so, but God has chosen us to be the living stones of his temple, the church. Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of that temple, where we are being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and we are all precious to our Lord and Savior. Also, we participate in his sufferings and death when we are baptized, receive the Lord’s Supper, and through the actual difficulties of life. God is present at all times and in all places to help us through these sufferings and bring us safely to his kingdom, and he will even provide the words we need to testify to him, through the Holy Spirit, when the need arises. So in life, suffering, or death, we can joyfully serve the Lord.
Goal: That the hearers of this message would act confidently through trust in Christ’s work, in the face of worldly loss or hardship, knowing that God will sustain them in all hardships and persecutions.
Malady: As sinners we spend our time concerned with the wrong things, taking pride in our human temples, rather than the true temple of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Means: Christ declares the truth of what will come to pass, and in his body, through his sacrifice on the cross, he provides the remedy for all our weaknesses of faith and life, and especially answers our fears.
Introduce the theme of our false dependence on things other than God. In particular we tend to find comfort in false temples, made by false Herods in our lives.
Unpack the text by illustrating the major themes of being easily deceived by the world, the devil, and the flesh, and needing strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit and the Word during times we are tested by hardship.
This text would appear to leave us with little to hope for, being as dependent as we are on creature comforts and taking pride in the wrong things; but we can find hope in Christ the great high priest who has sacrificed the temple of his body in our stead, has raised us up as living temples for him, and has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and defend us in all troubles, hardships, and difficulties through the Word.
Now we can live in the comfort and hope that it is Christ who fights for us as our champion, forgiving us our sins and providing the means of grace for our comfort and strength, and that he who has saved and sustained us will keep us faithful, sending his promised Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to help us through all our hardships to everlasting life. Therefore we earnestly proclaim this comfort to others who suffer as well. Amen.