+ 1 Advent B
TEXT: Mark 13:24-37
December 3, 2017
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas PA
It’s the new year in the church –
Advent marks the beginning of
the church’s cycle of remembering
the life, ministry, teaching,
passion, death and resurrection of Jesus
in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany,
Lent, Holy Week, and Easter,
then turning our attention
to the church’s mission
during the Sundays after Pentecost.
We begin the new year in Advent
waiting, watching, and preparing
for the coming of Jesus.
Since it’s the season before Christmas,
one of the ways we wait for Jesus to come
is as a baby born in Bethlehem.
But before we get there,
we turn our attention to Jesus coming
in other ways, first,
and we start where we left off the old year – last week –
with Jesus’ coming at the end of time
to judge and redeem us and all creation.
So for the last several weeks,
and now again today,
we hear Old Testament readings
about the Lord’s coming to judge Israel,
and Jesus’ second coming
to judge and redeem at the end of time.
But what makes today different
is that this new year of the church
makes Mark the primary gospel for our reading in worship
rather than Matthew,
which was the featured gospel in the old year.
And Mark has a different perspective and understanding
of the apocalypse, or revelation of God,
and the coming of Jesus to fulfill God’s promises.
So I’d like you to work through this with me
to see what Mark’s gospel understands and emphasizes
about who Jesus is
and his coming at the end of time.
These are the things Mark includes
that the other gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, do not.
Mark’s unique take on it.
I invite you to turn in the Bible in the pew rack
to today’s reading,
Mark, Chapter 13, beginning at verse 24.
You can find it on page 927,
and the title there is
“The coming of the Son of Man.”
But I’m warning you, you’ll want to stick your finger
or an envelope there,
because we’re going to be flipping pages,
because Mark describes this coming of the Son of Man
using very particular language and phrases
that allude to another part of his story.
In fact, the Thursday Bible Study folks
nailed it immediately,
and I’m still impressed as I think about it.
What they said is that
some of the images here in chapter 13
sound like Jesus’ passion and crucifixion.
And that is exactly right.
That is what Mark is all about.
Mark wants us to think
of Jesus passion, death, and resurrection
whenever we read anything from Mark
because the story of Jesus’ passion
is by far the most important part of Mark’s story.
There are 16 chapters in Mark
and the first prediction of Jesus’ passion
happens already at the end of chapter 8, (8:31-33, p. 921)
midway through his story.
And the last 6 chapters tell the story
of the last week of his life
(Chapter 11:1, Jesus’ triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, p. 924)
while the first 10 chapters
cover the rest of the three years of his ministry.
The passion is very important to Mark,
and Mark turns our attention to the passion
when he describes the Coming of the Son of Man
in chapter 13.
Here are some of the ways he does that.
Get ready for the page-flipping.
Let’s begin with the images
of the first verses of today’s reading, 13:24-25. (p. 927)
That’s the part that tipped off our Bible Study folks.
Read: the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Let’s compare that
to Mark’s account of Jesus’ death.
Flip to 15:33, and 38. (page 931)
Read: when it was noon,
darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon…
when the sun is darkened –
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two
from top to bottom.
Unleashing the power of God into the world,
shaking the powers of heaven.
But here’s where Mark really gets intentional
about his language
describing both the coming of the Son of Man
and the passion of Jesus.
It’s in the little parable he inserts
in chapter 13: 34-35 (p. 928)
Read: It – the coming of the Son of Man –
It is like a man going on a journey,
when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge,
each with his work,
and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
Therefore, keep awake—
for you do not know when the master of the house will come,
in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.
In the evening,
or at midnight,
or at cockcrow,
or at dawn.
He could come at any of those times.
And according to Mark’s telling of the passion,
Mark includes those specific times
as guideposts of the events of the passion
Go to the story of Jesus
celebrating the passover supper with his disciples
in chapter 14: 12-21 (page 928)
and notice verse 17.
Read: when it was evening, he came with the twelve.
The supper is prepared and Jesus comes in the evening.
Mark doesn’t specifically say “midnight,”
but the entire betrayal and arrest in the garden
and trial before the council,
happen through the night.
Midnight happened there somewhere.
The next time he specifically mentions is cockcrow,
and you should recognize that
as being associated with Peter’s denial.
There it is in 14:66-72, (page 930)
and Mark specifically says it at verse 68, and again at 72.
Read: Then the cock crowed.
At that moment the cock crowed for the second time.
So there is evening, and cockcrow,
and somewhere in there, midnight.
Finally comes the dawn.
Jesus’ trial before Pilate
begins first thing in the morning,
Chapter 15:1 (page 930)
Read: As soon as it was morning…
In Greek, it’s the same word.
And so the coming of the Son of Man,
while it is certainly something to look forward to
at the end of time,
is also, for Mark, already fulfilled
in the passion and death of Jesus.
Mark is trying to tell us two things, I think.
The first is that the Jesus
who lived, ministered, loved, taught,
suffered and died 2000 years ago
is the same Jesus who will come again
at the end of time.
And because it was good news –
or the gospel, as Mark called it (1:1) –
the first time,
so it will be great good news
when he comes again.
And the second is that the fulfillment
of God’s promises to us
that Jesus will come to bring at the end of time –
God’s salvation, life, forgiveness, and mercy –
the fulfillment of that promise has already begun
in the passion and death of Jesus
when he came the first time.
That means that we live in
the salvation, life, forgiveness, and mercy of God
now. Today. Here.
In these days after Jesus’ passion and death.
We get to live as disciples of Jesus
loving and serving others,
free from fear and worry about sin, death, and evil,
because Jesus has already defeated it
in his passion and death for us.
Sin, death, and evil will not get the last word.
They still speak loud and clear today, in this meantime,
but by the power of God’s Holy Spirit
given to us in baptism,
by the word of God in the scriptures,
and by the presence of God in the sacrament of forgiveness,
we get to live in the face of that sin, death, and evil
knowing the end of the story.
And we win.
Life, forgiveness, mercy, and love win.
That is the great good news –
the gospel news –
Mark wants us to know.