Mark 13: 1-8
The chapters preceding this passage find Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem, reflecting on the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28–31), and teaching in the courtyards of the temple. Throughout this time, he warned his disciples not to become enamored with the grandeur around them or follow things that would distract them from his central mission. And what did they do next? They commented on how glorious the stones and buildings were that made up the temple complex!
Several of these stones weighed over 100 tons and measured nearly 45 feet long. The temple and its surrounding buildings and courtyards—the center of Jewish religion and culture during Jesus’ day—also served as a testament to the power of the Roman Empire and as impressive feats of engineering. No matter how strong a building may be, it can still be destroyed: when the Romans sacked Jerusalem during the Jewish rebellion in 70 CE, they left the once-grand temple in ruins. To be faithful to Christ is to look beyond the presumed stability of institutions, buildings, nations, and glittering wealth of the world. We do not put our trust in that which will topple or fade, but in the gospel message and the Living Word to which it points.
Some of his disciples, who presumed Jesus’ words of warning about the temple indicated the imminence of God’s judgment, asked when these events would take place. Many around
them were predicting the end of the world, a cosmic upheaval where the righteous of God would overthrow those they perceived to be oppressive and in contradiction of God’s desires. They believed a new world order was coming soon, and would be heralded by catastrophic events signaling its arrival.
It is tempting for many people in our world— and throughout the ages—to see contemporary calamities as signs of the so-called “end times.” But “wars and rumors of wars” (Mark 13:7), earthquakes, famines, and other times of suffering we experience do not signal the coming of God’s kingdom in its completion in the world, Jesus said. He did not tell the disciples the signs they should seek, but rather warned them to be on guard against those who would claim a certain event or series of catastrophes signaled the end times. Even as popular Christianity today tends to teach disciples to pay attention to “the signs of the end times,” Jesus firmly rebukes such speculation. Those who come “in [his] name” and prophesy this imminent destruction do not act within the authority of Jesus’ teachings (v. 6). Many people will focus on doomsday predictions, Jesus said, but his disciples were not to be among them or be tempted to wander down such paths of distraction.
Instead, Jesus calls his disciples to be faithful to the message he came to share. In the next passage (Mark 13:9–13), Jesus reminds us our task is to proclaim the good news to all people by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is our mission. We do not cling to the rocks on buildings or attempt to make sense of turmoil around us by declaring catastrophes as the fulfillment of end-time prophecies. To be faithful to Christ is to proclaim him and him alone as the Rock of our faith and the fulfillment of our hopes, even—and perhaps, especially—in the face of suffering.
We can receive further insight about the concept of “end time” from Community of Christ Basic Beliefs, which says, “The future of the creation belongs to the Prince of Peace, not to those who oppress, dominate, or destroy. As we anticipate that future, we devote ourselves to seek Christ’s peace and pursue it. We do not know the day or hour of Christ’s coming but know only that God is faithful” (Sharing in Community of Christ, 3rd ed., 2012, 16). We remain faithful by focusing on Jesus and the pursuit of peace and sharing Christ with others.