God Only Knows
Tim: This week our tour of Mark’s Gospel stops at chapter 13.
Shea: Ah yes, “The Little Apocalypse,” Jesus’s end-of-the-world discourse in which he gives the disciples a terrifying snapshot of the alternative to God’s kingdom. He uses the destruction of the Temple—which, by the way, was happening just as Mark was being written—as a means of showing what a world without hope looks like.
Tim: That’s very important to keep in mind, because Mark’s writer is most concerned about his intended readers. We easily forget these texts weren’t written for us, and crises in the original communities often shaped how the stories got told.
Shea: What? All of these doomsday predictions aren’t about 21st century America? The world isn’t about to end at any minute? Just kidding. It’s very tempting to take Mark 13, or later versions in Matthew and Luke, and hold them up against the daily news, because you can always find a match. Wars and rumors of war? Check. Earthquakes and famine? Check. Tyranny and idolatry? Check. People fleeing for their lives? Check. A lot of folks get obsessed with the future-casting Jesus appears to be doing and trying to crack the code causes them to miss the point.
Tim: But trying to crack the code is fun and exciting!
Shea: I agree, except for one thing. Jesus flat-out says the code can’t be cracked. “Nobody knows when the world will end, not even me,” he says. “Only God knows.” And, actually, I think that’s the main point. God knows. I truly believe Mark’s writer is comforting his community with ideas that get a lot modern American Christians so freaked out.
Tim: Or morbidly excited, because there are spins on this text that make it sound like the Great Escape. I personally know well-meaning believers who are so sure the world will end any minute they have no concern about what’s actually happening around them. And thinking about future generations, what kind of planet will we leave for our children, what kind of place will this be—forget about it. No need to worry about the present or future if the whole thing’s going to blow up!
Shea: But Jesus keeps anchoring his message in the present. “Stay woke,” he says. “Keep your eyes open. Watch God work!” In the middle of complete chaos, with the world coming unglued at every corner, God knows. God is doing something. Mark tells his community, “Yes, our Temple has been destroyed. Still, hang in there. God knows. God is doing something.” We click on the news and find every reason to despair. But I can hear Mark say, “Hang in there. God knows. Jesus is coming—not just at the end of time, but daily, finding us when and where we least expect it.”
Tim: I like that. Jesus is coming, stepping into our chaos and despair, finding us wherever we may be, which is why being ready is so vital. Honestly, I wasn’t very jazzed about this week’s lesson. Now you’ve got me fired up!
Shea: How can you not be? What do we say around Gather? Watch God work. That’s the lesson!
Join us this Thursday at L!VE Café, 163 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park. Doors open at 7:00p, the study begins at 7:30p. If you can’t be with us in person, join us via Facebook Live.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
Summer is the perfect time for a “walking tour” of Mark’s Gospel. The oldest and shortest of the Gospels, Mark is full of amazing details that capture the life and ministry of Jesus in fascinating ways. Mark’s Jesus is a man on a mission without much patience for folks who can’t keep up. He says exactly what’s on his mind. And the writer tells the Jesus story in an action-packed style overflowing with mysterious touches. Why is there no Christmas chapter? Why is Jesus so tough on the disciples? Why can’t they see who he really is? Why are the women afraid to tell the news of the Risen Christ? And what’s up with that naked man in Gethsemane (among other peculiarities)?
Join us every Thursday from June 7-August 30, as we spend the summer touring Mark’s Gospel. It will be a trip well worth taking!
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.