Lent, the End of the World, & the Coming of the Son of Man


This meditation on Mark 13.1-27 is expanded from the Liberti Church 2020 Lent Prayerbook

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If you participated in Ash Wednesday a few weeks ago, you may have felt the shocking way Lent sneaks up on us. It refuses to ease us into its contours and instead hits us in the face with as much blunt force reality as it can: You are ash. You will die.

For those uncomfortable with these sorts of truths, the text  below does not let up. It is a scary and confusing one, speaking of death, torment, wars, and destruction–even among those most innocent in society. The confusion of this text led some Christian traditions (especially the 19th-century American Church) to separate these words from their original context and history and see them as terrifying images of the end of the world. Perhaps you grew up in such a tradition and read these words with that filter.

To the extent there is good news in this, it is that these words are not in fact talking about the end of the world. The bad news? Well, the truth of what it is saying is even scarier.

Jesus is not talking about an end-of-the-world Armageddon here. Instead, he is predicting the destruction of the Jewish Temple (which happened at the hands of the Romans 35 years later) and telling his people what to do when it happens. Just look at the verses immediately preceding the scary ones. Jesus says the Temple will be destroyed, his disciples ask when that’s going to happen and what will it be like, and then Jesus says all this stuff. When you start reading it that way, it’s pretty straightforward. But why does this matter?

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Responding to Prophets: The Holy Spirit Changes Everything | Acts 11:27-30


At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:27-30

Sounds pretty Old Testament to me. But notice how the people of God respond. In the OT, when prophets spoke all of this, the people either barely responded, or responded in overdramatic wailing and (temporary) repenting. This group of God’s people, however, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, proceed to act in light of the prophecy to seek human flourishing and societal good. This is the response that the prophets of old were looking for and never got.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Noah, Prophecy, & the Comfort of the Earth | Genesis 5.28-29


When Lamech had lived one hundred eighty-two years, he became the father of a son; he named him Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.”
Genesis 5.28-29

Noah’s name means “comfort” or “rest”. This is an interesting prophetic statement concerning Noah. Hebrew irony at its best. The same Hebrew word for “earth” is used here as “ground”. Same word as in “God created the heavens and the earth”. So, how Noah will bring “relief” from the toil is by playing a part in the undoing of God’s creation of “the heavens and the ground”. In other words, he comes out of the ground to bring comfort to that ground by undoing the ground. Oh, Hebrew.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.