Are we in the end times? What are the signs of the end of the age? When is Jesus’ return?
These questions capture headlines, imaginations, and intense Biblical debate. Over the years, I’ve seen heated arguments as well as relationships turned icy as people wrestle with these questions.
Some time ago, a national publication asked me if I thought we were in the end times. My response:
Perhaps rather than focus on the question of when will Jesus return, maybe we should be asking, what if Jesus doesn’t come back for another 50, 100, or 200 years? Such a question awakens us to our responsibility to raise up strong Christian leaders in the next generation, teach the Scripture to our children, and pass the baton of faith well.
I’m not sure they liked my answer. I picked up some haters online for that response.
Yet I’m reminded that, though subtle, this theme emerged in Mark 11-13. This is Day 17 in the #LentChallenge, reading though the Gospels in preparation for Resurrection Sunday. To download a free copy of the reading plan, click here. To join the cray-cray Color Method, click here.
Fanfare surrounds Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem. Leafy branches. Thick and thin robes lined the path, quieting the click sound of the donkey’s hooves.
Rather than take a seat on a throne, Jesus judges and cleanses. A fig tree is cursed for unfruitfulness. The temple is turned upside down. The people are wonderstruck by Jesus’ teaching and authority.
Then Jesus speaks of shadows of things to come. Allusions. Mysteries. Hidden secrets that theologians and the church have tried to decode for the thousands of years. Centuries of people declaring we are in the end times. They weren’t wrong. Soon their time did end.
But the call of Jesus does not seem to be to study the end times (though I’m all for that if it draws you closer to Christ and into His Word!), the call of Christ is:
He echoes this multiple times.
On alert for what?
Within today’s reading, I think the answer is found in a scribe’s question.
Amidst a heated religious argument (different than the end times ones), a scribe asks what commandment should get top billing?
“Hear, O Israel!”
We could stop there. Hearing God is everything.
“The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
But the Scribe takes Jesus’ words one-step further:
“Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as Himself is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices and end times debates” (Italicized words added). (Mark 12:32-33)
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
So the kingdom of God draws near not when we score 100 on an eschatology test, or fill up a vault with passages to support our pre-, post-, mid- or combo-tribulation planner.
The kingdom of God draws near when we love, love, love.
When we walk in patience and humility. Keep no record of wrongs. Put others before ourselves. Celebrate with truth. Bear, believe, hope, and endure all things.
The timing of Jesus’ return becomes less important when we are experiencing the fullness of His presence today.
What do I most need to read but least want to hear?
Father, Give me opportunities to scale the heights and plumb the depths of your love today that I may love others more wholly and fully. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What do you most need to read but least want to hear from today’s reading? Share in the comments below.