Truth is most Christians would rather gather in the hospital to cut the umbilical cord rather than pull the plug; rather celebrate around the baptismal font of youth rather than lament around the grave of old age; rather join a Bible study on Genesis rather than on Revelation; rather affirm the Alpha more than the Omega.
But here in Mark’s narrative, we aren’t given that option. The parables have been explained and the disciples instructed and what’s left for Jesus to offer is not another new beginning but a final benediction. The end is coming and that’s why chapter 13 is often called the Gospel’s little apocalypse.
Why is the end of the world Good News?
Mark 13:1-8 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.
Suffering, pain and estrangement will be no more.
Institutional religion and all the damage it has done in God’s name will be destroyed.
The Temple will be ruined and all of its oppressive practices.
We get to live completely into our created intention.
Mark Strandquist started an initiative called “Windows From Prison.” Countless inmates were asked, If you could have a window in your cell, what would you want to see? One imagined the hallway in the family home, the hardwood floors between the front and back door. My sister and I pulled up our socks to slide back and forth. Another was of the Bestworld supermarket, where I learned to mingle with and learn from people of all walks of life. Another prisoner imagined downtown Washington D.C. and the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial statue. I don’t want to ever take freedom for granted again. After interviews were conducted and responses were collected behind bars, students went out into the world and captured that image and then mail it back to the penitentiary to hang over steel toilets and on concrete walls. When Kenneth Brewster received his photographic window, he said, “Hope is highly addictive.”
Why is the end of the world Good News?
Despite the discoveries of science, the advances of technology and the promises of the Enlightenment, the wait for public housing is still years long, the polar ice cap is still melting and the people of Paris are still in shock. Even with our participation in the kingdom come, there still remains a brokenness about this world that only God can mend.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again is our most basic affirmation. That God’s love is sacrificial and selfless even unto the cross. That the tomb was too small to hold a God of resurrection. That our deepest confidence is not in ourselves but in the Second Coming.
Apocalypse is simply a cosmic unveiling, a vision of God’s will finally and fully manifest, a window out of our prison cells of id and ego, of competition and achievement, of greed and lust. A revealing on the other side of the glass, where the wolf will live peaceably with the lamb and the lion will lay with the calf, where the rich man will finally sell his possessions and the poor man will eat his fill, where sword will be beaten into a plowshare and all will finally be made well.
So as we join the prayer that ends the New Testament, “Come Lord Jesus,” let us watch for the rider on a white horse to approach and for the seven seals to be opened, the moon to bleed blood red and the stars to fall from the sky, for the new Jerusalem to descend like a bride for the final benediction.