URC Daily Devotion Friday 15th March 2024

St Mark 13: 9 – 27

Jesus said:  ‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.  Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away;  someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat.  Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days!  Pray that it may not be in winter.  For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be.  And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days.  And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it.  False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.  But be alert; I have already told you everything.

‘But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory.  Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

Reflection

This is a crucial point in Mark’s gospel – Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem, soon he will die.   After that, because of him, there is no doubt that his followers will  be exposed to fierce persecution by religious and civic authorities.  But Jesus assured them that when they are brought to trial they will be empowered to testify to their faith.
 
Dark hints are made about the setting up of the obscure “desolating sacrilege”– direct language would have been politically dangerous for early Gospel readers for whom the meaning would have been clear. But we can scarcely ignore the graphic authenticity of what follows; the horrifying detail of Jesus’ vision is all too familiar. This is unmistakably our world.  A world where people are forced to flee for their lives – no time to go into one’s house for essentials, no time to stop to pick up a coat; and how awe-ful for pregnant or nursing women! Unimaginably so if it be winter.  Such catastrophes are played out for us daily with the emergence of corrupt political leaders and the carnage of war. 
 
So while in one sense these verses convey an apocalyptic  consciousness of life at the end of time they also have an unmistakable bearing on the present.  To read them is to engage with them, to try to discern the “signs of the times” and respond appropriately.  For in this dreadful context God is working out his project for good.  We are called to remain steadfast, to discern ways in which God’s promises are being fulfilled, called to watch and witness boldly to God’s truth.  So in God’s mercy, the elect will be vindicated, the tribulations of the Christian community will be curtailed and somehow the Good News will be proclaimed to all nations.
 
Prayer
 
Dear God,
We thank you for the assurance that we may face the trials of this life with the strength you supply.
 
We thank you for the community of saints and for the help we may find in their example.
 
And most of all we thank you for the example of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ,
Through whom our prayers are made. Amen

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