Haters Gonna Hate
We are looking at Mark chapter 13, which we have explained is a perplexing passage. Last time we looked at the opening verses which helped explain the context of the disciples’ questions asked in verse four. But also, the placement in the Gospel of Mark. That central to this chapter is the Temple, mainly Jesus’ judgement, found in verse two, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” It is of these things that his disciples ask two questions about when these things will happen? And what will be the signs leading up to this event of the destruction of the temple. Today we will be looking at the beginning of Jesus response to these questions. You notice that from verse 5 all the way to verse 23 is Jesus’ teaching and responding to these two questions (we will explain why in get to vs 24). Like we noted last week this is the largest passage in the Gospel of Mark devoted to Jesus’ teaching. I believe, and people can and do disagree with me, that this passage we are looking at today speaks specifically of the disciples and the early church, which I will highlight along the way.
I. Birth Pains (5-8)
Jesus begins to answer the disciples second question first, “what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Mark 13:4). Now Jesus does not give dates and details. Jesus’ response is pastoral loaded with application and serious concern for his disciples. Before we get to this section of the passage, I want to point out that no matter the persons understanding of this passage the application remains the same, there might be slight variations. Normally, when there is a different interpretation of the scripture there is a gross difference in application. However, this is not the case in this passage. Jesus gives four warnings to his disciples, not only about the signs but how to react to the signs.
a. Do not be lead astray
The first warning is that disciples should not be led astray. To be lead astray is to be deceived. Mark used this earlier to speak of the Sadducees who denied the power of God and the Scripture explaining that were quite wrong (Same Greek word for astray; cf. Mark 12:24-27). Jesus warns of many people who will proclaim to be Jesus, but in fact be leading people away from Jesus. Deceiving them. Paul tells Timothy that they are “evil people and impostors” who will go from bad to worse. They will deceive people while being deceived themselves (2 Tim 3:13). However, Jesus’ statement is not merely a statement of other deception but the warning to the disciples that, “do not be lead astray.” Continue to follow the true Christ, not the many people who pretend to be Christ. The warning runs throughout the Bible that many people claim to be Christians are in fact wolves in sheep’s clothing (Acts 20:29). That people will have itching ears seeking to hear what they want to hear rather than Christ’s true words (2 Tim 4:3-4).
b. Do not be alarmed
The second warning that that the disciples will hear of wars and rumors of wars. This has been the case following the fall. God cursed Satan and pronounced that between the woman and Satan and their offspring will be constant enmity. Any historian would be able to attest to this reality that throughout the history of man there would be very few times that peace could be found on the pages of history. Even in the short span of American history a quarter of her life she has had some major war. There has never been a generation in the history of America that has not seen war. The longest time of ‘peace’ was following the Civil War before the Spanish American War (33 years). Even in recent months have you heard of wars and rumors of wars? Jesus explain that this must take place and it did during the time after Christ. He does not show of the need that this should take place but that it does. But it is somewhat of an anti-sign. That this is what Jesus calls the beginning of the birth pains. There is one thing we can say for certainly is that we have no idea when a baby will be born naturally. One of the frustrating things for me, (poor husband) is that Sarah cannot tell me when our children will be born. She has said, I’m not sure if I am having contractions or not. Especially at the beginning you do not know how long you will be in the beginning stages. Jesus explains that there will be wars and rumors of wars and this will only be the beginning.
Jesus tells his disciples ‘Do not be alarmed.’ This might not seem like a comforting or pastoral advice to his disciples. However, a warning is always out of love. If I knew there was going to be an enormous storm coming through our town, but did not tell anyone this would not be kind. Now it might not be comforting to know of this storm, but at least when the storm comes it would help you be prepared but also as we will see, look to after the storm is coming, which we will see in verse 13.
II. Bearing witness (9-11)
Jesus does answer the disciples’ question but is not only concerned about the disciple’s question. He does not merely answer when and what? Again, a storm is coming, is helpful, but giving advice on what you will need to know what to do in the storm is better. Jesus gives them pastoral instruction as he knows that he will soon be seated at the right hand of God the Father. Hence, when we read this chapter and get concerned on the details we can miss the application, which is the most important part. James Edwards, a commentator describes, “The premium of discipleship is placed not on predicting the future but on faithfulness in the present, especially in trials, adversity, and suffering.” If we read this chapter like an apocalyptic writing then we will be lost and confused, but if we read it as a pastoral lesson from the teacher to his disciples then it helps us understand it. There is a great lack of apocalyptic references in this passage, as James Edwards points out, there are no visions, bizarre imagery, no resurrection, no final judgment and punishment of Satan and his minions, and no description of the idyllic messianic epoch following the Parousia. Jesus’ response is not so much about the details but the discipleship, how they are to be faithful during these times. Hence, this is why I can say, I believe this is specific to the disciples, but still able to help us in our lives. We still have the book of Jeremiah, although written to the nation of Israel during a particular time in history, we can still be taught, admonished, corrected, and trained in righteousness from those passages.
a. Be on your guard
Jesus had previous told them to “look at the scribes” (Mark 12:38), now he tells them to be on the “look out.” Jesus connects chapter 12 to chapter 13, that the bankrupt religious leaders in their long white flowing robes will persecute them. He tells the disciples that they will be handed over to councils, beaten, and eventually stand before rulers (Your mind cannot help but be taken to the book of Acts). However, he gives them instruction of what the purpose of all of this will be for. That they will bear witness to them. That the gospel must be proclaimed to all nations. Persecution leads to proclamation. The disciples were told to be on their guard, not that they would flee from the opportunity but that they would seize the opportunity to proclaim the gospel. Later, the disciples would have greater clarity about this teaching, but for now it might have gone over their heads. They would later understand what Jesus was teaching them in Acts chapter 4, where Peter and John, two of the disciples who asked the question of Jesus, were arrested and thrown into prison.
b. Do not be anxious
Not only Jesus tells his disciples they were to look for opportunities to preach the gospel, but they should also not be anxious about what they would say when they stood before the councils and kings. Again, we can turn to Acts 4, where Peter, standing before the council, was filled with the Holy Spirit preaches that it is only through Jesus, the stone that the builders rejected, that anyone can be saved (Cf. Acts 4:8-12). You could say the opposite of anxiety is boldness, which is exactly what the disciples pray for after their encounter with the council. They were probably taken back to this lesson from Jesus on the mount of olives. They praise God’s sovereignty; they quote Psalm 2. In verse 29 they pray, “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).
III. Hated by all (12-13)
Jesus does not mince words in verse 12, “brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” The promise of the enmity between Satan’s offspring and the offspring still remains. This is discipleship, as we have seen before the disciple’s family is not found in their DNA but in whom they follow, Christ. We should not be surprised; Christ is delivered over by his Jewish brothers. Although they share the same heritage, they do not worship the same God. We do not think about this saying often enough, Jesus here gives a promise that division will even come to families for following Christ, even to the point of death. Now this does not mean we go out of our way to be hated by our families. Because Jesus explains that, we are hated for Jesus’ sake (vs 13). I have made this comment before but at a previous church their slogan was “serving others for Jesus’ sake” based on 2 Corinthians 4:5. However, if you were to base a slogan of a church of Mark 13:13 it would be, “hated for Jesus’ sake.” This is one of those strange promises in the Bible that we will, (not may) be hated. However, as we think about Peter and John’s response in Acts chapter 4, they are not concerned about if the council loves them or not. They respond to them by saying, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). Or further on in Acts, Stephen addresses the council, and begins his glorious sermon, “Brothers and Fathers… then at the end of the chapter they put him to death (Acts 7:1, 60), just had Jesus had said. Brother against brother and father against child.
The promise of persecution is a reality, but the truth is that persecution is only for a time. It is temporal. Jesus ends, this section by saying, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” A great promise that to those who are hated for Christ’s name’s sake, will be saved. Although the world will hate you, you are beloved of Christ. John records what Jesus taught his disciples,
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21)
James gives the example of Job in James 5:11, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” The truth is that the disciple knows of the persecution but knows what comes after the persecution ends. They know there will be an end. When justice will be served. That the one whom they proclaim will return and they will find rest. Jesus says that those who are hated are blessed (Luke 6:22). Do you want a blessed life? Luke would say persecution is blessing.
One thing we do not spend enough time on as Christians is persecution. The day is coming or has come when we Christians will be driven to the scriptures to learn of these great promises of persecution. This is not our home, and we often treat it as our home, but it is but a stay in a hotel (and not a very good one at that). There is a hymn called “Why should Cross and Trial Grieve Me?” the first stanza gives great comfort,
Why should cross and trial grieve me?
Christ is near with his cheer; never will he leave me.
Who can rob me of the heaven
that God’s Son for my own to my faith hath given?
We have nothing to lose. Our treasures cannot be eaten by moth, touched by rust, stolen by anyone. Paul states, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39). Therefore, Jesus tells his disciples do not be lead astray, do not be alarmed, do not be anxious. The one who endures to the end will be saved. Paul can say, “I am sure… will separate us from the love of God.”