the first of the birth pains…

Mark 13:1-12

As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”

Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

“When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.  For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

 We read this passage with hindsight.  The statement about the stones of the temple being demolished comes up again at Jesus’ trial.  The temple is made by man, its existence is temporary.  The need for the temple is temporary, Jesus said there would come a time when we would not worship in temples but in spirit and truth.  What is of the Spirit is eternal.  God is eternal.  The teaching and sacrifices that took place in the temple were temporary; they could only serve for a time.  What Christ brought, His message and His sacrifice was for eternity.

What is being birthed?  The message that the Messiah has come, the message later that He has paid the supreme sacrifice and there is no need for further sacrifices, the message that mankind can now be reunited in a relationship with the Creator of all,  the message that God is fulfilling His promise and a new covenant is made with His people and all mankind.

Do not be alarmed, do not panic, don’t worry, do not be deceived are all indicators that followers of Christ will face difficult, dangerous, depressive events, situations and times.  They will come, but we do not rely upon our own strength, our own knowledge.  Followers of Christ rely on the Holy Spirit; our trust is in the Lord to assist us in those times. As we continue in the Word, we receive the knowledge given to the disciples, we receive the direction of the Holy Spirit available to all followers of Christ.   We will be given the words to say, it will be the Holy Spirit speaking.  We are to have faith, trust in Him.  Words  of warning, words of caution, words of encouragement and words of direction.