“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains
You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
There is so much strife in the world. Right now, what I see is politics. I intensely dislike the antagonism there. My Republican friends post on Facebook about how stupid the Democrats are. The Democrats post about how dumb the Republicans are. It is just so hateful, so inconsiderate.
But this is nothing compared to the conflict all over the world. It is utterly disturbing to see the fighting in Syria, the Middle East, and other places — people killing one another, full of rage and antagonism, over and over, without end.
Looking at the above passage in Mark 13, there is a huge contrast between the strife foretold, and the building of God’s kingdom. One makes it seem like the world is falling apart, and the other speaks of a kingdom that is GROWING through all the hardship. One is bad news, the other is good news.
So does Jesus want us to fix the bad news, or does he want us to focus on the good news?
I think it’s obvious he wants us to focus on the good news. Look at the wording of verse 10 again: “And the gospel MUST FIRST be preached to all nations.” That is the priority of Jesus. He doesn’t once say they should engage in the wars, or even fight it if they are arrested.
No, in fact, they are to use the conflict they encounter as a platform to be WITNESSES.
I think the same should be true today. Our main focus should be on the spreading of the gospel, not in fixing the wrongs of the world.
Now don’t get me wrong. I think there’s a place for righting injustices. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.“ Isa 1:17a
And most definitely we need to serve the poor and needy. After all, pure religion is to take care of the orphans and widows. (James 1:27) Jesus said that in caring for “the least of these” — the sick, the hungry, those in prison — we are caring for him. And Isaiah said about true fasting: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isa 58:7
But the gospel MUST be preached. I guarantee, most of us want to put it on the back burner instead of the front.
So what is the “gospel?” I looked through the first few chapters of Mark to see what good news Jesus was telling people, and I found almost nothing. The only thing I saw was this:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:14-15
The good news was that it was time for the kingdom of God to come.
And what did the kingdom mean to the Jews? They thought God would make them a sovereign nation, as He did in the time of David and Solomon. They would be an empire, great on earth.
But this wasn’t the kingdom Jesus was bringing. Even if we don’t see him describing it, we can see what he was doing. Jesus was amazing people with new teachings about God. He was casting out demons. He was healing the sick. He was forgiving sin.
And that shows us that actually, JESUS was the good news. He was the kingdom that was coming. The king, God, was WITH men as never before.
Sure, God was with his people in times of old. He told Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (Joshua 1:5)
But God wasn’t with men in a physical sense, as He was when Jesus came to earth. And what a powerful time it was! Demons were conquered. Sin was forgiven. Words of life were spoken. Needs were met. Bread was multiplied. Love was manifest.
God was with them. That was the good news. And, of course, it became even better news than that, because Jesus made a way for people to be WITH God always.
So whether there were disasters or wars, or any manner of catastrophes, Jesus ushered in a time when it didn’t matter what was going on, because the Almighty God was WITH them. He didn’t come to bring an end to their suffering. He came to bring them power amidst the suffering. THAT was the good news.
And it still is the good news. Last night Ken and I were praying with our friends, Mike and Carol. I confess, that when it gets to be about 8 PM, I am just gutting it out sometimes. I love my friends, and I love to pray to God. But I’m tired. And so my prayers can be listless. But last night I remembered the good news. The powerful God was with me! And I KNEW He would do exciting things because of our prayers. So I started to be infused with strength and excitement. I felt alive.
The gospel is such good news. I could go on an on about the hope we have, the impossible prayers that have been answered, the miracle being a part of the family of God. It’s not lackluster, it’s HUGE and glorious.
Thus, the gospel must be preached. It is bigger than any catastrophe, because no matter what happens, we can be WITH God. People need to know this truth that will transform them forever.
May this calling swell in our hearts. Let’s not get distracted by ranting about the numerous wrongs in the world. Yes, let’s seek to right injustices. Yes, let’s spend ourselves on behalf of the needy.
But let’s also seek to give people the thing that will help them find hope and strength in their difficulties.
Let’s give them the Jesus who will make possible immeasurably more than all they can ask or imagine.
Let’s give them something that will last far beyond the troubles on this earth.
The world will always be falling apart.
With our help, there’s something more. The kingdom that will always be growing.