Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
The 24th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus leaving the temple with his disciples. He told them that everything they saw would be destroyed. Everything.
That must have been more than a bit of a post-worship downer. Undoubtedly, the disciples had formed an idea of how things should turn out. And, it’s not a stretch of imagination to assume that destruction and mayhem were not what they envisioned. In fact, once the entourage reached the Mount of Olives, a group of the disciples privately asked Jesus the obvious: when would this occur and what are the signs?
It seems faith had its limits.
Jesus’ answer is so like Jesus, answering the question not asked but responding to the heart of their inquiry and fear.
All these are the beginning of birth pains.
The entire 24th chapter is a detailed explication of what was to befall Jerusalem within a few decades as well as a portend of the end of times. Destruction and mayhem were just the beginning of birth pains. A prelude to a climactic ending.
Let’s be clear. With the presence of the Evil One as well as the consequence of our inherited and personal sin, evil is all around us. Still, its presence is not a reason to simply lament and do nothing, and it’s definitely not the opportunity to isolate ourselves from the community we are called to serve and transform. We are salt. We are light. Wrapping oneself in spiritual bubble wrap is an impossibility and contrary to our calling.
No, we compelled to act. In fact, the 122nd Psalm implores God’s people to actively seek the peace of the space of their habitation— the place of physical safety and spiritual refuge.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for the peace of Sacramento.
A p-k (preacher’s kid), Mark is the eighth of nine children born to Reuben and Henrietta Meeks, prolific planters of nearly 30 churches throughout the Central Valley of California. After four decades of teaching, discipling, and ministering, including to the hospitalized and imprisoned, Mark responded to God’s call to pastoral ministry. In addition to degrees in civil engineering and public administration, Mark received his Masters in Theology from Fuller Seminary.