The 13th chapter of Mark is all about endings. These endings will not be pleasant, in fact, both Jesus and his followers face terrible fates. Death and destruction and chaos will result. But Jesus is also pointing to new beginnings, that in the midst of death, resurrection takes place, in the midst of destruction of Jerusalem, the city will be rebuilt not only on earth but in heaven, in the midst of persecution the Christian Church will take root and explode in growth.
And Jesus’ words to all who were listening to him in this chapter, “Beware that no one leads you astray.” When things are bleakest, the voices that seek to lead you astray seem to be the strongest. Resist this, Jesus says, do not let anyone lead you away from the truth.
I was in a hurry. It seems like I am often in a hurry, even when I have no place to go. Whatever! I drove out of our quiet neighborhood to the intersection with a busy four-lane highway. Traffic was heavy that day. It seemed at first glance like cars were lined up for miles, I could see their lights in the distance. I waited for an opening, hoping someone would lag for a split second and I could butt in. Sure enough, probably an elderly driver like myself hesitated, and I raced into line. I was so proud of myself.
But just as I finished with the self-congratulations, a police officer on a motorcycle raced by, as I looked to the front of this line of cars, I suddenly saw a black hearse. “Oh, Oh!” I exclaimed. I was now in the midst of a funeral procession. I immediately looked for an exit, mercifully it came soon. When I turned off into a side street, I was so relieved, until I looked in my rearview mirror. One car after another had followed me.
What to do now? What do you do when you have led people astray? I could race down the street and try to lose the group. Or I could stop and apologize. I could call 911. Probably not! So, I took the easiest course of action, I just pulled over to the curb and parked. I hoped this would let everyone know they had followed the wrong car. I was hoping the police officer would show up and rescue these lost mourners. I am sure I ruined the day for many people.
Jesus in Mark 13 warns us not to follow false prophets. Just follow me, Jesus says, even when times are difficult, when challenges are overwhelming, when grief and sorrow are crushing. Only in Jesus will all of this end well. Even if we grow old and our health fails, even if we experience the death of loved ones, even if our world seems on the edge of catastrophe so often, Jesus words on the cross come to us, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Today is the day of the Lord, today you will be with him.
This next week we journey again to the cross. Stay in your lane, do not follow anyone who is leaving the parade and going off on their own. Do not let anyone lead you astray but proceed directly to the cross and then to the empty tomb. And then you can declare with all of the saints, “Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.” Then all will end well.
Questions for reflection:
- How do you plan on spending the next week? Are you on a journey to the cross and then to the empty tomb?
- What are some false prophets that can lead us astray?
- What have you found most helpful to keep your eyes on Jesus?
Gracious Lord, lead us to the cross and the empty tomb. Do not let anyone lead us astray. Bless our leaders at Hope who will proclaim the miracle of resurrection with passion and joy. Keep all of us safe during this difficult time and bring all of us to eternal life. Amen.