Scripture: Job, chapter 25; Mark, chapters 13-14
Mark 13:1-6 (NASB):
As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, look! What wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew were questioning Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things come about, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”
And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and they will mislead many.”
See to it that no one misleads you
These four disciples – Peter, James, John, and Andrew – ask Jesus for a sign. They want to know how to know that the time is coming for “the end.” Earlier this week, some Pharisees had come to ask Jesus for a sign – a sign to prove that He was the Christ. He told them, “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation!” (Mark 8:12). Jesus does not reproach the disciples for asking for a sign, but the first thing He tells them is this: “See to it that no one misleads you.”
When we’re looking for the “signs of the end,” we’re prone to be misled. Because we think that we want the end to come, we’re looking for things that might be the sign. “Confirmation bias” is the phrase to describe this: we want it to be true, so we look for reasons to believe it. See to it that no one misleads you.
Jesus’ comment about the coming destruction of the Temple complex prompted the disciples’ question. “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” The Temple was an important symbol for the Jewish people – both for their faith and for their national identity. But it would all be destroyed within about 40 years, when the Romans crushed yet another Jewish rebellion.
Many will come in my name
Jesus warned the disciples to not let anyone mislead them because He knew that there would be pretenders who would come after Him. Many will come in My name, saying, “I am He!” and they will mislead many. How could these pretenders fool so many people? Because people wanted to believe it.
This isn’t true only of Jesus. Think of the many accounts of people pretending to be someone else that we’ve heard or read. I saw part of a show on TV recently about impostors, and one of the stories was about “Anastasia” – a woman who was believed to be the surviving daughter of the last czar of Russia. Not too long ago, a movie called Catch Me if You Can came out about a man who pretended to be many different things – doctor, pilot, you name it. See to it that no one misleads you.
Later in the chapter, Jesus tells the disciples: “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Look, there He is’; do not believe it; for false christs and false prophets will arise, and will provide signs and wonders, in order to mislead, if possible, the elect. But beware; I have told you everything in advance” (13:21-23).
See to it that no one misleads you.
I’ve reflected on this before, but why do we spend so much time and energy trying to figure out whether “this is the time”? Jesus said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (12:32). When we’re looking so intently to try to figure it all out, we’re more prone to be misled. See to it that no one misleads you.
Earlier I wrote: “Because we think that we want the end to come, we’re looking for things that might be the sign.” I said “we think we want the end to come” because we don’t truly understand what it will be like. First, we’re convinced that we won’t be here for the worst of it. That may or may not be true (it’s just one interpretation of what Scripture says). In this passage, Jesus says: “For those days will be such a time of tribulation as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will again. And if the Lord had not shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days” (13:19-20). If all the believers will be gone, why would God need to “shorten the days for the sake of the elect”?
I have no idea when the end will come, or what exactly it will be like. I focus instead on what Jesus did say: See to it that no one misleads you. Three times in the last part of chapter 13, He tells His disciples to “stay alert” (13:33, 35, 37). The goal is not to figure out when the end is coming; the goal is to be ready. See to it that no one misleads you.
Father, thank you for reminding us to stay alert and not be misled. There are those who say that Jesus’ coming is in the far distant future; there are others who believe they’ve figured out when it’s happening because of the “signs.” Help us to not allow anyone to mislead us. Jesus taught us to stay alert so we will be ready whenever the time comes. Help us to stay alert and be ready, and help us to call others to do the same. Thank you for your Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth and will help us to not be misled. Amen.