November 18, 2018 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture reading – Mark 13: 1-13
Sermon: “I Told You So”
“I told you so.” Four words that most human beings just can’t stand to hear, especially when they are not listened to and disaster appears.
“I told you so.” Our office administrator’s son said to his whole family when they doubted his prediction of Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston – when that hurricane was aiming for the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and should have broken up.
“I told you so.” Four words that are judgmental, condemning, and way too often – blindingly accurate.
“I told you so.” Rarely said tenderly, with kindness, with love, or without some attitude.
“I told you so.” Words that are often necessary to hear – especially if the lesson has been missed – but also hard to hear.
Yet, I think we’d all agree that the Lord has told us and told us and told us important things throughout human history, and those important things have not always been taken seriously.
In Genesis, the Lord told Adam and Eve NOT to touch the fruit from the tree of the knowledge, but they did anyway.
Later, in Genesis, Lot’s family was told by an angel of the Lord to RUN from Sodom and Gomorrah and NOT to look back; but Lot’s wife did and was turned into a pillar of salt. Jesus even referenced this story in Luke’s Gospel when he reminded his listeners not to try to make their lives secure here on earth, but to do as the song tells us: “Lay up your treasures in Heaven.”
The Lord laid out the Ten Commandments pretty clearly for the Hebrews who escaped Pharaoh’s Egypt, but those same Hebrews began breaking every single Commandment, beginning with the first one, when they made a Golden Calf as their god.
As the Lord sent judges, kings, leaders, and even grouchy prophets, the people of God were told again and again and again what the Lord wanted them to do, but they turned their back on what they knew was right and embraced what they knew was very WRONG. I doubt their stubborn pride even permitted them to hear the words, “I told you so.”
So, by the time of Jesus’ appearance in the Middle East during the reign of the so-called King of Israel, Herod the Great, it is pretty easy to imagine that many of the Israelites were not listening to – or looking for – the Lord anymore. After all, his Word had been silent for almost 400 years, since the last prophet, Malachi, appeared. Their daily lives were a miserable combination of fear and pain. The Lord was not telling them anything, so there was nothing for them to hear and ignore.
But the Lord was not done just yet.
Then Jesus, the Son of God, appeared, and everything began to change forever.
First of all, John the Baptist appeared in the Judean wilderness, and he told the people all about Jesus. Then when Jesus appeared, the Baptist more or less said, “I told you so!”
Then Jesus began speaking for himself and telling the people that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He went about with this message, but he could not ignore the pain and suffering that he observed. So, along the way, he cured the sick, he brought sight to the blind, he caused the lame to get up and walk, he restored hearing and speech to the deaf and mute, he cast out demons, he even raised the dead; in other words, he demonstrated to a stubborn but also desperate people that the Lord had not forgotten them, that the Lord loved them, and that the Lord would save them all. And even though he told them, he also showed them.
Because sometimes actions speak much louder than words. But sometimes all we have are words, and that’s where faith comes in.
In our world, we don’t have Jesus walking among us, curing injured and afflicted people. We don’t have the Apostles following his example and being so filled with the Holy Spirit that just having their shadows fall on you was enough to cure whatever illness you had. We don’t have the early saints and martyrs whose example inspired generations to act with as much faith as they did.
No, we don’t have those ancient events. We have our own!
In today’s world, do we continue to hear from every day people that the Lord’s words still matter and still affect our lives? Do we have the wonderful words of modern preachers like Billy Graham and Martin Luther King? Do we have the actions of missionaries who continue to go into the most desperate locations all over the world, in an effort to bring the Good News that Jesus himself shared two thousand years ago? Do we have leaders in our world today who embody the faith that Jesus inspired over the generations since he walked the Earth?
Do we have common, everyday people in our lives who show us the best way to live, the most righteous ways to act, the steadiest ways to walk the path that Jesus told us about?
Then we continue to be told. And there is no need for “I told you so.”
As I have often been told by my friends, we have at least two thousand years of theology and efforts that help us try to figure out what the Bible said, what the Lord meant, and what the words in ancient Hebrew and Greek say to us today. We don’t have it all figured out – we are still debating things – but we have much of it in forms that are easily acceptable to everyone on earth. We should not be so easily fooled by anyone who claims to have it all figured out for us, and we just need to send in $19.95 and two box tops, so we can get the CORRECT answers to our theological questions.
Jesus told us. Why is this so hard to accept?
In Mark’s Gospel reading today, Jesus is explaining to his Apostles why the amazing Temple in Jerusalem was not really that big of a deal. As these Apostolic country boys looked up with awe at the grandeur of the Temple building itself, Jesus was looking at a different kind of grandeur – that of the poor widow who had just put two mites in the treasury box at the entry of the Temple. To Jesus, the building was not important; the kingdom of God was important, and that widow’s gift demonstrated it.
I doubt his Apostles got it on the first try. But He told us so too.
The words of the Lord are there for us today in black and white. They have been translated, retranslated, interpreted, edited, and preserved – sometimes with the threat of death – but we have the Lord’s words today.
And they are pretty clear. What is important is not the grandeur of a building or the highly publicized acts of those who seek attention for their good deeds.
What is important is what he told us.
“All will be thrown down,” He told us. Even the most impressive, beautiful, wonderful, seemingly invincible buildings will come down. They are not important.
“Many will come in My name and say, ‘I am he’ and they will lead many astray.” We have seen this. In fact, this had happened so often just in American history that it is sometimes difficult to keep the imposters straight. Only the really destructive ones seem to stay in our memories.
“When will this be? What will be the signs that all this is about to be accomplished?” His Apostles asked. There will be plenty of very clear signs that no one will miss, they were told.
And then Jesus told them that their own suffering that would come in the future would NOT be without hope. All of them would be saved in the end. Because all of Jesus’ Apostles died martyrs’ deaths – except for John – this must have been of great comfort in their final moments of life years later.
After all…Jesus himself told them so.
But what about us today? Well, if you watch even the first ten minutes of any news broadcast, you will see reports of fires, famines, and war as nations rise up against nations; you will see images of starving children, bombed buildings, and murders in the streets; you will hear of dictators who act with no consequences, the famous and the beautiful who seem to exist only to keep the Internet going, and news that seems too incredible to believe – despite the appearance of accuracy.
But throughout human history, things such as these have always existed in some shape or form. Our current age is nothing special or grand…sort of like that ancient Temple in Jerusalem…just another thing to see. Jesus told us so.
What is important to remember is Jesus loves us, cares for us, died and rose to redeem us, and will come again someday for all of us. There will be NO missing that event when it happens. We will all know.
“Don’t be alarmed,” He told us.
Our awareness and our faith in His word are what is most important. And He told us so.