While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”5 Jesus told them, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed; these things must take place, but it is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. (Mark 13:3-8)
Peter, James, John, and Andrew were the four fishermen Jesus called to follow him. They had a close relationship with Jesus and wanted to know about the future. Jesus had prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and this was a shock to them. They had just witnessed the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and the crowds were waiting in great anticipation for what Jesus would do next. They undoubtedly believed they were about to see the kingdom of God established in all of its fullness. Jesus’ prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem shattered that expectation.
His first warning is of false messiahs. We know from history that immediately after Jesus’ death, a number of false teachers arose claiming to be the Messiah who would lead the Jewish nation to victory over the Romans. The Romans killed them all. Jesus’ second instruction is that we should not be alarmed by wars and rumors of wars. Like a pregnant woman’s false labor pains, these are merely signs of something greater yet to come. Christian believers are to remain calm in the midst of world turmoil.
The overarching theme of Jesus’ reply is that we should not be distracted even from events that seem to be world-shaking. Something greater is afoot, which is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the nations and the promise of his imminent return. By all means, stay alert about the things going on around you, but more than this, stay focused on the gospel and prepare your soul for Jesus’ return.
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for teaching me how to think about the times I live in. Keep me from being distracted by false teachings. Keep me from being alarmed by worldly tragedies. Let my mind and heart be fixed on the proclamation of your gospel and the promise of your imminent return.