Mark 13:24-37; Isaiah 64:1-9 – The God for Whom We Wait With Longing
Caitlin Trussell on November 30, 2014 with Augustana Lutheran Church
[sermon begins after these two Bible readings]
Mark 13:24-37 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Isaiah 64:1-9 “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence– 2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.”
During sermon-writing for this Sunday, I felt a strong need for a few laughs and lighter moments. Especially given all the weeping and gnashing of teeth that we’ve been treated to out of the Gospel of Matthew these last several weeks. Today we turn the page into a new church year on this first Sunday of Advent. At the same time, we turn the page into the Gospel of Mark. With all of this page-turning, we land again where? Sploosh, right into Mark’s version of the end of time as we know it. And we begin our Advent waiting with a snap-shot of the beginning of the end.
Jesus is on his way out of the temple from teaching there. One of his followers strikes up a conversation with him. They head over to the Mount of Olives, across from the temple, and take a seat. Once there, Jesus begins a private conversation with a few more people from his inner circle Peter, James, John, and Andrew. We are listening in on their conversation that takes places just before the events of Jesus death on a cross in Chapters 14 and 15, just before the beginning of the end for Jesus.
Jesus says to his friends, “…you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.” Jesus is telling time. He is telling time in the language of his day. He is telling his friends both that they are not in charge of time and that there is a master who IS in charge of time.
Not only is he telling his friends who is in charge of time, but he is telling them about something that will happen in time. Listen to his words to his friends.
Jesus says, “…you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.” Jesus begins his description of time at “evening.” Might this “evening” he is describing be sooner than later, in a garden maybe, praying desperately, betrayed by a friend, arrested, hopeless. 
“…you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.” “Midnight”…cross-examined by the high priest, in the cross-fire of false testimony, accused as a blasphemer, hopeless. 
“…you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.” Cockcrow, denied three times by a friend, hopeless.
“…you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.” And dawn, condemned by Pontius Pilate, convicted by the crowd, a dead man walking, hopeless. “…you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.”
Jesus says, “…the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” This sunless time that Jesus links with suffering, where does this echo in scripture for us? Just two chapters past our text, Jesus hangs on the cross, hopelessness personified in the light of day and then we are told in the Gospel of Mark, “When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” Jesus, the Word made flesh, the son of God, God from God, light from light, hung in darkness, nakedness, hopelessness…dead. The sun was darkened…and the moon gave no light.
The cross is so many things all at once. In this instance, the cross is apocalyptic revelation. Jesus’ death on a cross says something about the God of the much anticipated new heaven and a new earth. The depth of love revealed and poured out on the cross is the same depth of love that accompanies Christ’s return. Perhaps any apocalyptic doom and gloom on our part says more about what we think we deserve and very little about who God is revealed to be through the cross.
God is the one who dies on the cross in Jesus; God’s the one who returns in Jesus. If God’s the one orchestrating the redemption, then what are WE doing? We are waiting. It’s an odd, enforced passivity. Like waiting for someone we dearly love to show up. We can’t control when that loved one gets to us. We wait. There is anticipation, suspense, longing. Isaiah’s words from the reading today sum up the longing…“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”
But this longing, this waiting, is not complacency. No “whatevers” or “when-evers” from this crowd. No! Jesus tells us that we are each with our work (v. 34). Part of this work is the good news that we share. We sing, “Lord, have mercy…Kyrie Eleison” because we know God is merciful. We rehearse the mercy of God in here because so many people need to hear it out there.
From time-to-time, people ask me if I think God is mad at them. Or someone will wonder with me if God will be mad at them because of something they have done or because of a difficult decision they need to make. The heartbreaking part of these questions is the worry that somehow God’s mercy only goes so far and no further. That the wrath of God will ultimately decide the day. Yet from the cross, we know the love of God has gone through the worst that humanity can inflict and prevailed over death with love blazing; from the cross we learn that God does not raise a hand in anger against us. This is the God we worship, this is the God of our waiting.
God who comes in skin and solidarity is our Advent hope. This Advent, we join in the longing of Isaiah and call out to God, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”
 Mark 13:1-3
 Mark 14:32-52
 Mark 14:53-65
 Mark 14:66-72
 Mark 15:1-20
 Mark 15:33 (Jesus’ crucifixion, death on the cross, and burial: Mark 15:21-47)
 Mark Allan Powell, Commentary on Mark 13:24-37 at Working Preacher.org. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2265