“Whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Monday, Nov. 2, CNN news: “Another come-from-behind win. And, for the first time in 30 years, a World Series win for the Kansas City Royals. And what a way to do it: Down 2-0 coming into the top of the ninth, the Royals scored two runs to tie the game. Then, in the 12th, they racked up five more to seal the win. The Royals had come from behind again for the eighth time in their 11 postseason games, securing their first World Series title since 1985.” The team that plays hard to the end wins the series!
This is pretty basic in baseball – it’s important to hit the ball, to run to first base, reach second, and then third base. But the most important part of the game – the only thing that finally matters – is to reach home! What a great disappointment for a ball player to reach third base, but the third out comes – it is said, “the player died on third” – they never reached home!
I pray that this baseball analogy will help us hear what Jesus is telling us in the Scripture readings this weekend so that no one “dies on third”- as Jesus warns: “Watch out … be on your guard… he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:5, 9, 13)
In Mark 13, as Jesus and His disciples left the Temple in Jerusalem, “one of His disciples said… ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’” (v.1) Herod the Great had been constructing this Temple for 46 years and it still wasn’t finished! USING THIS AS AN OBJECT LESSON Jesus replied, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (v.2) [This was literally fulfilled some 35 years later when the Romans completely destroyed the Temple.] Jesus wanted His disciples to know, WITH CERTAINTY, that WHAT SEEMED to be FOUNDATIONS in this WORLD would ALL BE SHAKEN. By themselves they would NOT be able to “stand firm to the end,” Jesus wanted them (and us) to “safely reach home!”
Jesus warned against FAULTY FOUNDATIONS as He says: “Watch out that no one deceives you…” (Mk.13:5) – deceptions that SUBSTITUTE anything for Christ, or seek to remove Christ. Satan’s best work is done in secret, (like termites destroying the foundation of a building) – without people realizing what he is doing. So many in America today are being quietly deceived as the “foundation” of Christian morals / marriage and family / the pictures and symbols of Christ / are being “removed” from our society.
Jesus says: “nation will rise against nation” – warning against the “faulty foundation” of political power: how much security in Social Security; taxes; a peace agreement that endures; ISIS and radical Muslim groups continue to destroy and terrorize as in Paris this week; (and the list goes on and on!).
THE ONLY CERTAINTY, of THE Kingdom “which cannot be shaken” is our “citizenship” in the Heavenly Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ! God’s Word tells us in Hebrews 12: “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (the Kingdom of God, as we pray, “Thy Kingdom come”), (therefore) let us be thankful, and worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…” (Hebrews 12:28) After all the military strategies, political speeches and promises; financial and social plans; all the hopes and promises in this earthly kingdom – we KNOW that they are temporary at best. In reverence to God, we honor, respect and pray for all those “whom God has established” (Romans 13:1); knowing that “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (the Kingdom of God). For God’s Word ASSURES us: “No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 3:11)
A Christian man in his early 40’s, was flying home. The man sitting next to him looked familiar, and turned out to be a High School classmates! As they sat and “caught up” on each other’s lives, the Christian man told of his faith in Jesus and then listened as his friend sadly shared that he was no longer a Christian because of so many bad things that had happened to him in his life. He said he had not been to church for many years, nor had he read his Bible or prayed because he just didn’t feel like God cared at all about him.
The Christian man took from his pocket a Bible and his pen, saying, “May I show you how I can make this pen stand up on its end in spite of the movement of this plane?” Thinking that this was some kind of trick, and happy to change the subject, his friend agreed, wondering how it could be done. When the Christian man said he was doing it, his friend protested: “Oh, but you are holding it!” “Why, of course I’m holding it,” came the reply. “It’s impossible for a pen to stand on its end without being held up! In the same way, you are not able to have faith in Jesus without being held up by God, and He does this through His Word and Sacraments!” And the Christian man encouraged his friend to once again “be supported” by becoming active in a local congregation; worshiping with fellow believers; read the Bible regularly; and receive the ministry of pastor and congregation.
Today Jesus tells us in His Word: “(whoever) stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13b) And He tells us that it won’t be easy / we won’t be able to do it on our own! Jesus stood firm to the very end – suffering and dying for our sins, taking our place – remaining firm and faithful to the end. He promises us His grace and power through His “Means of Grace” – His Word and the Sacraments.
At Holy Baptism, God gave us the gift of faith (first base). At baptism we promise to teach the child God’s Word – place into their hands the Bible, etc. as we also provide confirmation instruction and come to the Lord’s Supper, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” (second base). The rite of confirmation is another step in the life of faith – we continue to study and grow in the faith (third base) and continue strong throughout our lives – until we reach “home!” How serious for those who “die on third” or maybe “second” leaving or turning away from Word and Sacrament, like the classmate in the illustration. But God’s desire is that we “remain firm to the end” and so His Word continually encourages us to read, listen and put into practice His Word as well as being strengthened in the Sacraments.
Don’t miss out on “making it safely home” as God upholds us through our daily Bible reading, our meeting together in worship and Bible Study and the many opportunities to “stand firm in Jesus to the end.”
Praying that we’ll be “firmly” together in worship this coming weekend and “all the way home!”