If you could know the future, would you want to? I am sure that many of us have thought, "If only I knew tomorrow's lottery numbers, then I could be a millionaire." If you knew the future, then you could place a wager on the winner of the A League or the NBL teams who would make the Finals or even the winner of the Melbourne Cup. Yes, it would be nice if you were a gambler, to know the future. But it wouldn't really be gambling then, would it? If you could know the future, not only the good but also the bad, would you want to? Would you want to have foreknowledge of who you were going to marry; if, when, or how many children you were going to have; or how you were going to die?
In Mark 13, we join Jesus at the end of a long and arduous day. He has been debating with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. As Jesus leaves the temple with his disciples, one turns around, blocks the sun with his hand, taps Jesus on the shoulder, and motions for him to look at the temple. Pointing to the massive structure, the disciple says, "What large stones and what large buildings"! It's as if this disciple is asking Jesus to marvel at the magnitude of the temple. Would Jesus really be amazed by a number of piles of stacked rocks?
Before we rubbish the disciple, consider how often we find comfort in human accomplishments. Jesus replies, "Yes, I see it, but to tell you the truth, it will all crumble." There is a short pause, and the disciple's face drops. Later, Jesus and the disciples cross over to the Mount of Olives, which faces the temple. Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the inner circle, are huddled there discussing the earlier statement. They begin to argue back and forth like school boys before rushing over to Jesus and asking two questions.
They not only want to know when the temple will crumble but also what signs will signal the event. “When,” is important to us. When allows us to plan and gives us a sense of control. Signs give us warning that our time is almost up. Signs are like the light that appears on my dash right before I run out of petrol. I know that the tank will go only so far, but this light reminds me that the end is near. I cannot put things off any longer. Unfortunately, few things give us a fresh start like a tank full of petrol.
Jesus does not give the disciples the answer they are looking for. Instead, he tells them to beware of false prophets and false signs. There will be wars, divided kingdoms, earthquakes, and famines, but these are not the signs to look for. Jesus simply tells the disciples, "You will hear a lot of bad stuff, but take courage and stay the course." Jesus knows the struggles that they all will face. Jesus knows that his struggles will lead him to the cross. Jesus knows that when the disciples accepted their call to follow him, he was signing their death warrants. Jesus knows Gods call to the faith journey following the way of life Jesus demonstrates. He knows it will not be an easy one.
Like a ship headed straight into a hurricane, Jesus calls his disciples to stay on track and keep the course. He doesn't promise that everything will be OK. If you could know the future, would you want to? It's an interesting question to ask, but pointless. Jesus never discloses when the temple will be destroyed; he only gives examples of false signs. By warning the disciples of false signs, he was encouraging them to not give up or look for easy answers. We cannot know the future. Jesus simply calls us to follow him. All the foreknowledge in the world means nothing without strength and courage. As you go through life, walk in faith and have courage to stay the course.