Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
Mark 13:8 (NIV)
I recently finished a three-episode podcast series on time. The second episode of the podcast specifically on the so-called “end times” and the apocalypse. The apocalyptic and dystopian has always captured the human imagination, and one of the observations that I made in the podcast is that every generation has those who believe the end is near. I have also observed a pattern within every community of Jesus followers with whom I’ve been associated. As they get older, the more likely it is that they will be convinced that the return of Jesus and the apocalyptic end prophesied in Revelation is near. There must be something human in us that feels comforted by projecting our fear about the end of our own earthly journey on all humankind.
“Well,” I hear an older woman [let’s cast Dame Maggie Smith in the role] saying with a shrug, “If I’ve got to die, it would be nice to have some company.”
These things came to mind this morning as Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the persecution of His followers, and His eventual return “in power and glory.”
As I read the chapter, there was one little phrase that Jesus specifically uses that I have overlooked for my entirety of my forty years as a follower. He calls the signs of His prophetic events “birth pains.”
This brings to mind my last podcast episode in which I discussed the over-arching themes of the Great Story. One of them being:
Creation –> Destruction –> New Creation
So, the logical question I have to ask myself is: “What naturally happens after ‘birth pains’?”
A new life.
A new start.
In the quiet this morning, I am reminded that Jesus told His followers not to worry, and not to be afraid, even in the midst of persecution, suffering, and apocalyptic predictions of incredible suffering and destruction.
It is ironic that Jesus encourages such faith and trust. It is just a day or two before He knows that He will endure incredible persecution, injustice, suffering, death, and hell. Jesus has prophesied that He will exemplify this apocalyptic, overarching Great Story theme. The events about to take place at the end of His own earthly journey are layered with meaning. They will be both a micro-human event and a macro-spiritual event. His trials, suffering, death, and resurrection are the “birth pains.” Even as Jesus says these words, amidst the escalation of conflict and the death threats of His enemies, He is feeling the contractions of His divine role in the Great Story. He is providing the example. He is blazing the trail. He is leading the way which does not end on the cross. It is the labor that will give birth to new life:
Life –> Death –> Resurrection
I am also reminded this morning that most apocalyptic movies and stories do not end with the depressing end of all things, but with the seeds of new hope being planted.
All good stories are a reflection of the Great Story.
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”Jesus
“And,” I imagine Jesus saying with a shrug, “if I’m going to live, I’d love to have some company.”