Recently a New York Press columnist wrote about an encounter with an apocalyptic taxi driver in Baltimore. The cabbie asked him about his future plans and, following a thumbnail sketch of his intentions, informed him that they didn't matter anyway. The driver turned around and said, "I don't want to scare you, but the world is gonna end in seven months." Apparently a radio preacher that he listened to had discerned that the end was nigh. The writer goes on to note that the seven month prediction had been made 10 years ago by the time the article was published.
That's the risk we take when we hazard apocalyptic predictions. History has seen the end of time come and go more times than anyone can count. And you'd think that all of these failed soothsayers would deter others, but not so. Hope springs eternal when it comes to cataclysm.
What is it with end of the world obsessions? Why are some people led to pore over scripture or Nostradamus or Egyptian numerology or Mayan calendars in the hopes of singling out the date that the world will blow up? There are two apocalyptic movies coming out in the next few months alone.
Well I promise not to add to it. I have no predictions for you. But if Jesus would like to come back before the Tennessee Titans can embarrass themselves anymore, that would be fine with me.
As for me, I'm so anxious to avoid those predictions, I even considered skipping Mark 13. It's all about the "end of the age," and I would just as soon skip it altogether. But I guess I can't do that.
What I can do is give you this bit of good news. Jesus doesn't give us a date either. Jesus avoids that kind of prediction himself. To be honest he doesn't really give us signs. A careful reading of the text tells us that Jesus is giving hints for the beginning of the end rather than the end.
In fact, to give a date would run counter to his mission. Jesus isn't interested in giving his disciples a chance to build bomb shelters or stockpile canned goods. As we'll see, he's got other plans for them, and those plans involve taking action rather than hunkering down.
To be sure, the end is near. And it means two things for us, his people. First, we have reason to be hopeful. Second, we'd better get busy doing the work he's set out for us.