“Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am the one!’ and they will lead many astray,” according to Mark 13. Daniel 12 promises, however, that “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky…”
In these texts, an apocalypse is given shape, and we are left hungering for the antidote, the savior, the way out. Where is it? Perhaps we are to seriously contend with the admonition in the Epistle “to provoke one another to love and good deeds…” as a response to fear and uncertainty, a means for keeping grasp on hope itself.
When we are stressed and scared, whether as a nation, as a religion or as individuals, we are especially vulnerable to those who claim they can rescue us from our distress. That's what allows those like Adolf Hitler, Jim Jones, and David Koresh to arise.
Jesus tells us to not be fooled. . . . Jesus shows us that a truly holy leader is one who loves all, includes all and keeps no secrets. All things can be critiqued and questioned. All are free to make up their own minds and to come and go as they see fit. The welfare of those who are served is always placed above the needs of the leader.
In contrast, false prophets create an “us and them” mentality. They demonize the enemy to make them seem to be less than human; they create “in” groups who have secrets which give them power over others; they do not allow critique or criticism; they limit the freedom of followers to leave without risk of harm. False prophets lure the young, vulnerable, the stressed; they intend them harm under the guise of doing good. That is never what Jesus is about. He always builds up and looks out for the other's best welfare, and never looks to serve his own interests.
. . . When we can grasp and hold on to the truth that we are loved and forgiven, then we have nothing to lose. We can afford to wait out the suffering and the uncertainty because God's love for us will be the same at the end of the tribulation as it is now. – Lisa Kraske Cressman
The book of Daniel is a classic apocalyptic document. . . Daniel 12 announces the triumph of God and the resurrection of the dead. Although those who remain faithful to the covenant will suffer terribly under Antiochus IV (the “king of the north” ), his defeat is certain (11:45). Daniel is reassured that God's justice will prevail. Michael, the angelic protector of Israel (later promoted to the status of archangel) will defend the faithful. God will raise the dead and render justice to the righteous and the wicked. Daniel is given, but does not understand, a timetable for these events. He is also assured that his future is with the righteous. – Aaron Couch
The force of Hebrews' rhetoric is experienced powerfully in this portion of chapter 10. Verses 11–18 sum up the final section of exposition. Verses 19–25 are the beginning of the final section of exhortation. The reader is reminded again that Christ's sacrifice is eternally effective, in contrast to sacrifices offered in the temple. Recalling Jeremiah 31:33, Christ's offering of himself is revealed as God's “new covenant” and the triumph of grace over human sin. Because of Christ's great gift, the reader is then called upon to respond with whole-hearted devotion to God and with renewed commitment to the community of faith. – Aaron Couch
Lisa Kraske Cressman, an Episcopal priest, teaches at TEC’s Seminary of the Southwest and serves as a spiritual director and retreat leader, having served congregations in Minnesota and Indiana.
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Homily Service 39, no. 12 (2006): 35-45.