The book of Zhuagzi, the great Daoist philosopher, begins with a mind-blowing allegory about a fish named “Kun” which is thousands of miles in width and length. Yes, you heard me right. He said that the body of the Kun fish is thousands of miles long.
What’s more incredible is that this fish suddenly turns into a bird named Peng. With a flap of his wings, he rises up to 3,000 miles above the ocean. Then, riding a whirlwind, he ascends to 90,000 miles above. Its wing span is thousands of miles wide. When it flies, it covers the sky.
The Peng bird travels to the southern darkness known as the Pool of Heaven. It flies without resting for six months.
Seeing the Peng bird in the sky, a cicada makes fun of it by telling a pigeon, “Each time I try to fly up an elm tree, I fall back to the ground. What chance does that bird fly up to 90,000 miles high? Ridiculous!”
A quail also laughs at the Peng bird, “Hey, what are you doing up there? I only need to leap a few feet to get what I want. What’s the point of flying up to 90,000 miles high? Meaningless!”
However, the Peng bird at 90,000 miles up there doesn’t react to the ridicule of those small creatures. He enjoys the breathtaking vision of the earth’s grandeur from up high. The noises down there don’t bother him at all.
This book was written by Zhuangzi over two thousand years ago. So, it was before Christ. The entire book is filled with profound parables and rich imagination. I encourage everyone to read it. It’s a Penguin Classics.
The question is, what does this story mean? According to the scholars, the Kun fish (鯤: 魚子也) is actually a tiny fish or baby fish. The author is describing the size of its mental capacity or spiritual state. It means this fish is physically tiny but spiritually vast.
Its ambition is to fly to the Pool of Heaven, symbolizing a person seeking the kingdom of God. Since it seeks first the kingdom of God, the criticisms, ridicules, and condemnations of other creatures don’t bother him.
Allegorically, this fish represents spiritual seekers like us. Our vision is eternal life, and our destination is the kingdom of God. The cicadas, the quails, and other creatures represent those who don’t understand us. They often ridicule us for believing in God, reading the Bible, or going to church.
Like the Peng bird, flying 90,000 miles above, we see what God sees. So, we don’t care what those small creatures are chattering about. They are making fun of what they don’t understand. But if we pay attention to the naysayers, we will become one of them and lose our pursuit of the kingdom. According to King David, the kingdom is where true happiness is.
Let’s look at a real-life example. When Elon Musk was building Tesla, initially, I thought he was crazy because I was like one of those cicadas and quails who believed he would fail, but I was wrong. Then he went on to do other things even crazier, building Space X, Neuralink, Boring Company, etc., flying higher and higher.
Observing him with humility, I discovered that the higher he climbed, the nosier the small creatures became. He got ridiculed, criticized, and slandered for trying to fulfill his vision that those with arrogant, small minds could not comprehend. As you hear in the news, those who don’t see what he sees mock him constantly like those noisy cicadas. That’s an excellent contemporary allegory.
For us Christians, on our journey to the kingdom of heaven, we see what God sees. We are like the Peng bird flying at 90,000 miles above the sea and look ridiculous to those who don’t see what we see. Sometimes, we do feel the noisy cicadas to be annoying.
Jesus says his followers will encounter misunderstanding, ridicule, and even persecution by worldly-minded people. Paul said,
Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Co 2:14).
He says our discernment is foolishness to the unspiritual because they don’t have the gifts of God’s Spirit, so they can’t comprehend what we see. Then Paul said,
Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Co 2:15–16).
We have the mind of Christ to discern all things. That’s an incredible gift. We must treasure and develop that. We should not be bothered by those who don’t have the mind of Christ. They are just noises.
Jesus wants us to “keep awake,” meaning not to let those noises take away what we see. The word “keep awake” is translated from Greek “ἄγρυπνος (ágrupnos), which also means “to be watchful.” To keep awake is stewardship of vision or discernment. Don’t fight with the noisy cicadas because it could blind us.
Do you see what God sees? It’s essential to see what God sees at trying times like this, or you can be swallowed alive by the noises of the fallen world. So, today, we will explore Jesus’ teaching from this week’s scripture lesson to discover what Jesus wants us to see at these trying times. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Mark 13:24–37. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Mk 13:24–37).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. The scripture lesson still focuses on the advent of Jesus’ second coming, transitioning to the first coming next week on the Second Sunday of Advent. Let’s look at the context.
Jesus was in Jerusalem for the last time before his crucifixion. He taught at the temple and debated with the religious leaders, who plot to kill him. He warned them that this strong and glamorous temple would be destroyed, leaving no stone over another. The disciples were shocked to hear that and asked when it would happen.
Jesus gave them a long answer describing the signs of the end time. No one knows the exact time, but everyone who has the eyes to see can observe the signs of the time. He also gives us instructions as to how to see what God sees during his second advent.
Since we live between his departure and his second coming, these teachings are very relevant to us. So let’s look at it. First, he begins describing the sight and sound of his arrival.
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Mk 13:24-25).
Notice the phrase “after that suffering.” It refers to the passage above where Jesus describes the persecutions Christians will suffer. It will be much worse than the noises of the ridicules of the cicadas and criticisms of the quails. We will be persecuted and face suffering worse than anything since the creation.
Then, we will see the sights and sounds of his arrival. It’s beyond our comprehension, but we have no worries if we do the right things as he instructed us to do. As we covered in the past three weeks, it’s all above stewardship. This passage is about the stewardship of vision—seeing what God sees.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mk 13:26-27).
That’s an incredible sight beyond anything we have seen and even beyond our imagination. The good news is that’s the end of our suffering. The angels will gather you, his elect, from wherever you are. We must stay awake to be there.
Some people find this concept of “elect” troubling because we wonder why God doesn’t elect everyone. I know it comes out of our kind hearts, but that’s the mystery we have to wait and see.
Based on what we know, we can trust the grace of God. Everyone will leave the scene of the final judgment, saying, “It’s just!” For now, we are grateful for being part of the elect. Life is a life of thanksgiving.
Now, Jesus talks about how to anticipate the day of his second coming.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” (Mk 13:28-29).
He says that Christians have the gift of discerning the time. It’s as simple as knowing summer is near when we see trees put forth their leaves. That means when the time comes, you will instinctively know it because you have the mind of Christ.
Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Mk 13:30-31).
This verse is often misinterpreted because the word “generation” in Greek γενεά (geneá) is also used to mean a race or a type of people. In Matthew 12, Jesus said, “this evil and adulterous generation.” It doesn’t mean that the entire generation is evil and adulterous, but he was talking about the evil people as a category.
So when Jesus says, “this generation will not pass away,” he is not talking about the generation at that time. He is talking about a category of people. In this context, it’s about the elect—the believers—those he will gather from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
That means the category of people known as the believers or elect, including you and me, from all time and space who will be present when these things take place.
The point of that verse is that you don’t have to worry about the future because your future is secured. You know it by discerning the signs of the time and see what God sees. It doesn’t mean you will know exactly when he will come. Jesus said,
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” (Mk 13:32-33).
God doesn’t want us to know the exact time and date of his coming because he doesn’t want us to focus on it. It’s vanity. It is against God’s will to keep calculating the date of Jesus’ coming. So don’t do that, and he says don’t believe anyone who tells you they know.
Instead, he wants us to focus on stewardship: stewardship of his property—this great green earth, stewardship of his people, and stewardship of his gifts. In this passage, he talks about the stewardship of vision.
34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. (Mk 13:34).
We are his slaves or servants to care for his property—this great green earth. He gives each of us a different gift to apply and multiply. That’s what he wants us to focus on—to get busy with the present tasks rather than worrying about the unknown future. We have talked about this when we covered the Parable of the Talents.
In this verse, he emphasizes the job of a doorkeeper, indicating the stewardship of vision. Then, Jesus ends the passage with the main theme of this teaching.
Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Mk 13:35–37).
Five times in this passage, Jesus used the phrase “keep alert” or “keep awake.” To keep awake is to be good stewards of vision and discernment, allowing us to see what God sees. To fall asleep spiritually is when you drift into the temptations of the world to react to the noisy criticism of the cicadas, quails, and other small creatures.
Let us maintain our discernment and see what God sees so that false preachers, crafty prophets, and the noise of the world cannot deceive us. Let us have the mind of Christ and maintain our discernment.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.