One of the deepest theological and exegetical conundrums is found in Mark 13:32: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We know that Jesus, touching on His humanity, was not omniscient. But we don’t know how it could be possible for God the Son not to know. That may not be what Jesus is saying, but it sure seems that way. This we do know, that it is a good thing from time to time for even the most astute theologians to find themselves giving this most astute answer to some hard questions: I don’t know.
We know in turn that it takes rather a lot of pride to respond to this text how Harold Camping did: “Jesus did not know the day or the hour, but I do.” One did not need to dig deep into Mr. Camping’s mathematical calculations to find the problem. It was always out there for all of us to see, his pride. How he dealt with difficult apocalyptic texts, and how they inter-related was beside the point, because he couldn’t deal with this text in Mark. It’s a tough text, but the last thing one should get out of it is “I can know the day and the hour.”
Was then the devil dancing that he was able to spread the evil of pride first into the heart of an 89 year-old man who had once done so much for the kingdom? Is he excited that this same man infected tens of thousands with that same pride virus? Perhaps so. We would be wise to remember, however, that the serpent is more crafty than any of the beasts of the field. I suspect his real goal is rather more grand in scope.
That night thousands of Camping’s followers went to bed disappointed and confused. Their pride bubbles deflated rather quickly when 6:01 came. The next morning, however, millions of evangelicals woke up not with rapture fever, but with a bad case of pride. We woke up this morning praying, “Lord, I thank you I am not like other men. I don’t follow embarrassing gurus. I have a nice and respectable millennial position. I don’t cause you embarrassment on the national news, giving the devil room to laugh” and of course, the devil laughs, roars in fact, his plan a success.
It is not my desire to make light of Camping’s errors. I want neither to mock them nor to minimize them. They are egregious, his views on the church most egregious of all. It is my desire, however, to own my sin, to guard against my own temptation more than to point and laugh at others. It is my desire daily to hope that Jesus would come back, and that He would find me not pointing and laughing at others, not either looking up to heaven in expectation, but looking to the ground in humility, beating my breast and praying, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.”