MARK’S “LITTLE APOCALYPSE”
Bible Background: It’s a bit awkward that we jump into the Year of Mark near the end of his gospel, rather than starting from the beginning. But this passage fits the Advent themes of “waiting”, “watching”, “preparing”, for God to come to us.
Digging Deeper: 1. “Apocalyptic writing” is how we would describe the content of the book of Revelation, and parts of Daniel. “Apocalyptic” means “revealing”, and many people have taken that to read into such writings predictions about the end of time. But a passage like this is much more about enduring during hard and uncertain times! And these words of Jesus in Mark 13 certainly fit that category!
2. There’s a time-lag between when Jesus taught and spoke, and when the gospel writers wrote down his teachings. Jesus died and arose from the tomb in about 33 AD. Mark is writing in the early 70’s AD. And what is happened in the world by then? The Romans have destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem; and the faith community has been pressured and scattered. Also there’s a sense of “Where is God?” and “How can we be sure God is with us, if God’s House has been destroyed?” The early Christians also believed that the risen Jesus was coming back to bring history to completion. So they have many questions and few answers; plus-waiting is hard!
3. Professor David Jacobson writes on the www.workingpreacher.org website: I personally like the way my colleague Martha Simmons puts it: “eschatology (study of the end of time) is where the sweet bye and bye meets the nasty here and now.” Mark’s Jesus gives an apocalyptic speech in the early 1st century for a church needing a word in a late 1st century crisis. And he speaks before his own cross and resurrection to encourage…in the face of Roman destruction and power.
4. So what is that word Jesus speaks here? Part of the reading sounds a bit scary, but note that it is also gracious: The Son of Man will come with great power and glory. He will gather his chosen ones from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven….He is near…Keep awake!
5. Remember being on “tippy-toes” watching eagerly for a grandparent to visit? Or for a loved one to come home from work or a trip or deployment? Can we live each day in such a way that we anticipate the coming of Jesus and all things being made new? A passage like Mark 13 is not to scare us, but to urge us to be always faithful, always open to the ways Christ comes and meets us every day!