April 25, 2013

Mark 13 -- Part 2

Well....weeks later...a month later.   Last time I posted was before Easter.  Its been too long.  If you are still coming around, I thank you for your consistency to come and be interested in my writing and musings.  Your stamina is better than mine.

We need to recap a little, since its been so long.  Jesus has come to Jerusalem with his disciples.  He has had is triumphal entry, with all the people shouting, "Hosanna!" while laying down their coats and the palm branches.  Jesus has condemned the temple system by clearing out the courts of the temple.  He has stated that the temple is to be a house of prayer.  He has also had multiple conversations with the religious leaders.  They have come to him in hopes of trapping him with his words.  Their conversations have not gone well for them.

Now we are to the challenging sections of Mark 13.  Any time the discussion is about the end times, I tend to cringe a little.  Its always hard to grasp.  Its even easier to misinterpret.  And even easier to simply get silly and stupid with the misinterpretation.  My motto has always been to not really focus much on heaven and the end times.  I think it distracts us too much.  We certainly have too much kingdom living and advancing to do now as it is.  If we would simply stay focused on that and trust that God has the end all figured out, we will be fine.

Unfortunately, Jesus talks about what is to come in Mark 13.  I could say, "He talks about it.  Let's move on!"  But, I think that would be a cop out.  So.  Lets dive in.

In the last post, we talked about the four disciples (Peter, James, John, and Andrew) sitting down with Jesus to ask about when everything was going to happen between Jesus death and the fall/destruction of the temple.  We made it through the first part of Jesus response.  He has told them to not be distracted by the happenings that signal the beginning of time.  He has also told them that they will suffer much for the Gospel.

We continue on through verse 14 to the end of the chapter.
When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out.  Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
The "abomination that causes desolation" is a reference back to Daniel and some of the harsh things that happened to Israel and Jerusalem before Jesus.  They suffered horrible persecution from the likes of rulers like Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  There were huge atrocities carried out under his rule.  Things like putting an eagle on the temple and sacrificing a pig, an unclean animal, on the altar in the temple.  Many were killed as he sacked Jerusalem for a second time in the 2nd century BC.

As Jesus references this abomination, his disciples are certain to know their history and heritage.  They certainly know the ugliness that happened then.  They get the perfect picture that what is to come is not good.  So much so that those in Jerusalem will flee to the hills to get away from the desolation.  The idea of fleeing from your city, the place where you worship, your connection to God is a traumatic thing.

Its also interesting to note that in Jesus' words, people, who will want to return to get their things or their babies will not be able to.  If this is the end of the world, those things are fully needed.  What he speaks of here is something in the in between times of the now that he is in and the end of the world, which he will talk about in a minute.

Does your head hurt?  Mine does.

Verse 20 states that if God had not cut short the days, no one would have survived.  But for the sake of the "elect" or those in the Kingdom, he shortened the days.    Some of the scholars referenced in the commentary I am reading hint at the fact that this passage here talks about leaving the city as ok because they were leaving the temple behind.  It has past its prime.  This is in agreement with all that Jesus has said earlier in Mark.  They add that if the gospel were involved, standing their ground and losing their lives would be ok.  But, that is not the case here.  Judgement is coming on the temple, not the gospel.

Jesus continues this line of thought with the warnings of not to get lost up in false prophets and signs and wonders.  There is no hope for the temple.  God will not deliver it.  There is something new on the horizon--a new vision of the temple, one that is made of living stones.  (see 1 Peter 1-2)

And then, there is the glimmer of hope, as the son of man returns again.  The scripture quoted comes from Isaiah.  They are not signs of what is to come, but reactions to the Son of Man, Jesus, coming!  When the time is right, Jesus will come, the angels will gather those in the Kingdom.

At this point, Jesus doesn't give any more description of what will happen.  Scholars think that is because, as I stated in my frustration with end times above, the focus is to be in the living and the now, being Good News people who live out the life of Jesus.

Are you with me?  Its going to get even better now.

Jesus then says, "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near."  As I think back to what Jesus has said about the fig tree, I think back to the fig tree he cursed a few days earlier when he entered the city.  It was a symbol of the life of the temple drawing to a close.  But, this new parable or metaphor is about a fig tree sprouting in spring.  Is Jesus helping them to see that this new Kingdom that he is establishing by his death and resurrection will be their focus between now and his second coming?

"Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door." (v29) to me seems to reference back to the "abomination".  It also helps the next few verses make sense:
Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
This generation is a reference used throughout Mark to mean those who stand in opposition with Jesus.    They will all see the coming destruction of the temple and the fading of the Jewish faith.  They were certainly witness to all of the destruction, which culminated in the temple being destroyed and Jerusalem being laid waste around 70 BCE.

Then, there comes my favorite part of this passage.
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 
Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’
Be ready.  Be focused on what God has put us in charge of--living out the Kingdom and sharing the Good News that the Kingdom of God has come near in Jesus!

April 3, 2013


I have not forgotten about this blog.  I have not forgotten about my need to finish blogging through the gospel of Mark.  I will begin again in a few days....maybe even tonight.  I am on a little getaway with my girls right now.  It has been a much needed break.

We will return to our regularly scheduled programming shortly!