December 3, 2017
Sunday Between November 27 and December 3 Inclusive
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Mark 13:24-37, The Message or Mark 13:24-37, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
This passage is taken from Mark's version Jesus' final discourse – that is, Jesus’ last extended talk with his followers before his arrest and execution.
Chapter 13 begins with a public, matter-of-fact observation that the stones of the temple "will all be thrown down," which is then followed with a private explanation.
The rest of this Chapter then follows a very familiar, wide-spread, common practice of a person who is about to die telling his nearest and dearest what is to happen to them in the immediate future; giving blessings; and giving warnings. None of this should be read as a prophecy of a far-off, distant future.
Note that as the withered leaf in Isaiah is a sign of our iniquity; in Mark, the new leaf is a sign that the Son of Man is near.
In Verses 30 and 31, Jesus gives his word of honour and makes an oath that all these things will happen within the lifetimes of "this generation." This promise would later give rise to the Church's first crisis of faith as "this generation" DID begin to pass away, and yet the Son of Man did not return. What then are we to make of Jesus? Or at a minimum: of the words of Jesus that others recorded in the Bible?
However, there is a huge, "But," in Verse 32 which adds a significant qualification to the promise in Verses 30 and 32:
Only the Father knows the day or hour when all these things will happen.
Jesus’ followers would still have heard this as meaning, "No one knows when this will happen within our lifetimes." But this unfulfilled hope is still in our hearts 2,000 years later.
However, the lesson for Advent is still:
Stay awake. Be alert. Live in expectation.
Live now as you will when the Son of Man does return.
Just as this Chapter began with a common-sense, matter-of-fact observation (no word of honour, no oath made) that the stones of the temple would one day all be cast down, so too at the end we are called to remember, matter-of-factly, that everything in OUR world will also pass away.
And so maybe it is just a matter of common-sense to also live right now as we anticipate we will live when Christ is here with us.
Note: Historical background information is primarily from Bruce Malina, et. al. (see link below), pages 205-207.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
Mark 13:24-37 (NRSV)
24 "But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25 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."
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Mark 13:24-37 (The Message)
24 "Following those hard times,
Sun will fade out,
moon cloud over,
25 Stars fall out of the sky,
cosmic powers tremble.
26 "And then they'll see the Son of Man enter in grand style, his Arrival filling the sky—no one will miss it! 27 He'll dispatch the angels; they will pull in the chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole.
28 "Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer's just around the corner. 29 And so it is with you. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door. 30 Don't take this lightly. I'm not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. 31 Sky and earth will wear out; my words won't wear out.
32 "But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven's angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. 33 So keep a sharp lookout, for you don't know the timetable. 34 It's like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. 35 So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. 36 You don't want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. 37 I say it to you, and I'm saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch."
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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