Daily Gospel Reflection - 22 August 2011
Mark 13.14-27 (CEB): “When you see the disgusting and destructive thing standing where it shouldn’t be (the reader should understand this), then those in Judea must escape to the mountains. Those on the roof shouldn’t come down or enter their houses to grab anything. Those in the field shouldn’t come back to grab their clothes. How terrible it will be at that time for women who are pregnant and for women who are nursing their children. Pray that it doesn’t happen in winter. In those days there will be great suffering such as the world has never before seen and will never again see. If the Lord hadn’t shortened that time, no one would be rescued. But for the sake of the chosen ones, the ones whom God chose, he has cut short the time.
“Then if someone says to you, ‘Look, here’s the Christ,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, those whom God has chosen. But you, watch out! I’ve told you everything ahead of time.
“In those days, after the suffering of that time, the sun will become dark,and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then they will see the Human One coming in the clouds with great power and splendor. Then he will send the angels and gather together his chosen people from the four corners of the earth, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven.
The Gospel reading from the Daily Lectionary continues with the prediction of the destruction of the Temple (seen clearly in the first section, vv. 1-13). That this was something the disciples and their generation would witness is seen by the use of the term ‘you’. Jesus used that word at least four times in this passage (and at least thirteen in the previous passage).
One of the most effective ways to study a passage is to immerse yourself within the story - to become one of the characters. In this case, let’s imagine that we are one of the disciples. We are sitting with Jesus on the Mount of Olives over-looking the Temple. Jesus has just told us that our Temple, the centerpiece of our culture and world, was to be destroyed - not a single stone would be left standing. We can hardly believe our ears. We look at each other in amazement. This Temple has been the center of our nation for years. It is the way we worship Yahweh. How can this be? We want to know one thing - when. When would it take place? Would there be any indication that it’s destruction was approaching or would it catch us unawares? So, we ask those very questions to Jesus. And he begins to answer them. In giving us his answer, Jesus keeps looking at us and repeating the word ‘you’ - ‘when “you” see’, ‘when they say to “you”,’ etc. How would we understand that? Would we not believe that he was talking to us? That what he was telling us was something that we would experience? Friends, I don’t think we would have understood him any other way. And that’s important, especially when dealing with prophecy and predictions of this magnitude.
Too often today, this passage (and it’s parallels) has been used to sensationalize the ‘end of the world’. The wild stories that have been sold (literally), the sermons that have been preached, the doctrines and dogmas that have been forced upon the people, are all wrong. Plain and simple. There is no way, in good conscience, that these passages are addressed to us. The disciples asked Jesus about the destruction of their Temple, their world. And Jesus answered them. He gave them pointers, markers, signs, that would let them know that it’s end was fast approaching. And that’s exactly what happened.
Roughly forty years later, their generation witnessed the world-ending reality of these words. In the early 60s CE, the Jews were in the midst of a violent revolt against Rome. So, in the summer of the mid 60s, the Romans went to war against Jerusalem. After years of fighting, the Romans, according to historical records, pleaded with the Jews to surrender. They refused. By the early 70s, it was over. In about seven years (a definite tie-in to Revelation), the Temple and the city were completely demolished. Josephus, an eye-witness to the events, wrote that the destruction was so great, that one wouldn’t even know a city used to be there.
No, my friends, these stories aren’t about us. This is one of those passages that has an almost purely historic application. Most certainly, we could get the idea of being alert, of taking an interest in our surroundings and being prepared. But, to see in these stories our time, our immediate future, is to see too much. So be at peace. Rest assured that these stories are not about what we and our loved-ones will experience. These stories were fulfilled a long, long time ago.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC