Daily Gospel Reflection - 23 August 2011

Mark 13.28-37 (CEB). “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he’s near, at the door. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

“But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!”

This passage concludes Mark’s take on the Fall of Jerusalem in 70CE. As we saw yesterday, Jesus was addressing the disciples about events that they and their contemporaries would witness and experience. {Incidentally, Jesus used the term ‘you’ roughly nine times in this last section; that’s a total of about twenty-six times through the whole conversation.) In this passage, Jesus tells them a ‘parable’ - a short story - to help explain his meaning. It’s pretty simple and straight forward. However, some have erroneously stated that the ‘fig tree’ represents the nation of Israel. And while that may be the case in some places, it certainly not the case here. Jesus’ point is simply that when the leaves of the fig tree begin to spout, the disciples know that summer is approaching. Similarly, when they witness the things he described earlier, they would know that the Temple’s demise is approaching. This interpretation of the parable can be verified by looking at Luke’s account of the story (Luke 21.29-31).

Jesus is emphatic that his and the disciple’s generation won’t ‘pass away’ until those events transpire. And while some have seen that ‘heaven and earth’ are to be understood literally (and thus could not have happened in the first century), a read through this type of literature in the Old Testament shows that it’s to be understood poetically, sometimes like an oath and sometimes a reference to the nation in the prophecy.

Lastly, some people see that this whole message can’t refer to the fall of Jerusalem in 70CE because of the last paragraph. They point out that, since we can’t know the time, 70CE can’t be correct. But they miss the context. Jesus was referring to his generation’s future. Yes, Jesus said, ‘What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!’ But his ‘all’ is not for all people in all times (which, if taken to it’s extreme, proves the point for obviously Jesus was not referring to people, say, in Solomon’s day). The ‘all’ there is referring to people other than the disciples.

Furthermore, the whole point of the signs was to warn them of the coming catastrophe. Since no one knew when the exact time the war would break out (or when the Temple would fall), the signs would help people see what would soon be coming and act appropriately. Again, all of this was for the benefit of that first century generation.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC


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