These prophetic chapters of Zechariah present us with two powerful images: the trial of the high priest, Joshua, and the vision of the golden lamp and olive-tree people. The landscape is of the temple realm, of the role and function of leaders and those who are “anointed,” and the “fitness” of the people to fulfill the role that God has bestowed upon them. Prophetic writings are challenging to understand, so it is important to think carefully about the context that produced them and the context to which they speak. Because these chapters are presented with two other readings, it might be helpful to see what light they shed on our understanding of some of the deeper rhythms of the story.
Psalm 135 has a liturgical role in ascribing praise and glory to God. It consists of two elements: commands to praise and reasons why the Lord should be praised. These reasons may indeed be summed up in the clauses: “for the Lord is good…for he is gracious” (v. 3). The Lord chose Israel as his personal possession, so the relationship of the covenant is key. More than that, the Lord should be praised because, put simply, he is “great”; he is “above all gods” (v. 5). The Lord endures forever and ultimately is in control of all ages, past, present, and future.
Mark 13 presents an apocalyptic vision of the temple and its destruction. Whether or not this gospel was written before or after the tumultuous events of the year 70 c.e. does not take away from the sense of anxiety that must have prevailed when Mark was writing and proclaiming the “good news” (the gospel) of Jesus Christ. Reading these verses, we wonder along with those who heard them first when these events might take place and what it might mean. This is all the more real because so much of Mark is written in the present tense, as if the events were part of our narrative, too—as indeed they are.
As you read these passages, where do you see yourself in the story or stories?
What are the signs of God’s presence in your world today, in your local community? Where is the “good news”?
God of all ages, be with us as we wrestle with challenging texts, engage us where we are, and help us to seek your presence and proclaim your good news. Amen.