Psalm 39, Mark 13*
Mark 13 is the continuation of Jesus’ journey to the cross in the final week of his life and includes his eschatological discourse. Eschatological means end times. The chapter is marked by language about the end of things: the destruction of the temple (where God is housed in Judaic tradition), wars, famines, and earthquakes. Falsities will prevail and trust will be violated. Hatred will ensue and families will disband. Disgusting and destructive things will stand where they should not. Suffering will endure and darkness will spread throughout. All this will happen and then the Son of Man will appear with great power and splendor and gather his people from the four corners of the earth. This passage is also referred to as the “little apocalypse,” as compared to the “big apocalypse” in the book of Revelation.
In Googling “end times,” I found 177,000,000 links to the causes of our evil and destruction and, most important, the date of our demise, even though Jesus clearly states, “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come.” For most of us, I imagine that Tim LeHaye’s fast-paced, action-packed Left Behind series is the most popular fictionalization of the end times. Most likely, this is not what Jesus is preaching about in Mark 13. Historically, we remember the Gospel of Mark is written just after 70 c.e. and the siege of Jerusalem and capture of the temple by Roman armies under the leadership of Titus and Tiberius Julius Alexander. Terror and horror are fresh in the author’s mind. Jesus, in typical Markan form, is painting a picture of God’s splendorous saving grace in the midst of our struggles and troubles. He cautions us to stay alert, to watch out. God saves, no matter what, over and over again.
* There is no Old Testament reading assigned for this day. Please reread a favorite passage from the first three books of the Old Testament.
In times of despair, how have you reached for hope?
What must you release in suffering to know Jesus’ saving grace? Jesus says, watch out, stay alert, get ready. How do you want to equip yourself for Jesus’ love and mercy?
Let us pray: My God, here I am, my heart devoted to you. Fashion me according to your heart. Amen.
—Brother Lawrence (1611–1691)
-The Rev. Hillary T. West
St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh
Fort Washington, Pennsylvania