When You Feel Overwhelmed
Explore the Bible Series
February 14, 2010
Background Passage: Mark 13:1-37
Lesson Passage: Mark 13:9-13; 21-27; 32-37
Our previous lesson found Jesus and the Twelve in the Temple confines during Passover Week. After commending the generosity of a poor widow, Jesus left the Temple complex and, crossing the Kidron Valley, led his disciples to the Mount of Olives about three hundred yards from the temple. As they began their brief journey, the disciples commented on the majestic grandeur of Herod’s Temple.
Herod the Great assumed power in 37 B.C., and he immediately sought to ingratiate himself to his reluctant subjects by erecting a grand Temple, more magnificent than the buildings constructed by Solomon or Zerubbabel. The Herod’s imposing stonework was surrounded by majestic porches and gates. The whole edifice, easily visible from the Mount of Olives, must have overwhelmed the rustic disciples, and the “Inner Circle” asked Jesus about his prediction about the utter destruction of the Temple.
Jesus clearly anticipated the demolition of Jerusalem and the Temple (I think this was the primary reason for the confrontation with the money-changers in Mark 11:15-19), and Chapter Thirteen provides more detail of Jesus’ prophecy. All that the Jewish religious leaders held so dear would come to a violent end, and these things would happen within a generation (70 A.D.). These predictions obviously stunned and troubled the disciples. Like their co-religionists, these men placed great importance on this impressive edifice, and they could not imagine the establishment of the Kingdom of God without the grand Temple.
This chapter, like Matthew 24-25, proves very difficult to interpret. Many scholars believe this passage has primary reference to the Final Return of Jesus, but the context seems to indicate that it pertains to the destruction of Jerusalem, by the Romans, in 70 A.D. I do not claim to have any unique insight into the meaning of the passage, but it seems that the opening verses point primarily to the destruction of Jerusalem.
The years preceding the
Jewish Rebellion (66-70 A.D.) were fraught with difficulty and instability for
Roman governance in Judea. Caesar Nero
committed suicide in 68 A.D. and three emperors followed in quick succession
(Galba, Otho, and Vitellius). Moreover,
the governance of Albinus and Gessius Florus, governors of Judea, led to an intensification
of Jewish nationalism. Finally, the
political unrest erupted in violence. Nero sent General Vespasian to suppress
the revolt, and for more than three years the bloody warfare continued. In
July, 69, Vespasian was named emperor, Judean command of Roman troops fell to
the general’s son Titus Flavius. In August, 70 A.D., Titus finally subdued the rebels,
and the Temple was torched. Josephus claimed
Titus wanted to spare the Temple, but historians remain uncertain who burned
the building. Jewish Zealots may have
burned the Temple to keep the Romans from desecrating the sacred building. Whatever the case, the
Jesus’ Departure from the
amazement of the disciples (v. 1): The Gospel of Mark connects the discourse in
Chapter Thirteen with the events that concluded the previous chapter,
particularly the generosity of the poor widow.
The scribes relished the affluence and status afforded them by the
Temple system, and the impressive stonework of the edifice still amazed the
disciples. The Twelve did not marvel at
the selfless openhandedness of the widow; rather, they were enamored with the
majesty of Herod’s
response to the disciples (v. 2): The Lord did not share the Twelve’s wonder
with the stonework of the
Jesus’ discourse on the
of events leading up to the destruction of
1. “Many will come in my name” (vv. 5b-6): In times of social crisis false prophets commonly arose, and they led many gullible followers astray. The Lord warned his followers to heed the dangers of these false “Messiahs.”
and rumors of wars” (vv. 7-8a): The political instability of
and famines” (v. 8b): In addition to political uprisings, the disciples would
encounter natural disasters like earthquakes and famines, already quite common
in the ancient
B. The persecution of the Lord’s followers (vv. 9-23)
1. Persecution by the synagogue leaders and civil (secular) authorities (vv. 9-13): Jesus anticipated severe persecutions that would accompany profession of faith in Christ, and he specified that this maltreatment would come both from religious and civil authorities. The Book of Acts catalogs the relentlessness of this persecution: beatings, imprisonment, exile, and death.
“abomination of desolation” (vv. 14-23): Daniel 11: 31-35 and 12:11 anticipated
a moment when pagan armies would invade
judgment of God against the
C. The coming of the Son of Man (vv. 24-27): This paragraph proves difficult to interpret. It seems, as I see it, that Jesus redirects the focus of his discourse. To this point he centered attention on the destruction of the Temple, but here the Lord seems to refer to his final return at the end of the age. The “tribulation” relates to the previous paragraph about the horrible circumstances leading to the destruction of Jerusalem, but the Lord does not indicate how long after this tribulation he will return. Jesus predicted several particulars about the parousia.
1. The sun and moon will be darkened and the heavens shaken (vv. 24-25): Again, these images may be symbolic.
2. The Son of Man will appear in clouds of glory, accompanied by angels (v. 27a).
3. The angels will gather the elect from the corners of the earth (v. 27).
D. Two parables concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Lord’s return (vv. 28-37)
1. Parable of the fig tree (vv. 28-31): This analogy relates to the demise of the Temple, an event that would occur within a generation of Jesus’ pronouncement.
2. Parable of the landowner (vv. 32-37): In this brief parable Jesus cautioned his disciples to remain spiritually alert. Like the doorman of the landowner’s estate, followers of Christ must maintain careful attention to the signs of the times.
Personal Note: I have really wrestled with Mark 13:1-36 and its parallel passage in Matthew 23-24, and I still need to mull over these things carefully. Perhaps like many of you, I grew up in dispensational premillennialism, and I still have great compassion for those who hold to that interpretive model, though I no longer hold to this view myself (and haven’t for many years). These folks tend to interpret Mark Thirteen as primarily predictive of the Second Coming, and, because of my upbringing, that tends to be my default position as well. However, careful reading has convinced me that this chapter primarily refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, in 70 A.D. I do not deny that some of the material has eschatological implications, but the Mark seems clear about the Lord’s intent in these words (See particularly vv. 1-2).