These are some of my notes for Sunday, February 14, 2010 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible Series
Books referenced in these notes are:
1. Gospel of Mark: New International Greek Testament Commentary by R.T. France
2. Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary by Ben Witherington III
3. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, by Craig Keener
Be on your guard, watch out: Not to avoid persecution, but to be prepared to face it.(France)
Sanhedrins or councils: Local courts of twenty three members modeled on the Great Sanhedrin of seventy-one members in Jerusalem. The local councils were based in the synagogues and were ruled by local elders and priests. (Keener, France)
Flogged or beaten: The standard punishment was forty strokes less one, in the second century standardized as thirteen strokes to the breast and twenty-six to the back.(Keener)
Governors: Almost certainly a reference to Roman ruling officials
Kings: Might be referring to vassal princes under Roman, but v.10’s “all nations” makes one suspect rulers of nearby kingdoms outside Rome are being referred to. Thus the disciples could expect persecution most everywhere they would go.(Keener)
Traditionally much of Mark 13’s material is held to be a prediction of the end of the world and the coming Day of Judgment. However it can and has also been read as a prediction of the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. (R.T. France, whose commentary I am using, is a chief proponent of the idea that almost the whole of the Olivet Discourse is about AD 70.). Thus the seemingly apocalyptic language Jesus uses is (as in many places in the OT) actually not about the end of the world so much as the end of a world- the world of Temple-based Judaism in a Jewish nation. (Witherington)
On any reading, Jesus is saying the gospel will spread beyond the Jewish people among the nations of the Gentiles, but, as per v.9, will receive as hostile a response among Gentiles as it does among the Jews. Some would receive the gospel in every nation, but all too many would reject it.(Keener)
This is classically termed a reassurance to distressed believers, not an excuse for lazy preachers. The idea is very much in line with the OT viewpoint of the Holy Spirit as the spirit of prophecy, giving God’s words to His spokesmen at the right time. This is only one of three mentions of the Spirit in Mark’s gospel. (France)
Mic 7:6 NET. For a son thinks his father is a fool, a daughter challenges her mother,and a daughter-in-law her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are his own servants.
There is little evidence of direct deadly persecution of Christians before the persecution of Nero about 64 AD, though Acts’ coverage of Stephen’s death and Paul’s pre-Christian life, as well as Josephus’ mention of the death of both Jameses show such things were going on. Reading Eusebius’ History will show that Christian persecution grew with the size of the movement, but was generally isolated to one geographic location at a time until the last, greatest persecution before Constantine’s rule in the 320s AD. However as early as Pliny’s governorship in around 112 AD informing on Christians was a regular thing.(France)
The note of “hated because of my name” is reminiscent of Tacitus’ explanation of Nero’s persecution of Christians because they were “ a class hated for their abominations”, “convicted… as of hatred for mankind”.
“Saved”, Greek sozo, typically means physical healing or rescue in Mark, but here likely has the more spiritual sense of “not being losers”, even “not died in vain” when put with v.12’s double mention of being killed for Christ.(France)
Continuing to take these verses as describing the fall of Jerusalem rather than the end of the world, false messiahs and prophets were plenty on the ground between Jesus’ Resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem, including Theudas, the “Egyptian”, various unnamed people, and during the Jewish War Menahem son of Judas of Galilee acted a king in Jerusalem in 66 AD and Simon Bar Giora the same in 69 AD. “King” here definitely hints at ‘messiah’. Josephus’ account of the siege and fall of Jerusalem mention any number of “prophets” and various omens taken to warn of catastrophe approaching.It is also possible Jesus is here describing Christian groups obsessed with the Second Coming, such as those Paul speaks of in 2 Thessalonians 2, who are thereby easily lead astray by false leaders.(France)
In relation to the traditional interpretation as relating to the end times, there has never been a shortage of people who proclaimed themselves somehow divine or the “Messiah” (in terms of a world-changing rescuer), nor is there any reason to suppose the trend will ever stop. As for false prophecies, it is enough to note that entire books have been written on the subject of failed end of the world predictions made throughout history. That too seems a trend that will continue, until the world truly does end.
Jesus, ever mindful of His people, warns them to be alert and remember the warnings He has given them ahead of time.
This is the most controversial section, for even many who think the previous verses speak of the fall of Jerusalem see the “But” here as indicating that Jesus moves to a different subject and time here, the end of the world.
The one thing that the two schools of thought (the AD 70 crowd and the End of the World crowd) agree on here is that the language Jesus uses here is not entirely literal. Similar language is used in Is 13 (esp Is 13:10) about the fall of Babylon, yet there are no records of universe- shaking when that happened. Similarly Is 34 (esp Is 34:4) speaks of judgment on Edom in heaven-changing terms, yet the heavens weren’t obviously changed.
What we can say is that this emphatic language is code for the inevitable fact that when God moves into action, the entire created order takes note.
Verse 26 calls back to Dan 7:14, the enthronement of one like a son of man, a human being, in a manner and power typically used of God Himself. The typical intepretation is the appearance of Jesus in the end times to gather His people for their reward. R.T. France and the rest of the AD 70 interpreters see the language as referring to the final replacement of the temple system with the rule of Christ, witnessed by the powers of heaven.(Witherington, France)
Verse 27 is considered explained by France and the AD 70ers as reverse imagery, in a passage (13:24-27) full of reverse imagery. Thus earlier in the passage terms used to describe the fall of pagan kingdoms are used to describe the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. Here the language of “gathering” is used to describe the spread of Christianity throughout the nations, thus fulfilling 13:10’s message of the gospel spread throughout the world.(France)
The traditional interpretation sees these verses as continuing the subject of the end times. The AD 70ers see the Greek indicating a change of subject, as many see “but” operating at 13:24. Thus we are on agreed ground that these verse concern Jesus’ return.
In v. 32’s notorious mention of the ignorance of the Son concerning the Second Coming is hidden the fact that Jesus takes it for granted that His followers now know He is indeed the Son of God, something Mark leaves much doubt about in previous chapters.
As for the ignorance, it is hardly for me to solve that puzzle. What is interesting is that Mark apparently had no trouble writing it, or many scribes in copying it, without adding some explanation as to why the divine Son was apparently not omniscient. The simplest and most honest thing to say is that we do not understand, but that the “emptying” language of Paul (Philippians 2:6-7) hint at the idea that the “omni” attributes of Godhood were in some manner veiled or relegated to the non-conscious part of Jesus’ nature. There are very real reasons the Incarnation is traditionally deemed a Mystery with a capital M.(France)
What we can learn from 13:32 is that God the Father knows the time of the End because He has a plan, but that speculation or worry about the time is useless, as it is supremely hidden. Thus, as v. 33 leads on, it is important for believers to be ready constantly. As the parable in v. 34-36 points out, each slave (read Christian) has a job to be about, and one must be busy doing that job, for the Master’s return is likely to be at the oddest of times. V. 35 includes terms for the normal Roman divisions of nighttime, which in ancient times is the least likely time for people to be traveling, due the dangers of the wild and wild men on the roads. But Jesus says it is at such odd times one must be fully alert, not asleep, for the time is indeed unknown and at God’s mysterious will. Thus Jesus says three times, be ready! (France, Witherington)