The Gospel of Mark: a commentary & meditation 
  "The Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory"

Scripture:  Mark 13:14-32

14 "But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 15 let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; 16 and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle.17 And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter.19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the  days. 21 And then if any one says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!' or `Look, there he is!' do not believe it. 22 False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.

24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Meditation: Do you take God's judgments lightly or seriously? When Jesus warned his disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem and its holy Temple, he quoted from the prophet Daniel who prophesied the desecration of the holy place in Jerusalem as "a  desolating sacrilege" (Daniel 12:11).  This came to pass around 170 BC when the king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, determined to wipe out the religion of Israel. He captured Jerusalem and set up an altar to Zeus in the temple court and sacrificed swine's flesh on the altar. He also turned the priests' room and temple chambers into public brothels. Jesus now prophesies that the holy place would be desecrated again. This time the destruction would be far worse for Jerusalem and its inhabitants. This time there would be no deliverance, no restoration nor purification. Jesus' advice was very practical - flee before the destruction comes!

When the Romans decided to destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD, they first cut off all food supplies to the walled city and allowed no one to escape. They then waited for its inhabitants to starve to death before they entered the city and destroyed it and leveled it to the ground. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, over a million inhabitants died. Josepheus described in detail the seige and famine. "The famine confounded all natural passions; for those who were just going to die looked upon those who were gone to their rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence, also, and a kind of deadly night had seized upon the city. ..And every one of them died with their eyes fixed upon the Temple." (Josephesus, War of the Jews, 5.12.3)

While Daniel prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem because of the stubborn pride and rebellion of its inhabitants, he also foretold that God would send his Anointed One, the Son of Man who would come on the clouds of heaven to bring God's reign on the earth (see Daniel 7:13-15). Daniel's vision describes a royal investiture of a human king before God's throne. This king, whose authority comes from God, is given world-wide rulership and power which lasts forever. Many Jews in Jesus' time expected the Messiah King to come at any moment. Jesus warns his disciples that many false Christ's (the Greek form of the word for 'Messiah') and false prophets would lead people astray. The Jews were looking for the right sign to show them who the true Messiah would be. Jesus pointed to himself as the definitive sign of God's imminent kingdom.

Jesus used the image of a fig tree to teach his disciples an important lesson about reading the "signs of the times".  The fig tree was a common and important source of food for the Jews. It bore fruit twice a year, in the autumn and in the early spring. The Talmud said that the first fruit came the day after Passover. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came he would usher in the kingdom of God at Passover time. The signs of spring are evident for all who can see. Just so are the signs of God's kingdom and his coming in judgment.  The "budding" of God's kingdom begins first in the hearts of those who are receptive to God's word. Those who trust in God's word will bear the fruits of his kingdom. And what are the fruits of that kingdom?  The kingdom of God righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Jesus tells us that one thing is certain. This world as we know it will not last. But that is not the end. When the Lord Jesus returns again in glory he will bring the reign or kingdom of God in all its fulness. Then, as the Book of Revelations tells us, there will be a "new heaven and a new earth" in which "death shall be no more" (Rev. 21:1,4). That is why Christians pray to hasten Christ's return by saying to him: "Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20). While we do not now know the date or time for the second coming, the signs of its imminent approach will be evident for all who take notice. God's word is utterly reliable, because God, himself, is utterly trustworthy. His word lasts because he is faithful and he keeps his promises. Do you look with joyful hope for the fulfillment of allGod's promises?

"Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come and may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Open my eyes that I may see your glory. Open my ears that I may understand and obey your word. And open the door of my heart that I may welcome you in as my King and Savior."

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(c) 2007 Don Schwager