Monday, April 06, 2009

Lenten Reading: Mark 13: 1-31

Mark 13: 1-31

Jesus paints a picture of the end of the world, and it isn’t pretty. This section is referred to as Mark’s “Little Apocalypse.”

The word “apocalypse” tends to conjure images of fires, bombs, horrible deaths, mass atrocity, etc. Many TV preacher spend their whole ministries trying to connect news events with bible prophecies, such as this one, often with the hope that God is, in fact, destroying the earth and will come back and rescue righteous believers, lifting them to a heavenly realm.

That is NOT what this passage is about. In fact, “apocalypse” is actually a literary genre well known to people in New Testament times.

“As a literary genre, ‘apocalyptic’ is a way of investing space-time events with their theological significance; it is actually a way of affirming, not denying, the vital importance of the present continuing space-time order, by denying that evil has the last word in it. It is only when such literature is read without a fully historical understanding that it is in danger of being mistaken for the Stoic philosophy, which unlike early Judaism, really did envisage the space-time universe being dissolved at a later date” (NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God p. 392).

So, these passages, the foretelling of the Temple’s destruction, the coming persecution, the false messiahs, and the coming of the Son of Man, are really stories about God ultimately triumphing over evil. And Jesus was using common images and familar bible stories to make his point.

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