When I took my ‘O’ level scripture exam, which was based on Mark’s gospel, this was the one chapter that was missed out because it was seen as “too difficult”!
The Temple Will Be Destroyed
1As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at these beautiful stones and wonderful buildings!”
2Jesus replied, “Do you see these huge buildings? They will certainly be torn down! Not one stone will be left in place.”
Warning about Trouble
3Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him in private. 4They asked, “When will these things happen? What will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
Watch out and don’t let anyone fool you! 6Many will come and claim to be me. They will use my name and fool many people.
7When you hear about wars and threats of wars, don’t be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn’t the end. 8Nations and kingdoms will go to war against each other. There will be earthquakes in many places, and people will starve to death. But this is just the beginning of troubles.
9Be on your guard! You will be taken to courts and beaten with whips in their meeting places. And because of me, you will have to stand before rulers and kings to tell about your faith. 10But before the end comes, the good news must be preached to all nations.
11When you are arrested, don’t worry about what you will say. You will be given the right words when the time comes. But you will not really be the ones speaking. Your words will come from the Holy Spirit.
12Brothers and sisters will betray each other and have each other put to death. Parents will betray their own children, and children will turn against their parents and have them killed. 13Everyone will hate you because of me. But if you keep on being faithful right to the end, you will be saved.
The Horrible Thing
14Someday you will see that “Horrible Thing” where it should not be. Everyone who reads this must try to understand! If you are living in Judea at that time, run to the mountains. 15If you are on the roof of your house, don’t go inside to get anything. 16If you are out in the field, don’t go back for your coat. 17It will be an awful time for women who are expecting babies or nursing young children. 18Pray that it won’t happen in winter. 19This will be the worst time of suffering since God created the world, and nothing this terrible will ever happen again. 20If the Lord doesn’t make the time shorter, no one will be left alive. But because of his chosen and special ones, he will make the time shorter.
21If someone should say, “Here is the Messiah!” or “There he is!” don’t believe it. 22False messiahs and false prophets will come and work miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God’s chosen ones. 23But be on your guard! That’s why I am telling you these things now.
Tom Wright gives us a good analogy of cartoons, and needing to understand the symbols and nuances of a time to “get” images from it (p 128).
Much of this passage is mysterious, but it does give a warning to beware of people claiming to be a Messiah. Messiah-type characters come and go. There have always been some to make the claim and probably always will be. I was surprised to find that Wikipedia has a whole list of them. Anyone who’s watched Monty Python’s Life of Brian can see the confusion when people, wrongly, decide someone is the Messiah and blindly follow them.
Jesus warns us to be careful and not to be fooled into following the wrong people the wrong way. Jesus showed us the way God’s new way will be – and anyone trying to tell or show us anything different is not going to be from God.
We need to be alert to that, and make sure we know Jesus and God’s ways, so that we recognise when others are trying to take us a different way – however dynamic and attractive it may seem.
Tom’s prayer for today:
Give us courage and faith,
to hold on to you and your word
when all around us seems to be shaking and turbulent.