April 24, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news from Mark 13:28-31.
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
What ‘things” was Jesus referring to? Barclay believes that Jesus was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and not to his second coming. If you go back to the beginning of the chapter, Jesus was definitely describing the destruction of the Temple. It seemed pretty clear to me until he started to tell them about the Son of Man coming in the clouds and gathering his elect from the four winds. That sounds like the second coming. So, I’m a little confused.
It seems that Jesus was being deliberately ambiguous. It could be very soon, although he did say that it would happen before this generation passed away. In the next verses Jesus tells his disciples that only God know when the end time will come. This is a good example of why it’s helpful to read verses in the context of the whole and not to read into his words what you hope and wish he was saying.
I think the point that Jesus was trying to make in this statement from Moloney’s The Gospel of Mark, “Jesus…does not so much fix an exact terminal date for the end as fill the hearer’s present moment with urgency and make it impossible for him to postpone or evade decisions indefinitely.” He knew that his time was growing short and he wanted to instill a sense of urgency in his apostles and all followers that there was no time to waste in living the words he taught them. Though heaven and earth may pass away, his central message in the gospels will not change. He is urging me to live today as if there will be no tomorrow, to be a living sign of the kingdom of God.
This message is becoming all the more urgent as I begin to count the number of my days. They no longer stretch endlessly before; there is a finite number that is growing smaller. This may be one of the blessings of growing older: a greater sense of urgency to live my life as God desires instead of as I wish, to gratify Him instead of myself. To know that He is near at the gates.