Reading Mark 13 in Context: Seeing 16 Connections between Jesus’s Olivet Discourse and His Death and Ascension

robert-bye-6PLB5SKWiIY-unsplashI saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
— Daniel 7:13–14 —

On Sunday, I preached a message on Daniel 7:13–14, how it is understood by the New Testament authors and why Christ’s ascension is such good news for us today. You can listen to the sermon here. And if you do, you will find that the longest part of the message is located in Mark 13–14.

The reason for that long meditation is that Mark cites Jesus referencing Daniel 7:13–14 in two places. First, answering his disciples’ question about the destruction of the temple and when these things will be (Mark 13:1–2), Jesus says, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). Second, after his arrest, Jesus is  interrogated by the high priest. In response to a question of his identity, Jesus again references Daniel 7, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62)

Following the lead of Daniel itself, I interpreted these two passages as a reference to Jesus’s ascension in relationship to his impending crucifixion. Instead of reading these references of the clouds to something still future or his second coming from heaven to earth, I recalled the original meaning of Daniel 7:13–14 and explained how Jesus is speaking about his ascension and entrance into heaven.

As you might expect, this led to some questions. In our community group that followed Sunday’s sermon, there were more than a few questions about this reading, as it stands in contrast to more popular readings of Mark 13 and its parallel accounts in Matthew 24–25 and Luke 21. In what follows, I will restrict my focus to Mark and try to explain how we might read his Gospel with greater attention to his own words and the meaning of Jesus’s words in Mark 13. By paying attention to the literary connections between Mark 13 and Mark 14–15 (#4 below), I believe we can see how Jesus is preparing his disciples and Mark is preparing his readers for understanding a heavenly perspective on Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, with (perhaps) ongoing implications for the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

1. Daniel 7:13–14 has a long history of interpretation applying the Old Testament vision to Christ’s ascension.

In his book The Cross at a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, Peter Bolt provides a lengthy footnote citing a host of ancient interpreters who take Daniel 7 to speak of Christ’s ascension or to interpret passages in Matthew as reference to Christ’s ascension. (Speaking of Mark, he notes, “Given the paucity of discussion of Mark’s Gospel in the early church, it is difficult to find specific comment on Mark’s version” 95n20). Here’s Bolt’s list of interpreters (94–95n19, reformatted):

  • When Hippolytus expounds Dan. 7:13–14, he clearly pictures Jesus being brought to the Father to receive power (Commentary on Daniel 11.4).
  • Cyprian (AD 249) applied the verses to the power that Jesus received in his resurrection (Testimonia ad Quirinium 2.26).
  • Lactantius, another North African, writing at the beginning of the fourth century, continued this view (Divine Institutions, 4.21).
  • In the second ascension sermon attributed to John Chrysostom, he treated Daniel 7:13–14 “as a prediction of the ascension.” Bolt notes that this reference could also be attributed to Nestorius—an unfortunate confusion, if that is true.
  • Cyril of Alexandria also interpreted Daniel 7:13 of the ascension (PG 70:1461).
  • Among later interpreters Dan. 7:13 was regularly taken to refer to a coming to the Ancient of Days, which ‘became for many later exegetes a prefiguration of the Ascension of the Son of man to His Father’s throne’ (Davies 1958: 26), citing Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1140), Martin, presbyter of Legio of Spain (d. 1203), Peter of Blois (d. 1204), and Gregory Palmas (Metropolitan of Thessalonica in the 1350s).
  • Finally, John Calvin, in his commentary on Daniel, also joined this stream of interpretation, claiming that these verses are ‘undoubtedly of Christ . . . He had been endured with heavenly power, and was seated at his Father’s right hand.’ . . . Citing Calvin again, “He now arrives at the Ancient of days, that is, when he ascends to heaven, because his divine majesty was then revealed. . . . He ascended to heaven, and a dominion was bestowed upon him.”

As always, one historical interpretation, or many, does not prove a priori the validity of an interpretation. It does, however, teach us two things. First, this history of interpretation proves that interpreting Daniel 7:13–14 as a vision of Christ’s ascension is not an isolated reading. Rather, it has a long and laudable pedigree, stretching from the early church to the Reformation.

Second, the definite reference of Daniel 7:13–14 gives us an anchor for interpreting passages like Mark 13:26 and Mark 14:62. Just as Isaiah 53 has a definite reference to Christ’s death and resurrection and Psalm 110 has a definite reference to Christ’s session, i.e., his enthronement in heaven, so Daniel 7:13–14 has a definite reference in Christ’s ascension.

The importance of this definite reference is found in the fact that if Daniel 7:13–14 speaks of Christ’s ascension, then that reading must inform other passages that come later and are more obscure. Most specifically, because the word “coming” in Mark 13:26 can translated “coming” or “going,” we should understand the orientation of Jesus to the clouds based upon Daniel 7 in its original context. It is highly problematic to reverse the direction of Daniel 7, without textual warrant for doing so. The original context should inform our reading of Mark, and this leads to a second point.

2. The best way to read the New Testament use of the Old Testament is to understand how the New Testament author is applying the Old Testament’s original intention.

This point is short in principle but wide-ranging in impact. While some (e.g., Robert Stein) may argue that Jesus or Mark uses Daniel 7 in a way distinct from the original audience, this assumes that the apostles have authority to change the meaning of Old Testament texts. Again, some argue like this (e.g., Richard Longenecker), but this invites problems with regards to the work of the Spirit to author a unified canon.

It is confusing to the point of incoherence to say that the Spirit would author words in the New Testament that are wholly out of step with the Old Testament, unless there is a clear reason for doing so (as in the case of Ephesians 4:8 changing Psalm 68:18’s “received” to “give” because of the different place in redemptive history). In Mark’s Gospel, however, Jesus speaks of the Son of Man coming on the clouds as an event fulfilling what Daniel has said.

Mark is not looking for the way Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension changed the meaning of Daniel’s words. To say those words were changed by Jesus is to insert one’s eschatology into the text. We need to let Jesus interpret and apply Daniel 7 to himself, instead of immediately jumping to our eschatological expectations. Which is to say, we need to let Mark, citing Jesus, show us how he is placing Jesus’s use of Daniel 7 in his Gospel. And in context, it seems to be the case that Jesus in Mark 13:26 and Mark 14:62 is simply applying Daniel 7:13–14 to himself and what he is about to experience.

3. Mark 13 needs to be read in the context of Mark.

It is important to remember that Mark 13 is not a subject line in a systematic theology. While many have extracted Mark 13 from its biblical context and used Jesus’s Olivet Discourse (i.e., his words on the Mount of Olives) to describe his second coming, this reading misses how the Gospel of Mark fits together. In other words, before we can do systematic theology, we must do biblical theology. We must consider how the words of Scripture are used in their original context before we can make theological pronouncements with them.

To that point, Peter Bolt (The Cross at a Distance) is helpful. He observes how Mark 13 is regularly pulled out of Mark’s Gospel.

Interpreters have regularly missed the importance of this chapter for Mark’s story of Jesus, because of the tendency to read it as if Jesus were talking directly about the situation that would prevail after his death and resurrection. On this reading, Mark 13 speaks more about the time of the reader of Mark than about the time of the characters within the story of Mark.’ This has made chapter 13 something of a misfit in its own Gospel. Surely the chapter should be read like any other in Mark’s story, namely as an integral part of the narrative, making its own contribution to the story in which it is embedded (91).

This principle of reading in context is basic for all interpretation. We must understand the author’s intention if we will properly interpret any passage of Scripture. If we do not know how Mark 13 relates to the chapters that come before and after it, we will misread the chapter. With this in mind, Bolt goes on to place Mark 13 in context.

The apocalyptic discourse [Mark 13] naturally emerges out of the situation of conflict in the previous chapters. Jesus addresses four disciples who are already familiar to the reader and have had a key role in the story so far. The next chapter [Mark 14] picks up the action again, with Jesus back in Bethany, as would be expected from the sequence constructed over the previous three days [Mark 11–12]. There is really nothing to indicate that this discourse is anything but an address by Jesus to the inner circle of the twelve on the eve of the climactic moment of his ministry. This reading stance makes us ask how the content of his speech relates to this setting on the eve of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Since the discourse takes place in a ‘pause’ in the action, it appears to function as a narrative ‘aside’. That is, what the reader learns in the apocalyptic discourse will be significant for the understanding of the passion narrative to follow. (91–92)

This is Bolt’s wise reading of Mark 13. He reads it in the context of the whole Gospel, and explains that Jesus’s “discourse” is actually the private revelation of Jesus to three of his disciples, in preparation for his crucifixion. Hence, we might be helped by calling Mark 13 (cf. Matthew 24:3), the “Olivet Apocalypse” because it is privately offered to his disciples. The Olivet Discourse mistakenly implies a larger audience and a different purpose.

As Bolt refines our reading of Mark, he states, citing R. H. Lightfoot (The Gospel Message of St. Mark), Mark 13 is “undoubtedly designed by the evangelist as the immediate introduction to the Passion narrative” (97). In fact, Lightfoot, on whom Bolt depends, goes so far as to show numerous “connexions” between Mark 13 and Mark 14–15. You can read them here: “The Connexion of Chapter 13 with the Passion Narrative“. In what follows I will build on his points and show sixteen literary connections between Mark 13 and the cross of Christ.

4. Mark connects Jesus’s “Olivet Apocalypse” (Mark 13) with Christ’s death on the cross (Mark 14–15).

Building on the work of R. H. Lightfoot, let me offer sixteen connections between Mark 13 and Mark 14–15. The first five are clearly identified by Lightfoot and followed by Bolt. I have added others, some mentioned by these men, some not. The goal of listing these connections is not to base the connection between chapters on anyone of them, but to see in total how Mark leads us to interpret Mark 13 with Mark 14–15. For me, this dramatically impacted the way I look at this section of Scripture and has as a result made Jesus’s enigmatic words far more clear and compelling.

Therefore, let the reader understand, what I share here is meant to lead you back to the Scripture’s themselves and to see what is there. If you question one or many connections below, go back to the text and see why. What follows is a series of connections I have observed; it is not the final interpretation on the matter. I still have questions too, but I do believe there is something in the text that leads us to see Mark 14–15 fulfilling the words of Mark 13. In what follows, the sixteen connections follow the basic order of the verses in Mark 13.

Christ’s Olivet Apocalypse

(Mark 13)

 

The Passion of Christ

(Mark 14–15)

1. The Use of Paradidomai (“deliver over” or “betrayed”)

The theme of delivering over / betrayal runs throughout these two chapters. Jesus warns the disciples of their danger, a danger proven by his own crucifixion.

Three Uses: Mark 13:9, 11, 12

“For they will deliver you over to councils, . . . (v. 9)

“And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, . . . (v. 11)

“And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.  (v. 12)

Ten Uses: Mark 14:10, 11, 18, 21, 41, 42, 44; 15:1, 10, 15

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. (14:10)

And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”  (Mark 14:18)

For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:21)

41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Mark 14:41)

2. Do not be led astray Jesus warns his followers to not be led astray (13:5–6, 21–22) 

And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. (13:5–6)

Three sets of followers are led astray or tempted to go astray:

  1. Judas’s betrayal (14:10–11, 43–49)
  2. Peter’s denial (14:26–31, 66–72)
  3. The disciples flee (14:50)
3. The “hour” Jesus says that his hour is unknown

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows . . .” (13:32)

Jesus says that his hour has come

In his prayer to this Father in Gethsemane (14:32–42), Jesus learns that the hour has come (v. 41)

“It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners”

4. Time Markers Jesus lists four time stamps in Mark 13:35.

35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, [1] in the evening, or [2] at midnight, or [3] when the rooster crows, or [4] in the morning—

These time stamps are used in Mark 14–15 to outline Jesus final day.[1]

  1. Passover (14:17)
  2. Arrest in Gethsemane (14:32–50)
  3. Peter’s denial (14:68)
  4. Trial before the Sanhedrin (15:1)
5. The Mount of Olives Jesus speaks to his disciples about the coming tribulation and the destruction of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, (13:3)

Mark interprets Jesus’s death through the lens of Zechariah, which describes the scattering of the sheep (13:7) and a final judgment on Jerusalem (ch. 14).

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ [Zech. 13:7]. But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.

6. Jerusalem

** A secondary point is the fact that everything that he warns his disciples about, he experiences. Thus, he models for them what they will go through.

Jesus describes the events taking place in Jerusalem and in very Jewish terms (e.g., synagogues).

For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. . . . 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:9–12)

It is so obvious that we can miss this fact, the place Jesus describes in Mark 13 is the place where colossal tribulation occurs in Mark 14–15.

All that he warns his disciples occurs to Jesus:

  • he is delivered over to the council;
  • he is beaten in the synagogue (the gathering of the Jews);
  • he is brought to trial and delivered over to the death;
  • he is called on to give account in the power of the Holy Spirit;
  • he is delivered over to death by his brothers – earlier in Mark 3:31–35, Jesus defines his family by those who keep his word; now Judas, a family member, has handed him over to death
7. The Tribulation Jesus references a Tribulation in Jerusalem.

For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. (13:19)

Jesus speaks of the Tribulation occurring before the Son of Man comes on the clouds (i.e., the Ascension)

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, (13:24)

The tribulation occurs in Mark 14–15, as the events surrounding Jesus’s death unfold. Nothing like this has ever happened on earth; and nothing like the crucifixion of the Lord will ever happen like this again.

The tribulation of these events can be seen by comparing them with Old Testament expectations of God’s judgment (see esp. Zech. 9–14). Some of the key signs of the tribulation, otherwise known as birth pangs are

On earth:

  1. Jesus is arrested, tried, condemned to death
  2. The disciples are scattered
  3. The chief priests condemn Jesus to death and make peace with the Gentiles

In the heavens:

  1. The sky goes black
  2. The temple veil is torn
  3. The Son of Man ascends on the clouds – he is the sacrifice offered by the high priest
8. Flee to the Mountains Jesus tells his disciples that they will flee (pheugo) when the tribulation comes.

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (13:14)

All Jesus disciples flee (pheugō).

. . .And they all left him and fled. (14:50)

. . . but he left the linen cloth and ran away (pheugō) naked. (14:52)

9. Stay in the Upper Room Jesus instructs disciples to stay on the roof their house when the tribulation comes.

Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, . . . (13:15)

The disciples remain in the Upper Room (Mark 14:15) and don’t come down once the tribulation comes.

John 20:19, 26 confirms that the disciples remained “locked” in the Upper Room.

10. The Young Man’s Cloak Jesus instructs his disciples to not stay in the field

and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. (13:16)

The naked young man (John Mark?) leaves his cloak in the field.

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. (14:51–52)

11. Tell you beforehand Jesus tells his disciples what is happening beforehand

But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. (13:23)

In John’s Gospel (13:19; 16:24), Jesus tells the events of his death and resurrection beforehand to create faith in his disciples. This seems to be the same thing here.

Many of the things Jesus told beforehand (vv. 14–22), are witnessed in Mark 14–15. See #’s 2, 8–10.

  • Disciples being led astray
  • Staying in the Upper Room
  • Fleeing to the Mountains
  • Leaving the cloak in the field
12. Darkness Jesus says that there will be signs in the heavens, including darkness

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. (13:24–25)

On the cross, the sky turns black

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (15:33)

13. The Son of Man coming on the clouds Jesus employs Daniel 7:13–14 with his disciples to identify the coming tribulation with his ascension. “They” (the powers of heaven, v. 25) will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds. It is fitting for Jesus to give a heavenly perspective of his crucifixion and ascension, one that fits the original context of Daniel 7:13–14.

26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. (13:26)

Jesus uses Daniel 7:13–14 again with the chief priest to explain his identity and when his reign would come.

62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  (14:62)

14. The Ascension and the Proclamation Jesus announces the Son of Man rising to heaven (Ascension) followed by the gathering of the elect (Gospel Proclamation)

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. (Mark 13:26–27)

In Mark 16:19–20 (part of an early addition to the Gospel), we find the same pattern of Ascension followed by Proclamation. (If Mark 16:8–20 provides an earlier and not inspired commentary on Mark’s Gospel, this gives us an interpretation of Mark 13:26–27).

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. (16:19–20)

15. The Master of the House When Jesus tells his disciples to stay awake, he makes reference to the “Master of the House”

Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— (13:35)

When Jesus sends his disciples to look for the Upper Room, he tells them to find the “master of the house.” (N.B. the word is different, but not wholly unrelated)

13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” (14:13–15)

16. Stay awake and do not fall asleep Three times Jesus stresses for his disciples to “stay awake” (gregōreō) and not fall sleep (katheudō).

It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake (gregōreō). (13:34)

Therefore stay awake (gregōreō)—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— (13:35)

And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (gregōreō) (13:37)

lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. (13:36)

Three times Jesus finds his disciples not “watching” (gregōreō) but sleeping (katheudō).

And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch” (gregōreō) (14:34)

And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch (gregōreō) one hour? (14:37)

 Watch (gregōreō) and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (14:38)

And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. (14:40)

In the end, whatever your final decision on Mark 13, the number of connections between Mark 13 and Mark 14–15 requires some significant consideration. For if it is correct to see Mark 13 is an apocalyptic explanation of Christ’s death and resurrection, then it invites us to consider the other Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Luke) and to consider how Jesus instructions to his disciples inform the larger study of eschatology. Or at least, it causes us to consider how Jesus understood the cosmic effects of his cross, resurrection, and ascension. The final point here.

5. The best way to read Mark 13 is to read it as a heavenly explanation of the cross (with possible connections to the destruction of the temple in AD 70). 

As I argued in Sunday’s sermon, the original meaning of Daniel 7:13–14 (the Son of Man ascending on the clouds to heaven) should not need to be changed when we get to the New Testament. In Mark 13:26 and Mark 14:62, Daniel 7:14 is clearly referenced by Jesus, and if we let Daniel have its say (see point #2 above), then it leads us to see Jesus speaking of his ascension in connection with his imminent crucifixion. The literary connections found between Mark 13 and Mark 14–15 reinforce this point, and lead us to see Mark 13 in a new light—or perhaps in an old light, if the early church’s understanding has anything to say on the matter.

Such a reading of Mark makes us find the interpretation of Mark 13 in Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, and it also reinforces Jesus’s identity as the true Messiah and the prophet like Moses—a vital point, for this is why Mark wrote his Gospel (see Mark 1:1). Indeed, we should remember that if original audiences heard things from Jesus or about Jesus that were not fulfilled in his generation, it would lead to a question of his authenticity as a prophet from God, and hence the Son of God too.

This brings us to a final observation in Mark 13. In Mark 13:30, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you [his three disciples], this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Importantly, this claim is something that his disciples and Mark’s audience could verify. They could test and approve whether Jesus’s words were true. Why? Because they would come to fulfillment in “this generation”—a term defined in Mark 8:12, 38; 9:19 as the sinful generation in Jerusalem in Jesus’s day.

While some take “this generation” to mean something other than its literal meaning, the connections between Mark 13 and Mark 14–15 show us, (modern readers who are less skilled in reading apocalyptic literature) what the original audience would have seen more clearly. Namely, Jesus was not a false Christ or a misleading prophet worthy of death (Deut. 13)—this was the wicked generation’s claim (see Mark 14:63ff). Instead, Jesus was the true prophet who spoke words from heaven that would be proven within the lifetime of his disciples.

Bolt argues that all of Mark 13 came to fulfillment in the cross, resurrection, and ascension. Others have argued that Mark 13 leads up to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, for this would have happened within a “generation” (i.e., 40 years). I am still sifting through the arguments for these two positions. But what seems to be clear from Mark is that Jesus is preparing his disciples for what they are about to experience in Jerusalem. The worldwide impact of his death and resurrection will be proclaimed to the nations and the promise of his final return (his parousia) will come, but in the flow of Mark’s Gospel it seems better to understand Mark 13 as explaining his coming death, resurrection, and ascension more than explaining to modern readers how the end of the age will go.

Remember: Christ’s death brought an end to the age and it introduced the beginning of a new age. In this way, Christ’s death and resurrection was a cosmos-shaking (cf. Matt. 27:51, 54; Mark 13:8), temple veil-rending (Mark 15:38)[2], sky-darkening (Mark 15:33), powers in heaven dethroning (John 12:31; 16:11; cf. Mark 13:24–27), dead-raising (Matt. 27:51), new covenant-making / old-covenant-displacing (Mark 14: 22–25, ff. Matt. 26:26–29; Luke 22:18–20) event. With that in mind, I believe we should give more space in our interpretation of Mark 13 to the “already” of Christ’s words, while not denying the “not yet” of the kingdom of God that we still await.

To that end, let’s keep pressing into Scripture, such that the Spirit of Christ continues to impress on us the meaning of the text. For whenever we go where Scripture leads us, it may feel strange at first, but it is always good. So let us continue to hold onto Mark 13 and ask God to help us understand his Word and his world.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

_____________________

[1] R. H. Lightfoot observes on these time stamps:

Is it possible that there is here a tacit reference to the events of that supreme night before the Passion? On that evening the Lord comes for the last supper with the twelve; the scene in Gethsemane, and still more the arrest, which . . . finally dates the arrival of the ‘the hour,’ would take place towards midnight; Peter denies the Lord at cockcrow; and ‘in the morning‘ the chief priests with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate.’ (53)

Moreover, he points to the unusual manner in which Mark chronicles Jesus’s final day:

It is very noticeable that in the Passion narrative of this gospel the last hours of the Lord’s life are reckoned at three-hour intervals (14:68, 72; 15:1, 25, 33, 42), which is also the method adopted in 13:35—an exactness of temporal reckoning to which St. Mark is usually indeed a stranger. (53)

[2] In Mark it’s important to connect the temple veil rending in Mark 15:38 to the heavens rending in Mark 1:10. The same word (schizō) is used, and only used here in Mark. It suggests that Mark wants to connect these two events—i.e., Jesus’s baptism of water and his baptism of fire (i.e., the cross). For Jesus’s cross as a baptism, see Mark 10:38–40). With this literary connection in place, the significance of the temple-veil rending amplifies the cosmic scope of Christ’s death. Christ’s death really does tear apart the heavens. By his sacrifice, he has made a way for his disciples to approach God’s throne, and in his ascension, he will purify the heavenly places (Heb. 9:23–26) and throw down all unclean spirits. In these ways, the torn temple veil has wide-reaching cosmological and theological effects.

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