Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.
‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you, when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’
In this discourse, Jesus speaks in a way which is similar to that of the Old Testament prophets who foretold the collapse and judgement of the pagan kingdoms (Amos 8:9; Is. 13:9-10; Ezek. 32:7-8; Jer. 4:23; Joel 2:10), by describing various cataclysmic events within nature. Jesus was not referring to the collapse of great empires however. Rather, he was describing the significance of the ‘parousia’ i.e. the Second Coming. The vision of heavenly chaos serves to underscore the second coming and the magnitude of God’s judgement. Furthermore, Jesus’ oracle was a reference, not to the destruction of pagan kingdoms, but to the impending destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem itself (70 AD).
Scripture scholars argue that Mark’s Gospel, makes specific reference to the ‘parousia’, as a way of providing a source of hope to the early Christian communities which were experiencing great suffering, the apex of which occurred in Rome with Nero’s persecution’s (64-68 AD). Throughout his Gospel Mark inferred that it is only through suffering (8:34; 10:30, 33, 45) that one can attain and sustain a real and genuine faith. In what might be described as a symbiotic relationship, the social, cultural and historical context of the Marcan community shaped the language, structure and content of the Gospel itself.
As we approach the Season of Advent we are again reminded of the Lord’s Second Coming, and our own impending judgement. As with his disciples, Jesus implores us ‘be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come’ (Mk 13:37).
Director, Religious Education and Evangelisation