Covid19 has us stuck at home preparing for Easter… but we can mark each day with devotion. Click here if you missed a past day’s reading.
This is our third week to have digital worship and I thought we finally had a routine. Nick – tech genius – films with his camera (a step above my iPhone). Directly connecting to the sound board to improve the quality. And we prepped to film last night, then Nick found himself quarantined for fourteen days (hopefully for no big deal, but it is more important for you to raise a prayer than reading what I write!). Which meant I was at the church figuring it out by myself. Even with Nick coaching me over the phone the set up took three hours… and I am filming today.
Reading prophesy in the Bible is much like me setting up technology. I have some know-how. But not enough to make it smooth. In the Bible, my natural reading missed the symbols of insider Jewish knowledge. From Revelation to Daniel to this passage… I often came to the wrong conclusions. (check out the next section)
Deeper: So much of the Gospels and Acts (really all of the NT) are answering debates that have been settled so long ago, modern readers do not even understand the questions. Central to this is the issue of “Gods People”.
For Israel, for the OT, this was an easy answer, the Jews. Everyone else was Gentile — Not God’s People. The radical nature of Jesus’ message is that the Kingdom of God was expanding. The people of God would no longer be tied to a race, nor to a place… can you imagine hearing this as a First Century Jew? The promised land isn’t part of the Kingdom? … the people of God are now united by faith in the Messiah. Anyone who believes… from any place… from any race… are the People of God.
Today, because we don’t understand the significance of what Jesus overturned, we miss the points of many passages. We read this passage, Mark 13, and believe that Jesus is talking about the future. And he is talking about the future — but NOT ours. The Jew’s future. Namely the future of the temple, which was destroyed in AD70. The text tells us this explicitly (check out 13:1-4, Jesus is answering when the Temple will be destroyed).
The insert in verse 14 gives another hint, “let the reader understand”. The first century Jew would understand this verse is a direct reference to Daniel1 and has been fulfilled in recent history (2nd Century BC). During that time the Greeks controlled Israel and were aggressive to stamp out the Jewish faith. A pig was slaughtered on the altar and priests were ordered to offer sacrifices to pagan gods. The Maccabee Family2 lead a rebellion and won Jewish freedom. The temple would be rebuilt, and the one built by Herod brought awe to the disciples (13:1).
So Jesus is prophesying there will soon again be foreigners desecrating the temple. Only this time God will not save, because Jesus has brought an end to the Age of the Temple.3 And this time the foreigners bring God’s judgment. So flee the old ways and join the movement of God. The Age of the Church, the people of God, has begun.4
1 We also misread Daniel, much of which was prophesy predicting the coming of the Messiah. Predicting the end of one stage of history — NOT the end of the world!
2 The Maccabees are part of the apocrypha, intertestamental books included in a Catholic Bible.
3 Our confusion about the fulfillment of prophecy has also lead to confusion about the temple. The prophecies about the rebuilding of the temple have been fulfilled. With Jesus, the age of the Temple came to an end. This should be obvious to us – as Christians – Jesus replaced and superseded the temple. There is no need for the Temple. Only the cross and resurrection. The church is the temple where Jesus dwells. The modern idea that the physical temple must be rebuilt is common, but confused. It will not fulfill scripture, but may start a war. Since the Muslim Dome of the Rock lies on the place the Temple once resided.
4 A small portion of the chapter predicts the distant future (in my reading only 24-27, when Jesus says “after those days…”). And this helps explain, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.”