The Book of Mark is most likely the first of the four gospel books to be written, sometime in the late 60s CE. In reading today’s selection it’s important to remember or learn, about the Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE. It was the decisive event of the First Jewish–Roman War, in which the Roman army captured the city of Jerusalem and destroyed both the city and its Temple. So Mark writes his gospel (the first) as or after this war and destruction takes place.
Today’s selection follows and continues a section of conflict between Jesus and his political opponents which began at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (the story of Palm Sunday] in Mark 11. Since his arrival in Jerusalem, (the political, social and religious capital of the Jewish people) Jesus has been butting heads with the leaders. Here Jesus gives up and pronounces his judgment against the Temple, revealing what he sees to be true: the epicenter of Jewish life – the place where heaven and earth met – had lost its way. He foresees and prophesies the destruction of the temple – The space in which God’s presence dwelled and could be encountered through prayer and sacrifice. If there is no Temple where would one seek God?
Mark 13 is called the Apocalyptic vision of Mark. It’s important to remember that the word apocalypse (a Greek word” means “a revealing or disclosure of what actually is” as opposed to a doomsday battle with which it’s often associated.
And so when we read the story as a disclosure as opposed to a promise of impending doom we can see that when Jesus says to “Stay awake!” – in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrow and at dawn he might be talking more about his story – when he goes to the garden to pray with his disciples after the last supper, when he’s arrested there and betrayed by Judas, when Peter denies knowing Jesus for the third time as the roster crows, and as Jesus is dragged before Pontius Pilate and the raucous crowd who clamors for his crucifixion. Could it be that Jesus (and Mark in his telling of the story) is trying to disclose something about how and where God is present in the world?
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What grabs your attention in today’s reading?
- Imagine yourself as one of the Jews in the wake of their destruction by Babylon and then oppression by the Romans. How would you hope for God to avenge what you might have lost: property, jobs, people, family, freedom. What would you see as the justice that God should give to your enemies and to you?
- What is Jesus saying about the Temple and where God can be found in the world?
- Today feels like an apocalypse in this season of COVID-19. What is being revealed or disclosed about how God is in the world, or how the world truly is
- What invitation to walk, act, speak, or relate to others do you hear in the text today?