Mark 13:3-36 Out With The Old And In With The New.

Mark 13:3-36 Out With The Old And In With The New.

This same topic occurs in Luke 21, in the record of a historian, and in language more straightforward, as it were, than Mark. Matthew and Mark write with more apocalyptic language. In Luke the teaching concerning the last days is also immediately preceded by the disciples drawing attention to the temple itself, how it was “adorned with beautiful stones and donations” (v. 5; Mk.13:1-2). This was also the context of what Jesus had said concerning the rich giving to the treasury (21:1), and the widow’s two mites (vv. 2-4). What then follows is Jesus teaching concerning the temple’s future. As impressive as it no doubt looked, there were some standing in its precincts who would see its destruction (Cf. Mt. 24:33-34). What comes in largely prophetic apocalyptic language in Matthew and Mark, comes in more straight forward historical descriptives in Luke, but they all are concerned with the same events.

Before the destruction of the temple there would arise false Christs (vv. 8-9), wars (v. 10), natural upheavals (vv. 11, 25-26), persecution of His disciples (v. 12), all of which will occasion the opportunity for witness bearing to the gospel of the kingdom (vv. 13-17). Yet, in the midst of this persecution, Jesus promises them that if they are patient they will lose nothing (vv. 18-19). What Matthew called “‘the abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” Luke informs us is “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (v. 20 Cf. Mt. 24:15). These were signs which those present could and should indeed look for as their cue to flee the area of Judea (v. 21). It will be harder for those who are pregnant (v. 23). This desolation, “are the days of vengeance that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (v. 22). “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles,” which indeed happened when the armies of Rome overtook the city in 70 AD (v. 24).

This all describes what Jesus called “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (v. 27). “He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Dan 9:27). “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan. 9:26). This would bring to a close the last days of the old covenant era when Messiah would “make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy” (Dan. 9:24). Everything Jesus said about the last days of the old covenant era, also spoke to the vengeance of covenant lawsuit judgment on apostate Israel who rejected their Messiah. This is the fig tree of this parable (vv. 29-31). Everything that preceded, Jesus made clear would come upon that generation (v. 32). He also made clear that His words were as secure as the rest of the scriptures (v. 33). The fact is that these events did indeed take place with the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

As in Luke (21:7), Mark records that the disciples ask about the exact time and sign associated with these events (vv. 3-4). As in Luke, many would come forward claiming to be the Christ, but only to deceive (vv. 5-6). Wars and rumors of wars would not signal the end, as horrible as these always are in any age (v. 7), likewise with earthquakes, famines, and troubles, but these things were only “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8). Jesus then directs some words to his hearers directly. They were to watch themselves, that some would deliver them up to councils, and specifically they would be “beaten in the synagogues” (v. 9a). It is hard to see how these predictions could somehow apply to anyone other than those he was addressing directly. The purpose that they would fulfill in this suffering, would be to bear witness to Jesus as the Christ, “before rulers and kings” (v. 9b), taking the gospel to all nations (v. 10).

In Luke’s second volume concerning his history of the Messiah and his work, it is recorded that during the Pentecost “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (2:5). On this occasion Peter preached his sermon concerning the last days – that Pentecost was part of the fulfillment of the last days of the old first covenant administration (vv. 14-21), signifying that Jesus the Messiah was then seated on his throne reigning as King (vv. 22-35). In his preaching, he had multiple biblical references from the first covenant scriptures themselves. These men represented the respective nations where they were from – those who would be granted repentance and faith (along with their children), in Jesus as the promised Messiah (vv. 36-39). However, they were the exception among a “perverse generation” (v. 40). Nevertheless, the true church would prosper and grow (vv. 41-47).

It was those whom Jesus addressed directly who would be arrested and delivered up, to bear witness, even to kings and rulers, and the Holy Spirit would give them words to speak (v. 11). This was a turning point. Here there would be families divided, brother against brother, parents against children and vice versa, even to the point of causing death (v. 12). All the believers in Jesus as the Messiah would be hated, but enduring to the end was a sure sign of all who would be saved (v. 13). Jesus made clear that the prediction of Daniel would be fulfilled in the time of those standing before him (v. 14; Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11 Cf. Mt. 24:15; Lk. 21:21). The daily sacrifice would be taken away, and the “abomination of desolation” would be set up. Directions are given to those listening, which would only make sense to them – those on housetops or in the fields were to flee, not going back for anything (vv. 15-16).

Jesus pities those who are pregnant, as he addresses his hearers directly, where they should hope that their flight would not be in winter (vv. 17-18). This Jesus called a time of tribulation, “such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be” (v. 19). Therefore, those positing a time they call ‘the Tribulation’ to occur in the future, as the greatest tribulation ever, are clearly mistaken. They interpret this passage in this way by ignoring the clear pointers to the generation to whom Jesus spoke, and they also see the tribulation in non-biblical terms. The reason why Jesus said that this time of tribulation was unique is because it would signify the end of the old covenant administration with the dawn of the new. Jesus would bring the first covenant sacrificial system to an end with the once for all propitiatory sacrifice of himself on the cross (Cf. Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; I Jn. 2:2; 4:10).

For the sake of the salvation of the elect within the covenanted community and without, those days were shortened (v. 20). This was a covenantal curse judgment on the apostates of the old covenant administration – those who rejected the promised Messiah who had come, but hope for those who believed by grace. His hearers were warned to pay no attention to those who claimed that the Christ was visibly present, for they had the Christ visibly present teaching and warning them not to heed these calls which were coming from false prophets about false Christs. They would only be trying to deceive people, “if possible, even the elect” (v. 22). In these few words, we are reminded again that it is not possible for the elect to be deceived (Cf. Jn. 17:12; I Jn. 2:19). They were to take heed, because Jesus was telling them these things beforehand so that they, the elect ones, could be prepared (v. 23).

Not only would that tribulation be in the near future, but some standing before Jesus would also witness its end (v. 24). That which is often associated with the so-called Tribulation, will actually occur after it, the significance of which can only be understood if one thinks in the context of biblical imagery. Verse 25 is in effect a parallelism – stars symbolizing powers. There would be no mistaking that it would be the resurrected and ascended Son of Man who would come through the instrumentality of angels in providential history making events. Yet, while there is judgment coming upon apostates, there will also be a gathering of the elect into his church from the farthest corners of earth and heaven (vv. 26-27). That generation would receive enough signs to indicate when that season of harvest was approaching – like a fig tree putting forth its leaves to indicate that summer is near (vv. 28-30).

There would be a new heaven and earth coming, so that the old would pass away. However, Jesus’ words, including what he spoke here, will never pass away (v. 31). Everything he had predicted would come to pass, and did come to pass. Since these events are past, they are proof to all who are granted spiritual understanding, that the Prophet’s words have been fulfilled. However, even though that generation would have signs of that approaching season, the more narrow chronological category of the day or hour they would not be given – for this was known only to the Father (v. 32). Therefore, they were to “take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is” (v. 33). Jesus is the Master who will depart for a time, but he will also return on a day and in an hour that is known only to the Father (v. 34). That generation needed to not sleep with his soon departure, but rather to watch for this return (vv. 35-36). 

Mark 13:1-2 Destruction And Hope.

Mark 13:1-2 Destruction And Hope.

Finely constructed architecture is the work of artisans. Art need not be utilitarian to fulfill a useful purpose. God created places and creatures like the peacock, for their shear aesthetic beauty. However, when such beauty is combined with places we like to call home, it is something special. When this home is something deeply religious, then attachment is understandable. Jesus did not deny that the buildings associated with the temple precincts, and the temple itself were indeed great buildings, even spectacular. However, there is something supremely ugly when something so beautiful serves a contrary purpose. For that generation, the temple was symbolic of the state of their religion. Everything was outward, focused on impression, symbols of power and prestige, but as dead and empty as burial tombs. A religion intended to be based on a deeply personal relationship with a covenant making and covenant keeping God, one founded on grace and faith, had become symbols of sinful self-righteous pride, impudent pride against the Majestic Glory.

History had come to a turning point, what had become idols would be thrown to the ground through means which for some would blind them to the true author of their conflagration. He who was more than a Teacher, would be the instrument of destruction, but the true hope for those who desired the intended covenant relationship with the only mediator between God and man, the God-man Jesus the Christ. “As He went out of the temple,” was an act far more dramatic than his disciples then realized. These weren’t just stones, but it was the “manner of the stones,” the artistic work was equally impressive, and there were many ancillary constructions around there. Of course, they could not help but “see” these buildings, but they also would leave this temple, but behind them not one stone would be left upon another. They wouldn’t just be destroyed through the decay of time, these stones would be “thrown down.”  Yes, they were to wait for it. They would become stones, living-stones in the edifice of a far more glorious temple.

Mark 12:38-44 Sacrifice And Reward.

Mark 12:38-44 Sacrifice And Reward.

The scribes, the ones entrusted with delivering the word of God, used their position as a means of extracting veneration and wealth from the common people (vv. 38-40a Cf. Mt. 6:5; 23:1-7; Lk. 20:45-47). Even their prayers were pretentious, thinking that the longer the prayer the greater weight it carried (v. 40b Cf. Mt. 23:14). Jesus then turned to the example of the widow who gave all that she had for the work of the ministry (vv. 42-44). For the rich, what they gave was not a sacrifice, because they gave out of their abundance (v. 41). True giving, the kind with rewards that are lasting, is giving that is a sacrifice. It is about what one considers to be of real value, and then giving oneself to it completely. In the case of religion, only God is worthy of such a sacrifice.

Mark 12:35-37 David’s Son And Lord.

Mark 12:35-37 David’s Son And Lord.

Jesus just finished answering a scribe as to which command was the greatest, and in the process what it meant to be in the kingdom of God. For that scribe Jesus was but a teacher, not Messiah Yeshua, who was anointed in part to take away the sins of his people. This is the only way into the kingdom, keeping the commands is but a response of our love to his. Jesus here seeks to press this point concerning his personage. If he was but a mere man, albeit a good teacher, then his acceptance of the testimony of the Father that he was in fact his Son was either a lie or he was delusional (1:11), and so was his claim to be able to forgive sins (2:5-10). His anointing as the Christ, and his repeated claims to be such focused on his primary purpose. However, this invariably had to lead to one question – where did it ever say that the Messiah would be both God and man?

It is to this question that Jesus in fact appeals to the Hebrew scriptures, and the prophetic words of David himself (v. 35 Cf. Mt. 22:41-46; Lk. 20:41-44). It was acknowledged by all that the Messiah would be a son of David, but David also calls him Lord or Master – a position reserved for God alone. Not only this, but in David’s testimony we have a Trinitarian confession, for David spoke by the Spirit of the Father, the LORD of the covenant, and of his Lord, the mediator of that covenant (v. 36; II Sam. 23:2; Ps. 110:1). Jesus made reference to the two preceding passages, for a double witness. Therefore, Jesus asks the very simple question – how can he be both David’s son and his Lord? “The common people heard him gladly” (v. 37), because his teaching was clear and unambiguous. If one accepts the authority of holy scripture, then the only conclusion that one can come to is that he is both.

Mark 12:28-34 Love Commandments For His True Children.

Mark 12:28-34 Love Commandments For His True Children.

There is a convention, even in reformed circles, that when one speaks of the commandments that one is referring always to the Decalogue – the ten commandments. Some would even suggest that they somehow carry more authority than the rest of scripture, like Jesus words printed with red ink. However, in answering the question of the scribe – “Which is the first commandment of all?” (v. 28), Jesus did not turn to the Decalogue, but to the other writings through Moses. What Jesus quoted as the first commandment is found in Deuteronomy – a document of covenant renewal. So even though the Decalogue is repeated in this book, Jesus went to the books own summary, found in those words immediately following the Decalogue (v 29; 6:4-6 Cf. 1:18-20), which he combined with words a bit later (v. 30; 10:12), and much later (30:6), which amplified the first.

There is but one God. No doubt from the fall onward there have been and continue to be many man-made religions, but there has only ever been one God the Creator of all things, and the Redeemer of his elect (Cf. I Cor. 8:4-6). The keeping of all his commandments flowed and continues to flow out of this one chief reality – whether one is in a right relationship with this one and only God. Keeping all of his commandments is not the basis of the relationship – God’s sovereign will establishes that. Keeping all the commandments is evidence of a love returned (Dt. 10:13). As Moses’ writing came to a close he left this reminder that, it is the LORD alone who can circumcise a person’s heart – “to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (30:6). The prophets Jeremiah 32:39, Ezekiel 11:19 and others (Mic. 6:8), all reiterated the same fundamental truth.

The second commandment is like the first in that it is a command to love. The first commandment places the priority on the one and only God. Then the second directs us to love our neighbour, which all the other commandments and writings of holy scripture are but the expression of these two. So also with this second commandment, Jesus was not saying anything new, but rather he was again reiterating what had come through the first human author, moved by the Holy Spirit, namely Moses at Leviticus 19:18 (v. 31). These approaches by individuals to Jesus have a different flavor than those of the apostates in league with each other against the Christ. Although this scribe still appears to regard Jesus only as a Teacher, as do many still today, he nevertheless had a proper respect for his understanding of holy scripture (vv. 32-33a).

In fact, this scribe understood that these commandments reiterated by Jesus, were of greater importance than the ceremonial legislation. The latter, whether this scribe understood it at this time or not, would come to an end with the once and for all sacrifice of Christ himself – his finished work. This scribe in fact affirmed that which immediately preceded the Decalogue as its true motivation, namely what we find at Deuteronomy 4:39 – “Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” Furthermore, this scribe understood that the sacrificial system in and of itself never was intended to actually be a meritorious system (v. 33 b Cf. Hos. 6:6). However, the fact that this scribe had not acknowledged Jesus as more than a teacher meant he was not far from the kingdom, but he also wasn’t in it (v. 34).

Mark 12:18-27 The Scriptures And The Power Of God.

Mark 12:18-27 The Scriptures And The Power Of God.

From the time Jesus’ authority was questioned, and the apostate religious leadership challenged him on it, said authorities took their turns in seeking to test him (v. 18 Cf. 11:27-33; 12:13). It is important to keep in mind that none of these encounters was a genuine pursuit of truth, but only to see how they might find something on which they could falsely claim that Jesus was in violation of both religious and civil law. The Sadduccees, who did not believe in the resurrection, like many apostates today, raised an example which was meant to mock anyone who would believe such a thing. Since they knew the law, they knew that it was incumbent upon a man to marry his brother’s wife if he died without children (v. 19; Dt. 25:5; Lk. 20:27-38; Acts 23:8), they pose the hypothetical issue of a woman who had several husbands but no children at her death (vv. 20-23). Since they also knew that the creation ideal was one man and one woman, they thought that they were putting Jesus in a bind (Gen. 2:24).

Jesus’ answer to the Sadduccees is very revealing, not just for the situation that they raised, but for our understanding of the biblical faith as a whole. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Are you not mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?’” (v. 24) The first point here would surely have disturbed them greatly, because it was the very issue of the authority of the Scriptures and what they taught that for them was in question with Jesus, and all those who believed in the resurrection of the dead. The many encounters with angels in the old testament testified to the presence of many beings in the heavenly realms, but never is there an indication that they procreate (v. 25 Cf. I Cor. 15:42, 49, 52). So the question about human participation in this afterlife is really one of whether resurrection is spoken of and made possible. Of course, anyone familiar with the Scriptures would know that Enoch did not die, but rather was taken to be with the Lord (Gen. 5:24).

If there was no life after death, it would hardly be a reward for God to have taken Enoch when he did. So the scriptural knowledge possessed by the Sadduccees was more than wanting. As Jesus pointed out, God is “not the God of the dead but the God of the living” (v. 26; Ex. 3:6, 15 Cf. Rev. 20:12-13). Among the great ‘I am’ statements there is this double affirmation – that God is eternal, the ‘I am’ not just the ‘I was’ or ‘I will be’. There is no beginning with God, and no end. However, with man there is a beginning, from the Creator. However, those who are in faithful covenant with him will live with him forever. However, there is the equally important point concerning the power of God. For the Sadducees, and the other apostates, religion was man-centred. They did not see the need for, nor acknowledge the presence of, the truth that the power of God was necessary for anyone to be in a right relationship with him. The gospel is the necessary power of God for salvation to all who believe, of which the resurrection is but one outcome (Rom. 1:16-17).

Mark 12:13-17 What Is Lawful?

Mark 12:13-17 What Is Lawful?

Not liking the fact that Jesus likened them to wicked vinedressers, the apostate religious leadership sent some Pharisees and Herodians to test him (v. 13). These two groups were enemies in most things, except that they both accepted the Roman occupation. The enemy of their enemy became the Pharisees’ friends. As early as 3:6 these two parties had been plotting how they might destroy Jesus. Their words were nothing but empty flattery, and Jesus knowing their hypocrisy, asked them point blank why they were testing him (vv. 14-15). Paying taxes to Caesar came to the surface for anyone questioning the legitimacy of Roman rule. Jesus statement that one ought to render to Caesar what is his, and to God that which is his, apparently was not something they had expected, as they marveled at his answer (vv. 16-17). There were and are many who see a conflict between giving to Caesar and giving to God. However, Caesar stands for the political realm, and every society has its political masters, who themselves serve the Master whether they acknowledge this or not. Therefore, to render to them what is their due is something which God himself requires. However, this does not mean that the political leadership can extract that which is not theirs. They are due only that which God says they are due.

Mark 12:1-12 The Parable Of The Wicked Vinedressers.

Mark 12:1-12 The Parable Of The Wicked Vinedressers.

It is no coincidence that immediately after the apostate religious leadership questioned Jesus’ authority, that “He began to speak to them in parables” (v. 1a). The parables were intended to reveal truth to some and hide it from others. The vineyard here was the LORD’s covenanted people, and the vinedressers were the religious leadership who were entrusted with guiding and protecting them. The goal was for the people to maintain their close covenantal relationship with their LORD, evidenced by bearing fruit. However, every time the owner of the vineyard sent a servant to reap a harvest, such as the LORD sending his prophets, the wicked vinedressers, the apostate religious leadership, would beat the servants and send them away empty handed. Finally, the owner, that is the Father, sent his only Son, but as in the parable, they would ultimately kill him.

Jesus asks and then answers what it is the owner, that is the Father, would ultimately do to these wicked vinedressers. The wicked vinedressers would be destroyed, but the vineyard would be preserved and entrusted to others. Jesus came not to establish a new religion, but to purge the LORD’s covenanted people of an apostate leadership, and fulfill what had been spoken and written in the law and the prophets (Mt. 5:17-20). Jesus was the stone which the builders of the physical temple had rejected, but he became the chief cornerstone of a temple made without hands, that is not the work of men. “This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (v. 11; Ps. 118:22-23). True to the parable, the apostate leadership sought to lay hands on Jesus but they did not because they feared the people, who regarded him as a prophet. They feared men instead of God.

Mark 11:27-33 Jesus Authority Is Questioned.

Mark 11:27-33 Jesus Authority Is Questioned.

Jesus reentry into Jerusalem and the temple led the chief priest, the scribes, and the elders to question him on where he presumed he had the authority to be doing what he was doing. However, before he would answer their question, they would need to answer his question which regarded their whole relationship to the authority. Their answer showed that they really had no respect for the same authority by which John had acted. They really believed that John only acted on his own. However, where they should have opposed him for not acting on divine authority, instead they feared the people. It is also clear that they believed that Jesus was also just acting on his own. But they no doubt feared the people who believed he was a prophet at the very least, just like John. These religious leaders were apostates who had rejected the authority of God’s word, the word which testified to the coming and activity of both John and Jesus. As Jesus will point out in the next parable, they were really wicked vinedressers, occupying their positions only so they might pillage the people whom they kept in the dark (Mt. 21:23-27; Lk. 20:1-8).

Mark 11:25-26 Prayer And Forgiveness.

Mark 11:25-26 Prayer And Forgiveness.

Forgiveness for others is an essential element of prayer, even as the Lord’s prayer states, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt. 6:12; Lk. 11:4). This shows how prayer always goes beyond a simple expression to God. How we thus relate to others affects how God relates to us (Mt. 6:14-15). The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates this important point. Sometimes it is actual debts, but always it involves forgiveness for some fault (Mt. 18:21-35). However, it is also true that we are only able to truly forgive others because the Lord has forgiven us. Paul made the point that those in the church must “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32 Cf. Col. 3:13). Although verse 26 is lacking in certain ancient manuscripts, it does echo what we find at Matthew 6:14-15. The latter refers to those who already know God as their Father, so rather than referring to conversion, or that initial forgiveness, these verses likely refer to a backslidden condition of a believer who refuses to forgive another.