Mark 13 (New Living Translation)
Jesus Foretells the Future
1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”
2 Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
This temple was originally rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 6:15), but greatly expanded and improved by Herod. It was the center of Jewish life for almost a thousand years — so much so, that it was customary to swear by the temple (Matthew 23:16), and speaking against the temple could be considered blasphemy (Acts 6:13).
After Herod’s work, the temple was huge — nearly 500 yards long and 400 yards wide. Herod’s rebuilding started in 19 B.C., and was not completed until A.D. 63, taking more than eighty years. The magnificent temple compound was finished only seven years before it was destroyed.
The beauty of the ancient temple is well documented. The Jewish historian Josephus says that the temple was covered on the outside with gold plates that were so brilliant that when the sun shone on them it blinded any observer. Where there wasn’t gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that strangers, from a distance, thought there was snow on the temple.
The comment of the disciples – see what manner of stones and what buildings are here – is especially appropriate given the massive stones Herod used in building the temple. Today, tourists can see some of these massive stones, at least the ones used to build merely the retaining wall for the temple compound. These cut, quarried blocks of limestone are so big – some are 50 feet wide, 25 feet high, and 15 feet deep – that modern construction cranes could not lift them. Archaeologists are still not completely certain how these stones were cut, transported, and placed with such precision that they don’t even need mortar.
As great as the temple was, Jesus never hesitated to claim that He was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:5). For many Jews of that day, the temple had become an idol — it subtly began to mean more to the people than God Himself meant. The temple was a good thing, but good things can become the worst idols; and sometimes God sours even good things that we allow to become our idols. God is in the habit of destroying our idols.
3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, 4 “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 6 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 7 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 8 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
9 “When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 10 For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. 11 But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
This last verse, sad to say, has been so mis-used in the church! The right words to speak will be given in an emergency or a difficult situation, Jesus says. It is not an excuse for our own poor preparation.
12 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 13 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Galatians 6:9 (English Standard Version)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
14 “The day is coming when you will see the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing where he should not be.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. 15 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. 16 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. 17 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. 18 And pray that your flight will not be in winter. 19 For there will be greater anguish in those days than at any time since God created the world. And it will never be so great again. 20 In fact, unless the Lord shortens that time of calamity, not a single person will survive. But for the sake of his chosen ones he has shortened those days.
21 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 23 Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!
24 “At that time, after the anguish of those days,
the sun will be darkened,
the moon will give no light,
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before. I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)
THE SON OF MAN
One of the most enigmatic phrases that ever came from Jesus’ lips is his unique name for himself, the “Son of Man.” Over eighty times in the Gospels, Jesus uses this phrase in the third-person to refer to himself. What does he mean?
Many Christians have assumed that Jesus is showing great humility by using this phrase. Though divine, Jesus relates to our human condition. Indeed, “son of man” in Hebrew and Aramaic can both be used in an idiomatic way to refer to a human being in general. When associated with Jesus, the phrase could also have pointed to the fact that he is the true fulfillment of what a human being was supposed to be.
Jesus sometimes uses “Son of Man” in an ordinary way. But more often he uses it in a very special sense, making bold claims about his messianic mission. To catch what he is saying, we need to understand how the Jewish people of Jesus’ time interpreted a key messianic prophecy from the book of Daniel about an enigmatic figure called the “Son of Man.” One night Daniel had a vivid dream in which he saw a great, heavenly court in session. Suddenly, he saw “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” Immediately this exalted figure approached the Ancient of Days and was “given authority, glory and sovereign power.” Daniel goes on to say that “all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
In the first century, this passage was universally understood as a reference to the coming Messiah. The book of Daniel predicted the rise of great kingdoms, which would eventually fall to the authority of one supreme king, a king who would rule forever. The pinnacle of Daniel’s prophecy was this scene in which a humanlike figure enters God’s throne room, is crowned, and then sits down on the throne to reign.
Jesus also speaks of himself as the Son of Man who will come in glory on the clouds, a clear reference to this passage from Daniel. His audience would know exactly what he is saying . . .
Once we begin to hear Jesus’ words as though we are his contemporaries, steeped in an understanding of the Scriptures and the cultural context in which they were spoken, the power of his claims becomes both obvious and striking. The enigmatic phrase “Son of Man” becomes a multifaceted summary of Christ’s entire redemptive mission, speaking of his humanity, his coming glory, and his role as Judge and Savior of all the earth. No wonder so many of his listeners responded with either awe or anger at his words!
28 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 33 And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!
34 “The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. 35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. 36 Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. 37 I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!”
HERE is one of my favorites from Hillsong — “Hosanna.” Christ is coming, and won’t that be a glorious day!
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.