The Gospel of Mark 5

A Study Course By Reverend Christopher Cooke

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The Passion Part 1

Tom Wright commented that the extreme political turbulence of the last centuries BC and the first century AD in the Holy Land is perhaps only matched by that of twentieth century Europe.

Take for instance Pressburg in Slovakia. This was a city with a German name in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Just before the First World War, its population was about 40% German, 40% Hungarian and 15% Slovak. It was thrown into the First World War on the side of Germany and was thus defeated. After the war, it was separated from Austria and Hungary which became small independent states. It was joined to Bohemia to form Czechoslovakia. The city’s name was changed to Bratislava. Czechs and Slovaks moved in and the Hungarian population was greatly reduced. Hitler’s German forces invaded Czechoslovakia and the Allies bombed Bratislava during the Second World War. At the end of hostilities, most of the German population of Bratislava was evacuated back to Germany. It found itself behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Bloc. Eventually, Czechoslovakia got its freedom and then joined the European Union. Since then, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have split into two separate states and Bratislava is now the capital city of Slovakia. We could do this with any number of mid-European areas. Poland has had a particularly tragic history like the Holy Land.

At the moment, there is a documentary programme on television about Berlin in 1945. This is contrasted with the bustling prosperous city of a few years earlier. At that time, British cities were suffering under the blitz. In 1945, Berlin was being bombed and then it was overrun by Soviet troops. Berliners loyal to Hitler must have felt it was the end of the world.

Chapter 8:31 – The First Prediction.

This follows on from Peter acclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. It must have been a profound shock for the disciples to hear what Jesus said next. Once again, Jesus chooses the term “Son of Man” to describe himself. Jesus says that great suffering, rejection and death await him. He says that he will rise again. The inevitably of the cross is mentioned on five occasions in this section of the Gospel: here, the two other predictions below as well as 9:9-12 and 10:45. The first is in the tailpiece to the Transfiguration account. The second is part of the discussion following James and John’s request to sit at his right and left in heaven. Jesus says we must be servants and slaves and: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

According to Mark, this will be “after three days”. Matthew and Luke correct this in their accounts to “on the third day” which is what indeed did happen. The expression “after three days” can, according to Morna Hooker, mean ‘a short time later’. That Mark is slightly less precise here may indicate that this was the original version of what Jesus said. However, Jesus was sure that suffering was in front of him. After all, Jesus has seen what happened to John the Baptist. This comes to a climax in Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane (which we will look at in the next session).

The more-than-a-prophet Jesus had a good understanding of what might be in front of him in the coming weeks, but he may not have known the precise details. Similarly, he was certain that the Jewish nation was heading for disaster but would not have known the details (see below).

Chapter 9:30-32 – The Second Prediction.

Between this prediction and the previous one, Simon Peter, James and John have witnessed the Transfiguration. Here, Jesus says he “is to be betrayed into human hands”. This obviously references Judas’ betrayal. Morna Hooker translates the phrase: “is to be delivered into the hands of men”. This does refer to the betrayal but also to the underlying point made by Christopher Evans: other men will determine what happened to Jesus and Jesus, himself, is a passive recipient.

Again, we notice the reaction of the disciples. They “did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him”. Morna Hooker writes that their reaction is similar to that when Jesus performs miracles. They are full of incomprehension and fear. Craig Evans argues that the disciples feared to ask further questions which might result in an explanation that would only confirm the grim pronouncement. The disciples’ fear and ignorance contrasts sharply with Jesus’ self-assurance and composure.

Chapter 10:32-34 – The Third Prediction.

Dick France points out that this prediction is more detailed than the others. There will be an official trial. The Roman authorities will take over from the Jewish religious leaders. Mocking, spitting and flogging would take place, but it is not clear whether this will be during and following the Jewish trial or the Roman one. Morna Hooker believes here that Mark could be including some details of what actually happened and be putting them back into Jesus’ original words.

Again, the initial response is fear and amazement, and this heightens the sense of drama (Craig Evans). It is clear the disciples do not fully appreciate all this because it is followed by James and John requesting to sit on Jesus’ right and left in heaven.

“Mark’s three passion predictions serve to remind his readers not only that Jesus’ death and resurrection were part of God’s purpose, but that Jesus himself was totally obedient to God’s will”. Morna Hooker

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem – 11:1-11.

Up to this point Jesus has been very keen to deflate Messianic expectations. However, here he enters Jerusalem as the Messiah. Jesus’ welcome is very enthusiastic however there may be some caveats.

Jesus enters Jerusalem in some style. As Dick France notes, this is the only occasion in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus rides an animal rather than walking. Pilgrims would normally enter the Holy City on foot.

And what is this animal? We normally envisage a donkey, but, as Craig Evans points out, Mark describes it as a ‘polos’ which could be a young donkey but is probably a colt. His readers would have understood it to be a young horse. Morna Hooker in her translation uses ‘foal’. (It is Matthew’s Gospel that mentions a donkey as one of the animals). Morna Hooker argues that a Jewish king might ride a donkey anyway. It depended on the king’s intention. A king might ride a donkey or colt if he came in peace but if he were going out to war, it would be an impressive horse in its prime. So, Jesus’ statement is, at least, ambiguous: He is the Messiah but he comes in peace.

The people who are getting excited at Jesus’ entry are probably not the people of Jerusalem. They may have taken a rather dim view of this Galilean upstart. The people shouting “Hosanna” are, as Dick France and others argue, fellow Galilean pilgrims who have travelled with Jesus up from Jericho. “Hosanna” means ‘save us’ although it had also become a shout of praise. The disciples may well have arranged the cutting of branches and the laying of clothes on the road. King David had entered Jerusalem to claim it as his new capital city. These people believe Jesus is walking in David’s steps and is a new Messiah. Many would have hoped that this would be the start of a revolt against the Romans and mirror what happened under Judas Maccabaeus.

“So, Jesus, the prophet from the north, throws down the gauntlet to the authorities of the capital city. Will they recognise in this popular but already suspect teacher from Galilee ‘the one who comes in the name of the Lord’?” Dick France

Tom Wright and Morna Hooker agree that Jesus’ first visit to the Temple is a bit of an anti-climax. However, it does leave the reader and/or listener in suspense. It is far more likely that Jesus went to the Temple and surveyed what was going on. Then he returns to Bethany for the night where he no doubt pondered upon and prayed about what he saw. The city would have been jammed pack and so many pilgrims spent their nights in the nearby villages. In contrast, Matthew and Luke have Jesus going straight into the incident in the Temple. Matthew also writes that the people of Jerusalem were stirred by Jesus’ entry.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple and the Fig Tree – 11:12-25.

This is another of Mark’s sandwiches. What Dick France describes as this “Holy Violence” in the Temple is sandwiched between the instalments about the Fig Tree. This is a strange event. Craig Evans argues that Jesus was hoping to find edible buds on the fig tree (which can appear in spring). The figs themselves would not appear to much later in summer. He is disappointed just to find leaves. Then Jesus condemns the barren fig tree.

The fig tree probably does not represent Israel. The context suggests that it represents the temple establishment.

The stalls of the traders were set up before the Passover in ‘the Court of the Gentiles’. This was the huge open area surrounding the inner courts of the sanctuary itself. This was a place of general concourse and not a worship area. They were set up with the approval of the temple authorities to enable pilgrims to change their money into the special coinage demanded by those temple authorities as well as to buy the animals for sacrifice.

Some people think that Jesus was protesting about commercialization. In this case, Jesus wanted to clean up the Temple. Tom Wright comments that this is a suspiciously modern attitude. Mark carefully places the incident between the two halves of the fig tree story in which he curses the fig tree. So, this was not a spontaneous expression of disgust (as the Gospels of Matthew and Luke might suggest with Jesus acting immediately on his arrival in Jerusalem). Rather like the entry into Jerusalem the previous day, this was a defiant gesture. It would have recalled prophecies by Malachi and Zechariah. The restoration of the Temple was one of the tasks expected from the Messiah (as did Judas Maccabaeus). Tom Wright therefore sees the ‘cleansing’ of the Temple as a dramatic acted out parable.

“Now supposing you were convinced that this building was shortly to be devastated, say in an earthquake, or by enemy action. And supposing you believed that this was God’s judgment upon it, because the rulers of your country were wicked beyond repair. And supposing you felt obliged to tell people – to warn them solemnly, to give them a sign of what was to come, to urge them to change their ways while there was still time… This was Jesus’ way of announcing God’s condemnation of the Temple itself and all that it had become in the national life of Israel”. Tom Wright

This is rather like some of the acted-out judgements that the prophet Jeremiah performed.

The temple authorities were left with little choice but to oppose such actions because they undermined the existence of the Temple.

The next morning, Jesus and the disciples pass the fig tree that Jesus had cursed. They observe that it had withered to its very roots. Jesus understands this as a matter of faith. Jesus has destroyed a tree, but his followers will be able to remove mountains. They must pray with faith, and they must forgive others as they pray.

“The cursing of the fig tree… and the discovery of its withered condition here, surrounding the temple action… foreshadow the temple’s judgment and doom. If the temple establishment has no fruit to offer God, that is, no more than the fig tree had to offer Jesus, then it, too, is in danger of destruction”. Craig Evans

Chapter 13.

Hugh Anderson writes: “With chapter 13 we appear to enter a different world of thought and expression from the rest of the Gospel”. Nevertheless, each end seems to be tied into the context. Of course, it could be something that Mark has taken over from elsewhere. Ernest Best argues Moses can be seen as an archetype for Jesus which points to the prophetic tradition. So, if you take the line of Tom Wright, Dick France and Craig Evans in seeing Jesus in the line of the great prophets, then it may not be so different from the rest of the content of the Gospel.

Dick France argues that many commentators seem to argue that Jesus begins with the events AD70 and then goes to an indeterminate future before reverting to his own day.

Of course, it is conceivable that Jesus’ teaching was not delivered on the one occasion as portrayed in Mark’s Gospel. However, we have tried to avoid such flip-flopping and have attempted to interpret this chapter as Jesus foreseeing what may well happen in the next hundred years or so.

We consider now the two most recent commentators. Morna Hooker thoroughly considers that ‘apocalyptic’ or ‘revelation’ element of this chapter. She concludes that Mark is employing imagery current in his day. This seems to suggest that she thinks this is a Markan creation and that it does not go back to Jesus. However, she does write: “Mark 13 repeats, therefore, Mark’s persistent message that the path of discipleship involves suffering, and it is those who follow this way faithfully who will be vindicated”. The message about suffering is surely part of Jesus’ overall message.

Craig Evans argues that this chapter flows naturally on from what has happened previously. He also argues that there is a fairly consistent argument here whereas Morna Hooker thinks there are opposing tendencies. He also sees connections with the prophetic witness and judgments.

Verses 1-8: The Destruction of the Temple Foretold.

It would seem, not unnaturally, the Galilean disciples are in awe of the Temple. Indeed, they might, as Craig Evans suggests, think they might rule Israel from some of these very buildings. But Jesus predicts that the Temple would be destroyed. Jesus does not really answer the disciples’ question about when this will happen. Jesus is interpreting the times and extrapolating likely consequences rather than predicting the details of future events which he does not know.

Indeed, Jesus was right because Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans in AD70.

Birth pangs can be terrible but they do usher in, in most cases, a new life. The destruction of the Temple will necessarily bring in new life and a new relationship with God. The stewards of the Temple will find themselves redundant and

  • Christians will find a new relationship with God through the Son of Man.
  • Jews will remodel their faith on the Scriptures as taught in synagogues.

I suspect the disciples had only a vague glimmer of understanding about Jesus’ teaching here. And we are still discussing what it means.

Verses 9-13: Persecution Foretold.

Jesus was clearly right to talk about suffering and even persecution which was to mark the Christian experience for the next three hundred years.

Again, this must have been alarming for the disciples. The truly magnificent phenomenon was that Christianity spread and spread despite this.

The AD50s and 60s were a particularly turbulent time politically for the Holy Land and it would be easy to be distracted from the task of spreading the Gospel by being cowed or dispirited.

Dennis Nineham argues that Mark was written for a community which was already unpopular with non-Christians. Hugh Anderson thinks Mark’s Gospel reflects a community experiencing incipient persecution and is one that is agitated by great theological turbulence particularly over the true nature of Jesus’ authority.

Verses 14-23: The Desolating Sacrilege.

The Roman Emperors were increasingly making claims of deity rather similar to Antiochus Epiphanes. Indeed, after AD70, Jerusalem was no more and had become Aelia Capitolina.

It does seem that the followers of Jesus did flee Jerusalem in time before the siege took effect. There are many references to Galilee in the Gospel. It is, at least possible, that many of them fled to Galilee to regroup.

Although, the Zealots, as a party, did not emerge until after AD70, there were zealots and revolutionaries at the time of Jesus. One of the Twelve is described as ‘Simon the Zealot’ and he may, possibly with Judas Iscariot, have sympathies with those who wanted to overturn the Roman Empire in the Holy Land by force. Barabbas who was released in place of Jesus, seems to have been involved in an insurrection against the Romans. These could be seen as false messiahs and false prophets. In AD132-136 Bar Kokhba led a further revolt against the Romans largely because of the transformation of Jerusalem into Aelia Capitolina. A temple dedicated to Jupiter was erected on the site of the Jewish Temple. This revolt was also a disaster.

Verses 24-27: The Coming of the Son of Man.

There is, no doubt, that the earliest writers in the New Testament, including Paul and Mark, expected Jesus to return as Son of Man in the near future. As time went on, other writers had their own views. John’s Gospel has a rather sophisticated position of “both and”. Jesus has come as Son of Man but there will be a greater revelation when he comes again. Mark’s position may be similar. Paul often writes about being “in Christ” and that seems to involve communion with Jesus and with God. Luke in his Gospel and Acts relates the coming of the Holy Spirit. To be inspired by the Spirit is to be in communion with Jesus and God. This is one of the most debated questions in theology.

Verses 28-37: The Lesson of the Fig Tree and the Necessity for Watchfulness.

It would seem that the disciples and the early Christians did heed Jesus’ teaching here. They saw what was happening and escaped from Jerusalem in time. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple must have felt like ‘the end of the world’ for those who lived through it. The trenches of World War I, the Holocaust, the fall of cities in World War II and the bombing of Hiroshima offer horrible parallels.

Verse 31 is of universal importance: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”.

Questions

The Passion Part 1

We have already seen how the Passion plays such a prominent role in terms of space in Mark’s Gospel.

We will now look at this wonderful achievement more closely.

I have always been greatly influenced by my teacher Christopher Evans. He has studied and written about the four Passion accounts – or, rather, three accounts.

As with everything so far, Mark’s Passion account is the first and the original.

Indeed, so impressive was it, Matthew hardly changes the overall structure and viewpoint and so we can say that Matthew’s is a variation of Mark’s Passion.

Matthew omits a few things of which he cannot see the relevance. He also clarifies the role of the Jewish religious leaders and the distinctions within them. Matthew was probably writing, later, in the Holy Land and much of his Gospel is portrayed as a debate with the Pharisees etc.

Luke changes Mark’s Passion a good deal more. His main concern was the relationship between Jesus’ followers and the Roman Empire. Indeed, he was to write the Acts of the Apostles as a second volume.

John’s account is largely independent and is at variance with Mark over the precise timings of Jesus’ death.

Mark’s Passion is full of both mystery and realism.
Luke’s Passion is more about pathos and humanity.
John’s Passion centres on the majesty and the irony with Jesus’ glorification on the cross.
Christopher Evans

Christopher Evans makes another important point. We usually call it the Passion because of the suffering Jesus went through for us.

However, Professor Evans argues that there is another root for the word. There is a Greek word for “to do” but there is no passive version. Instead, “paschein” is used and from this we can also get the word passion.

“Up to the arrest of Jesus, Jesus seems to be active and in charge. At his arrest, he allows himself to be handed over and men are permitted to do what they would to him. In Mark’s Passion, Jesus is patient although God is mysteriously active in all this.” Christopher Evans

Mark uses an important device to link the first part of his Gospel with the Passion. That is the Three Predictions of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Matthew and Luke follow Mark with these predictions but slightly change the first.

We have looked at the first passage before when considering the role of the disciples (in the last session) and so we will concentrate on the key verse.

Chapter 8:31 – The First Prediction.

This passage follows on immediately from when Simon Peter acclaims Jesus as the Christ/the Messiah. It is followed by Peter wishing to protect Jesus which earns the rebuke: “Get behind, Satan!”

How does Jesus describe himself? Why does he do this?

What does he say about what lies in front of him?

What does he say about the resurrection?

Is Mark exactly correct about this latter prediction?

Matthew and Luke change “after three days” with “on the third day”. Who is right?

Chapter 9:30-32 – The Second Prediction.

Between this prediction and the previous one, Simon Peter, James and John have witnessed the Transfiguration.

Are there any significant differences here from the first prediction?

What is your reaction when you are told an important piece of news a second time?

How good are we at listening?

What is the reaction of the disciples?

Jesus has told his disciples many parables which were stories that were not necessarily factually true. Are the disciples having difficulty sorting out what is story and what is preparation?

Chapter 10:33-34 – The Third Prediction.

Are there any significant differences here from the first two predictions?

This is followed by James and John asking for the places of honour in heaven and Blind Bartimaeus. These are examples of bad faith and good faith.

Then we enter the Passion proper.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem – 11:1-11.

This is such a famous passage and perhaps we have become too familiar with it. Matthew and Luke largely follow Mark’s account. Matthew quotes scripture (from Isaiah 62 and Zechariah 9) but in so doing, suggests Jesus is astride two animals! (Matthew 21:7).

It is important to remember large numbers of pilgrims would be arriving in Jerusalem at this time for the Passover celebrations. All those who had made the long journey from Galilee would be arriving at this time. Many would have journeyed together from Jericho and climbed up to Jerusalem.

Tom Wright points out that the Passover celebrations were very much associated with freedom and the kingdom of God. Two hundred years earlier, Judas Maccabaeus had defeated the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes who had defiled the Temple. Judas Maccabaeus had then cleansed and rededicated the Temple.

What is Jesus’ welcome like?

Who is welcoming him?

Who do they think Jesus is?

Why does Jesus do this?

Was there anything unexpected in Jesus’ version of Entry into Jerusalem?

How orchestrated is all this?

What is Jesus doing?

What happens when Jesus goes to the Temple? Is this an anti-climax?

Jesus Cleanses the Temple and the Fig Tree – 11:12-25.

There were many synagogues but only one Temple. The Temple complex of buildings and courtyards covered some thirty acres. We must remember that according to Mark’s Gospel, the visit the previous day was Jesus’ first visit to the Temple.

This is another example of Mark’s envelopes.

The Temple incident is encased by the Fig Tree incident.

Why does Jesus curse the fig tree when it was not time for figs?

Craig Evans argues that Jesus was looking for the edible buds which will signify that the fig tree will fruit.

Still, why does Jesus curse it?

What is Jesus doing in the Temple?

Why is he doing this?

What is the reaction of the chief priests and scribes?

And what about that fig tree?

Chapter 13.

Norman Perrin takes this chapter as the key to understanding the whole Gospel. Indeed, part of this chapter is set for St Mark’s Day in Common Worship. The Gospel of Mark, according to Norman Perrin, is an apocalyptic drama. I think he has got this completely wrong and I do not think scholars would have come to that judgement if the later Book of Revelation had not been written. Ernest Best thinks this chapter was written to deflate apocalyptic expectations.

Looking at Mark’s Gospel in its own right, we would like many commentators, including Dick France and Tom Wright (both in his Commentary and his magisterial ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’), see this chapter more in the line of the great Old Testament prophets who prophesied calamity if the people and the nation of the Jews did not change their ways. It is less about the end of the world and more about the impending calamity. Jesus, like the prophets, could read the times. If you continue to do this, then this may well happen…

Now we know that the calamity did take place.The Jewish revolt began in the mid-60s and was ruthlessly put down by Vespasian and his son, Titus, in the summer of AD70. There are parallels in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Luke clearly rewrites it with the Roman victory and suppression in mind. There is a great debate whether Mark’s account was written after AD70 or shortly before that in AD66-69 say. Of the most recent commentators, Morna Hooker favours after AD70 and Craig Evans before AD70.

Catastrophe and calamity were well known to the Jewish people before Jesus’ time.

  • Of course, the Passover celebrated the escape of the Israelites from Egypt where they had been enslaved.
  • Amos, Hosea and the first Isaiah proclaimed at a time when the small kingdoms of Israel and Judah were threatened by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC. Judah survived as a vassal state, but Israel was totally incorporated into the Assyrian Empire and its peoples were dispersed across the Empire. People from elsewhere in the Empire were resettled in Samaria. This is one reason why Jews considered Samaritans were so alien. The poorer Jews probably remained. Micah, at this time, predicted the Temple would be destroyed.
  • Jeremiah and Ezekiel proclaimed during the 6th Century BC when Judah was threatened by the Babylonian Empire (which had replaced the Assyrian one). The leading people, including Jeremiah, were taken off to prison camps ‘by the waters of Babylon’. Jeremiah predicted the Temple would be destroyed. When the remaining Jews rose up again a few years later, the Temple and the city including its walls were destroyed. When the Persians replaced the Babylonians, they allowed some Jews to return to Jerusalem, but it was many years before the Temple and the walls were rebuilt.
  • Then there were the Greek and Egyptian invasions. Judas Maccabaeus established an independent country (see below). However, this came to an end in 63BC when Pompey captured Jerusalem for Rome and Judah was added to the Roman Province of Syria.

Chapter 13, I feel, should be read against this background. Tom Wright in his magisterial tome ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’ argues that Jesus is in the great line of prophets here. In fact, the destruction and death of AD70 resembles previous calamities and Jesus’ words of warning seemed to have been justified by hindsight.

Verses 1-8: The Destruction of the Temple Foretold.

The first Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians. The second Temple was the much more modest affair built under Persian rule. Herod the Great had started the rebuilding during his reign as a client king of Rome at the turn of the millennium. His building work was so extensive that it was less of a restoration and more like a third Temple and it was vast. It had not been completed by Jesus’ day and, indeed, had not been completed by AD70 when it was destroyed. Now only the West (or ‘Wailing’) Wall survives.

How do Jesus’ fellow Galilean disciples view the Temple?

What does Jesus say about the Temple?

Was Jesus right?

How does this relate to the incident when Jesus drove the traders out of the Temple?

What are the birth pangs?

Do you think the disciples understood Jesus here?

Verses 9-13: Persecution Foretold.

  • Jesus was about to be killed at the instigation of the Jews but at the hand of the Romans.
  • Not long afterwards, Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews under the auspices of Saul/Paul who was persecuting the followers of Jesus.
  • Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome during the persecution under Emperor Nero of Christians in 64AD.
  • James, the brother of Jesus, emerged as a leader of the Jerusalem Church. He seems to have been killed in the disturbances of the Jewish Revolt but before Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • What of the countless men and women we do not know about?
  • Most commentators think that Mark’s Church had experienced some form of persecution itself.
  • And then there were the later persecutions of the Roman Empire.

How do you think the disciples receive this news?

Was Jesus right?

Verses 14-23: The Desolating Sacrilege.

“The desolating sacrilege” is a reference back in history and there is a link with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In 167BC, King Antiochus IV (who was of Syrian descent) desecrated the Temple. He tried to introduce Greek culture and he set up an idolatrous statue of himself in the Temple. He is often called ‘Epiphanes’ because he saw himself as godlike. There is a reference to the “Desolating Sacrilege” in the Book of Daniel. This is what sparked the successful revolution led by Judas Maccabaeus.

Why might Jesus be concerned that a similar desecration as that of Antiochus Epiphanes would occur in the near future?

This section does seem to foreshadow a great calamity as in the past. Of course, AD70 lived up to these events in many ways. Fleeing for one’s life is an important course of action and may have been used in the past. It does seem that the Christians vacated Jerusalem in the early years of the Jewish Revolt (AD67-69). However, most Jews left it too long.

And, notice verse 18.

Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight which even Jesus did not possess.

We know that Titus encircled the city and the end came in the summer of AD70. So, there was little chance to flee away at that stage and the siege occurred in summer not winter.

Titus flattened the city except for the three great towers and the Temple was destroyed. In its place of the Jewish holy city, the Romans built Aelia Capitolina. The city became a Roman and pagan colony.

Did the Christians heed Jesus’ advice to flee?

With the creation of Aelia Capitolina, did Jesus get it right in the slightly longer term?

We also remember that many Christians lost their lives in the first four centuries AD because they refused worship the Emperor as God.

What do you make of the false messiahs and false prophets?

Verses 24-27: The Coming of the Son of Man.

There is no doubt that Mark, like Paul, expected the Son of Man to return very shortly. This seems to be part of Jesus’ proclamation. There are, undoubtedly, more correspondences with the Book of Daniel in these verses. However, the quotes come from Isaiah 13 and 34. Notice that even Jesus does not claim to know when this day will be (verse 32).

Up until now, Jerusalem has been the focus of the faith. What happens when Jerusalem is no more?

Was Jesus wrong in this prediction?

Or has Jesus come already in some way?

Verses 28-37: The Lesson of the Fig Tree and the Necessity for Watchfulness.

A fig tree appeared either side of the Temple incident. Once again, Jesus uses a fig tree but this time for teaching. Jesus says his disciples must learn from the fig tree, the lessons he is teaching. They need to watch events carefully and react appropriately.

Did the disciples (and early Christians) discern the times leading up to the Jewish Revolt?

Earlier, we looked at Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. That ended with the vineyard being entrusted to different tenants.

Jesus may have been prophesying about things that came to pass forty years later.

However, does this have an impact on us now?

Do we need to be watchful and interpret the times?

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