The Corridor: Mark 13

The Corridor

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mark 13

Mark 13 may give us the best window into Mark’s audience and perhaps explains why our oldest gospel account was likely written. Most scholars agree that Mark was written during the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-70 AD). This context should give us an appreciation for Mark’s gospel as we start to understand the political tensions that were at play. During this time of violent persecution many of the original disciples of Jesus and Apostles were being martyred, the loss of these eyewitness "authorities" created the need for another, reliable "authority," such as a written account.

The Way of Jesus that Mark promotes as he recounts the events of Jesus’ life was never more relevant and perhaps also as difficult to walk in. In Chapter 13 Mark uses the teachings of Jesus to encouraging his community not to participate in the rebel's revolt. The "false prophets" are those zealots who claim that their victory over Rome will usher in the new age. Mark makes it clear that the war is not a sign of the end, but only of the beginning, of “birth pangs”.

Mark warns about those who claim to be the messiah or perhaps Jesus himself in order to recruit those to join in the revolution and engage in war. Mark’s warning about those claiming to be Jesus and leading believers astray provides yet another reason why he may have felt a written, permanent account of Jesus was needed to preserve what was true about Jesus.

These were indeed difficult times, it was becoming apparent that war would destroy much of what they new, it was not hard to imagine the imminent destruction of the temple that Jesus foretold, or perhaps the temple was already destroyed depending on when exactly Mark was written.

Ched Myers writes in “Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus” concerning the opening of Chapter 13:

“The fact that the parties of the revolt are never mentioned by name in the
Gospel may indicate that Mark felt deeply sympathetic to their protest against
the social, political, and economic oppression of the Romans. On the other hand,
the fact that Mark feels a need to reject the claims of the rebel recruiters
suggests that members of Mark's community may well have already been drafted
into the liberation war, or were sorely tempted to join. Who could resist the
pull of patriotism, or the lure of the hope that here at last was the
long-deferred prophetic promise of that final battle in which Yahweh would
vindicate Israel? In such a moment, there was only one voice that could match
the persuasive call of the rebel recruiters: Jesus the living teacher. So to
this Jesus the disciples turn in a direct plea for clarity on the meaning of the
historical moment. [p. 330]”

Today’s reading reminds us just how the gospel calls for a revolutionary change on one hand, yet the Jesus revolution can not be won with a sword.


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