Gospel Lesson for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mark 13:1-8
13 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
This passage in Mark is known as the “little apocalypse.” Apocalyptic literature is popular during times of disaster, war, and tyranny. It is often interpreted as a prediction of the end of times or the inevitable reign of God sometime in the near future. The intent of the writer, though, is hope for today. It is written as an assurance that life will not always be as it is right now.
Whether Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple or not, this gospel was written a short time after the Romans tore it to the ground. Mark’s intent was not prophesy but rather comfort for the loss of their beloved place of worship.
The Girard Presbyterian congregation is best suited to interpret this passage for us. The fire that leveled their sanctuary and educational wing are birth pangs to the building that is to come. Although I find the metaphors chosen unsettling, they seem to be meaningful to those who are traumatized.
And the intent of the language is true. We are not to focus on what is destroyed but on the One who brings life to us all. Jesus will come to us today and every day.
Peace to you, Keith