November 30th Scripture Setting: Mark 13: 24-37
These verses in the 13th chapter of Mark are sometimes referred to as “the little Apocalypse” with similarity to the apocalyptic writing of John. In both accounts, God is coming into the world and the cosmos will be affected. We are counseled to repent, and wait expectantly with hopefulness because God is a faithful God and seeks the establishment of the peaceable kingdom on Earth. “The future of the creation belongs to the Prince of Peace…. As we anticipate that future, we devote ourselves to seek Christ’s peace and pursue it. We do not know the day or hour of Christ’s coming but know only that God is faithful” (Sharing in Community of Christ, 3rd ed., p. 16).
Verses 24–27 of this reading describe the signs of the times using images and language from the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 13:10, 34:4; Joel 2:10, 3:4, 15; Ezekiel 32:7–8; Daniel 7:13). It was not unusual to use cosmic images to indicate an important event. The writer combines the end-time judgment references from Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel with the coming of the Son of Man as described in Daniel. As hearers of these words, we undoubtedly know there is something significant coming.
Verses 28–31 contain a short parable of the fig tree with an image of tender, new life that is the forerunner of summer. Likewise, we can have hope that the Son of Man is near; God is faithful.
Verses 32–37 can be summarized as a wake-up call. We are admonished to be prepared and alert, thinking beyond the present because “about that day or hour no one knows” (v. 32). When will the Messiah come? The writer of the Gospel of Mark advises us to keep awake for we do not know when the master will come.
Today’s theme, “Watch for the Lord” is based on these last five verses. Waiting can be viewed as passive, as in waiting for a train after work to take us home. But we are told to practice a different kind of waiting—waiting expectantly, as in waiting for a train that is bringing a loved one home to us. We wait and watch for the Lord to arrive with anticipation and a sense that we cannot predict when it will happen. In this regard, we join with those who lived before the birth of Jesus who were faithfully expecting the arrival of the Messiah.
By focusing at the beginning of Advent on the return of the Son of Man, we actively wait in solidarity with those who have gone before and hear, along with them, the challenge to keep awake and watch for the Lord. While we may think we know how the story ends, this text causes us to realize the paradox of living between “already” (Christ has come) and “not yet” (God’s reign on Earth is not complete). We do not know the day when God’s reign will be realized. We need to be reminded that Christ comes. We need to be ready.
Worship Helps 11/9/2014)