Lexegete™ | Year B | Mark
First Sunday of Advent
November 30, 2008
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (7)
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Prayer of the Day
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. Show us your steadfast | love, O LORD,
and grant us | your salvation. Alleluia. (Ps. 85:7)
1a. Context: Mark 13:24-37
This lesson is Mark's conclusion to what is known as the Synoptic
Apocalypse, so named because it describes the signs of the parousia.
It is delivered in the context Jesus' statements about the
destruction of the temple, and is sometimes known as the "Mount of
Olive Discourse' because it presents Jesus taking the disciples away
from Jerusalem to this high place where he tells them of the signs of
the last times (Mark 13:1-4).
Matthew and Luke present essentially the same material. The chief
difference is in how each of the synoptics presents the conclusion of
this grouping of the sayings of Jesus.
Mark 13:5-13. Jesus warns that there will be 1) false prophets;
2) wars; 3) his followers suffering many tribulations: arrests,
court appearances marked by Spirit-led witnessing, beatings,
betrayal, hatred, imprisonment -- all for him and his name's sake.
Furthermore, the temple will be invaded and desecrated and the
people of Jerusalem driven into the hills to suffer great
deprivation. (How terrible for those with child or nursing little
ones!) But for the shortening of the days, no one could endure these
hitherto unparalleled tribulations (Mark 13:19; Matthew 24:23).
While people may be lured into looking for a false Christ, there will
actually be no mistaking the day of the Son of Man when the heavens
themselves will be in disarray. Therefore, remember that as the
first springtime shoots on a fig tree foretell of what is coming, so
all these things tell us that 'he is near, at the very gates (v.
Just as surely as you will see all these signs, just as surely you
will not know the hour or the day of his coming. (Such knowledge is
not even given to the Son but is strictly the property of the Father
(cf.. Acts 1:7). The signs are not given for the sake of would be
time-setters. On the contrary, they are accompanied by such warnings
as "but the end is not yet" (v. 7) and "this is but the beginning of
the sufferings. (v.8).
In fact, without the forceful, unequivocal statement that no one,
not the angels, not anyone, knows the hour or the day, the urgency of
Jesus basic summons loses much of its force. For from first roll of
the drums heard in Jesus warning, 'Take heed that no one leads you
astray,' and through all the ensuing signs, the beat goes on with
ever greater intensity, 'Watch....watch....WATCH!" (v. v/ 33.35.37).
As Mark has it, the central thrust of Jesus' last will and testament as he enters into the time of his Passion (Mark 14:1 ff.) is strictly eschatological: Watch!
1b. TEXT: Mark 13:24-37
The Coming of the Son of Man
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day or Hour
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake.  For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants  in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows,  or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
 13:33 Some manuscripts add and pray
 13:34 Greek bondservants
 13:35 i.e., third watch of night, between midnight and 3 a.m.
24αλλα εν εκειναις ταις ημεραις μετα την θλιψιν εκεινην ο ηλιος σκοτισθησεται, και η σεληνη ου δωσει το φεγγος αυτης, 25και οι αστερες εσονται εκ του ουρανου πιπτοντες, και αι δυναμεις αι εν τοις ουρανοις σαλευθησονται. 26και τοτε οψονται τον υιον του ανθρωπου ερχομενον εν νεφελαις μετα δυναμεως πολλης και δοξης. 27και τοτε αποστελει τους αγγελους και επισυναξει τους εκλεκτους [αυτου] εκ των τεσσαρων ανεμων απ ακρου γης εως ακρου ουρανου. 28απο δε της συκης μαθετε την παραβολην: οταν ηδη ο κλαδος αυτης απαλος γενηται και εκφυη τα φυλλα, γινωσκετε οτι εγγυς το θερος εστιν. 29ουτως και υμεις, οταν ιδητε ταυτα γινομενα, γινωσκετε οτι εγγυς εστιν επι θυραις. 30αμην λεγω υμιν οτι ου μη παρελθη η γενεα αυτη μεχρις ου ταυτα παντα γενηται. 31ο ουρανος και η γη παρελευσονται, οι δε λογοι μου ου μη παρελευσονται. 32περι δε της ημερας εκεινης η της ωρας ουδεις οιδεν, ουδε οι αγγελοι εν ουρανω ουδε ο υιος, ει μη ο πατηρ. 33βλεπετε αγρυπνειτε: ουκ οιδατε γαρ ποτε ο καιρος εστιν. 34ως ανθρωπος αποδημος αφεις την οικιαν αυτου και δους τοις δουλοις αυτου την εξουσιαν, εκαστω το εργον αυτου, και τω θυρωρω ενετειλατο ινα γρηγορη. 35γρηγορειτε ουν, ουκ οιδατε γαρ ποτε ο κυριος της οικιας ερχεται, η οψε η μεσονυκτιον η αλεκτοροφωνιας η πρωι, 36μη ελθων εξαιφνης ευρη υμας καθευδοντας. 37ο δε υμιν λεγω, πασιν λεγω, γρηγορειτε.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th editio © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart; The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: Mark 13:24-37
v. 33. "Take heed' (blepete) or 'be alert' is used not only in respect to enemies without (pharisees, 8:15; scribes, 12:38; deceivers, 13:5; but also those inner weaknesses which could lead to our downfall.
v. 33. 'Watch' (agrupneo). Stay awake. Be vigilant. A German translation is instructive: schlaflos, sleepless. This is a key word occurring also in 35.37. It is the heart of the Markan conclusion.
v. 33. Some texts add proseuchesthe, pray, linking this exhortation to the instruction in Gethsemane (14:38).
v. 33. 'You do not know...the kairos, the time.' Kairos refers to a decisive moment. There is another word for time: chronos. It refers to the passage of time. When Jesus say that we do not know when the time will come he is referring to that decisive moment which will mark the end of this world's passage of time.
v. 34-36 'This parable of the absent householder is distinctive of Mark (cf. Matthew 34:43; Luke 12:35-46). In Luke 12 the master is away at a wedding and his return is imminent. He will return at night , but the servants simply do not know at what hour. In the Markan parable account is taken of the delay in returning and the notion that the master has gone on a far journey. Vigilance is called for .... because the return may be delayed.' Interpretation, 32 p. 411.
v. 34 The householder places the servants exousia, "in charge', or he gives 'authority' for each (ekastos) to do their distinctive and appointed task (ergon). This phrase deserve notice because "watchfulness' is primarily being found as faithfully carrying out one's given responsibility.
The vigilant waiting is again emphasized by the picture of the (thurooros), doorkeeper, staying on guard through all four watches (a Roman division of watches rather than the Hebrew marking of only three watches) lest the householder in his returning suddenly, (exaphanais) return find the servants sleeping (katheudontas,) part. of katheudoo).
3. STRATEGY: Mark 13:24-37
The exhortation to "eternal vigilance' is certainly fitting for us who are aware of how much time has passed since the first promise of the parousia. But how do we frame such an exhortation?
The use of the context could be a good introduction, simply because
the sayings about the end times are not usually mentioned in mainline
churches. (Mark 13 is also an appointed Gospel lesson for the 27th
Sunday in Pentecost, but since the full number of possible Sundays
seldom occurs, it is rarely read. This appointed lesson for Advent
1 at least appears every three years). No matter how often such
lessons are read, the fact remains that the church today is like
the person who has heard the morning alarm or clock radio go off but
remains in bed, and only dreams that he/she is dressing.
How to stir up watchfulness? A rehearsal of the events described by
Jesus in that portion of the chapter leading up to the lesson is a
possible start. The events should not be described as having an exact
parallel or fulfillment in yesterday's headlines, but most certainly
they describe events familiar to us, events that should awaken us to
the fact that history will one day have its closure.
Our basic difficulty in remaining alert, however, does not lie in the
absence or unawareness of 'signs" but in the fact that our own
personal lives, as well as the total span of history, are played out
as if we are in a game which has no visible 'game clock.' There may
such a clock, but it is not visible to us or to anyone else. Have
gone by the "two minute warning ' or not? The only thing we can
sure of is that we are expected to run the next play.
We need to begin admitting this gap in our knowledge and also
recognize that people cannot and should not be kept 'alert' by
inducing nail biting anxiety or by giving them promises that the
secret ending can be found out, after all.
A more positive answer comes through the presentation of the fact
that right at this moment one and all are in the kairos the decisive
moment when we are meeting Christ the Lord. We have just finished a
church year which has rehearsed fully his coming among us. We are
beginning the cycle again. He who is to come is already with us.
It is the 'already' of Christ's presence which keeps alive our joyful
expectation of the 'not yet.' It is our relationship with someone
whom we already know and love, and whose love of us is such a certain
thing, which lifts up our hearts in joyful expectation and longing
for that loved one's return. This is the presence and the coming,
the 'already' and 'not yet' of our relationship with Christ which can
in turn become the source of a watchfulness which is characterized by
faithfully carrying out the assigned task the Lord has given to us
until he returns.
Lamar Williamson, Jr. reminds us of the time early in the history of
our nation when disturbances in the heavens and a great midday.
darkness convinced the people of Massachusetts that the Second Coming
was imminent. The state legislature was in a panic and prepared to
flee the building. Then one elder of the group rebuked they
would appear to be the greatest of fools, but that if they were
right, there could be no better way to show their readiness than to
be found doing with the work appointed to them. With that he called
for candles to be brought in, and they carried on as the should.
4. REFERENCES: Mark 13:24-37
Williamson, Lamar, Jr. INTERPRETATION, A Bible Commentary FOR
Teaching AND Preaching . V. 31, 1983 . John Knox Press. Atlanta,
GOSPEL PARALLELS, SYNOPSIS OF THE FIRST THREE GOSPELS, Burton H.
Throckmorton, Jr. ed., 1967, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tenn.
Trotti, John Boone, Interpretation 32, 1978, pp.410-413.
Rienecker, Fritz, SPRACHLICER SCHLUSSEL zum Griechischen Neuen
Testament, 1956, Brunnen Verlag GMBH, Giessen und Basel.
Exegete: Rev. Dr. Vernon R. Schreiber †, formerly pastor of the Lutheran
Church of the Savior in Paramu, NJ, and a leader in the advocacy for civil rights and interracial harmony, has entered his heavenly rest.
Lexegete™ © 2008
Dartmouth, MA 02747-1925