25 April 2012

Mark 13:5-13

"When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit." (v. 11)

25 April is the feast day of St Mark. The writer of the shortest Gospel is thought to be the Mark who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys and the John Mark of Acts 12:12, 25 - the son of a pious woman whose house in Jerusalem was a meeting place for Christians. Traditionally, Mark has been identified with the young man who ran way naked when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:51-52), but this is possibly unreliable.

Mark's Gospel, which draws on the experiences of Peter, has strong links with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and whilst this has been challenged by some scholars, it is thought to be the earliest, and a main source of the other two.

Today's passage is not easy to interpret. Jesus speaks to his four closest disciples about sufferings to come. He warns of false prophets, who will claim to be him, and will lead people astray. There may be a contemporary situation here that we know nothing about. There are warnings of conflicts actual and anticipated, earthquakes and famines. Such things are features of Old Testament prophecy, but Jesus cautions the disciples that they are not the end, nor even the beginning of the end. They may be precursors of the sufferings that were believed to precede the end, which were seen as being like birth pangs.

The warnings extend to the things that the disciples, and those who came after them, might suffer as Christians (verses 9-12). Verse 10 stands out as a reminder of their purpose.

Despite such sufferings, verse 13 offers words of encouragement and assurance.

To Ponder

Have you ever suffered because of your Christian faith? If so, how did you deal with it?

How do you react to those who see evidence of God's judgement in natural disasters? Or those who see them as evidence that there is no God?

What are your thoughts about the end of all things?