Saturday 25 April 2020

Bible Book:

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. (v. 8)

Mark 13:5-13 Saturday 25 April 2020

Psalm: Psalm 148


Today is the feast day of Saint Mark the Evangelist. Tradition says that Mark was the founder and first Bishop of the church in Alexandria, Egypt and was martyred there on this day in the year AD 68. 

Mark is not thought to have known Jesus personally, but he probably did know Saint Peter who is the source of the material in his Gospel. Mark was the first Gospel to be written and Matthew and Luke borrow much of their material from him – including this particular passage (Matthew 24:4-14; Luke 21:8-19).

Mark (and Matthew) describe the wars and earthquakes and famines that are sometimes seen as heralding the end of the world as “the beginning of the birth pangs”. I was interested to learn from Morna Hooker’s commentary on Mark’s Gospel that “the rabbis spoke of the sufferings which would precede the end as ‘the birthpangs of the Messiah’ and it is possible that the phrase was already a semi-technical one in the first century.”

At the end of a week when we have been reading about the phenomenal growth and development of the Early Church on Acts 2, it is sobering to be reminded that suffering and death were part of the story for the first Christians too. Like birth, new beginnings are sometimes preceded by pain and loss – as the paschal mystery of crucifixion and resurrection also reveals.

The birth of the Early Church wasn’t all bliss and joy. There was trauma and devastation as well. Saint Mark was killed for his faith, as were many of the other Christian evangelists of his time. It’s important that we remember his death today and give thanks for the Gospel he gave birth to.


To Ponder:

  • When have you experienced 'birth pangs'?
  • Are there people you know whose experiences it is important to write down or record for future generations?    
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