Guest Post: Mark Thirteen by Jeff Curtis

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Jeff Curtis has provided his reflections on Mark's thirteenth chapter.

Jeff is currently a Pastoral Apprentice at Salem Evangelical Free Church in Fargo, ND. He is also currently attending Reformed Theological Seminary through their distance education program and will graduate in the spring of 2017 with an MA in Biblical Studies. Jeff has a variety of ministry responsibilities at Salem and has enjoyed the opportunity to learn and grow as a Pastoral Apprentice. He has a strong desire to see young people truly understand God’s Word and live accordingly. Jeff and his wife Breanna have been married since 2011, and Breanna will graduate from NDSU's pharmacy program in May of 2015.

On a personal note, I met Jeff when he was a freshman at NDSU and have seen him grow into a mature man and disciple of Jesus.. I have loved the friendship we have formed and value Jeff's perspective. His reflections on Mark 13 will be extremely helpful to each of us as we continue to study Mark's Gospel.

Brief Overview of Mark 13

The thirteenth chapter of the gospel of Mark is perhaps one of the most challenging chapters of all the New Testament (Revelation aside).  I have talked with a good number of people ranging from college student to pastor and I think it is safe to say that this passage deserves more than a casual read on an early morning with a cup of coffee.  All in all, there’s a lot going on here. In fact, chapter 13 is the longest continuous sequence of Jesus’ teachings found in the book of Mark.  The second longest speech from Jesus consists of six sentences (Mark 8:34-38).

I believe this is why it is so important for us as readers of the text to be careful not to separate the passage and read it out of the original flow Jesus had taught.  An illustration that comes to mind that helps affirm this belief is actually a painting by the artist Georges Seurat.  The famous work is called, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.  What is most interesting about this piece is that the style of art is pointillism; meaning the painting is actually comprised of millions of tiny little dots.  If you were to travel to the Art Institute of Chicago and stare at this piece with your nose touching the canvas, you would most certainly be overwhelmed by a cluster of green or blue dots that in themselves are hard to distinguish as a final piece.  Instead, as you take a few steps back and the tiny little dots begin to form themselves into a larger picture, you are immediately enthralled at the beauty the painting presents.  Perhaps this is how we are to interact with Mark 13.

When reading Mark 13 it can be easy to get caught up in a bunch of tiny little dots while neglecting to keep in mind the overall context of the chapter.  Specifically, different Christians interpret the first 31 verses of Mark 13 differently.  Some believe that few or all of these verses have to do with the second coming; others believe that few or all of these verses have to do with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.  That said, I trust those who read this will take a moment and listen to the Sermon from this corresponding week, and also study the scriptures for themselves.  As we take a few steps back we see that the central theme of this chapter is Jesus.  Further, we as believers should always be ready and waiting for his return.

What does this chapter tell us about who Jesus is?

As I considered this question within the context of Mark 13 I noticed he was given two titles.  In the first verse the disciples called out to him and said,

“Look, Teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings.”

I believe that this title of Teacher given to Jesus in Mark 13:1 reflects the respect and adoration the disciples had for him.  For example, after finishing the Sermon on the Mount, “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28-29).”  We too can look at Jesus as our teacher.  As we work through Jesus’ teachings in this chapter we can be confident in his authority and believe that the things he has mentioned will come to be, if not already.  

Also, Jesus is mentioned in this chapter as being the Son of Man.  Mark 13:26 states,

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

I am reminded of the salvific purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the Son of Man.  The incarnation of Jesus Christ, becoming human, though also fully God, functioning as our Savior from sin.  In fact, this is not the only mention of Jesus as the Son of Man.  In Matthew 26, when asked by the high priest whether he was the “Son of God”, Jesus replied in verse 64, “You have said so.  But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Jesus was much more than a great teacher, he is our Savior.  Not only can we trust in his authority, but we can also trust in his power.  Jesus will return.

What does this chapter tell us about what it means to follow Jesus?

While I tend to interpret verses 1-31 to refer to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, I am also inclined to think that they foreshadow what will happen at Jesus’ second coming.  That said, there are great lessons of obedience to be learned through this passage as we follow Jesus.  Verses 5-6 remind us of the importance of reading the Bible to better know who Jesus is and what he has done in order that we do not become deceived by others.  Verses 7-13 prepare us for the eternal perspective that is necessary to stand strong during seasons of hardship.  Whether a natural disaster, war, or persecution of some kind, we are to remember that our challenges are not a surprise to God.  Jesus encourages us with the bigger picture in verse 13, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  We can trust in these words, they will never pass away (13:31).

What in particular stands out to you from this chapter?

It seems like no matter how many hours or amount of attention I place on studying the first 31 verses of this chapter, I am always drawn to verses 32-37.  When it comes to that day, or that hour, when the age will come to an end, when Jesus will return, nobody knows.  Instead, we are called to be prepared.  Verse 36 states, “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”  STAY AWAKE.  I believe this to be so critical to our Christian lives.  

Perhaps I’m speaking only of myself, but I know that if there was a date attached to Jesus’ second return, my procrastination would kick in.  Similar to an exam in college, no matter how important the material being studied, I always tended to wait until the last minute to get my stuff in order.  Another way to put it would be a drifting process.  Unless we are constantly being aware of our spiritual awakeness, we risk drifting off into a spiritual slumber.  We need to keep our eyes up and watchful, recognizing that Christ could return.  This realization should draw us to be much more intentional with how we live our lives.  How do we love others?  How often are we reading God’s Word?  What types of movies do we watch?  How are we spending our money?  How are we spending our time?  What worries do we have?  Etc.  

All in all, STAY AWAKE.  Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is returning with great power and glory.