When the soldiers who are responsible to crucify Jesus take him into custody, they reject and abuse him. The Roman soldiers were more than happy to be able to abuse a Jewish man on this day. There was a strained relationship between Jews and Romans, and the soldiers expressed their feelings of racism and disdain for Jews by torturing this supposed criminal. Since he was accused of being the King of the Jews, in Mark 15:16-20, they mock him like a defeated king. They put a purple robe on him and place a crown of thorns on his head. They bow before him. Can you imagine dancing around like an idiot mocking someone who had been sentenced to death, only to find out that they are actually the King and you are going to answer for your actions? Jesus is mocked as King, but that doesn’t make him less of a King and soon we will see him claim his throne. After beating him, they lead him out of the Praetorium, which is kind of like the Barracks, to take him to crucify him in 15:21-39,
In verse 34, Jesus quotes a line from Psalm 22. Mark records it here in Aramaic and then translates it. Some who were standing there must have misunderstood what Jesus was saying, so they think he is crying for help from Elijah. They decide to wait around to see if Elijah would come to help him. But, Jesus’ words were a biblical reaction to bearing the sin of God’s people. The Father turns away from the Son in a moment where the Son must bear the weight of God’s wrath upon sin. God himself takes on human flesh and enters into history in the person of Jesus. God himself suffers, he’s betrayed, he’s abused, and he’s crucified. He experiences what it’s like to feel that God has abandoned you. He does this to show his great compassion for us and to reconcile us to himself. We may experience suffering and struggle in our lives, but one thing our suffering does not mean is that God has forsaken us. Jesus was forsaken so that we would not be. So in your moments of darkness and struggle, you can ask all kinds of questions about what your suffering means, but Jesus makes sure we know that it doesn’t mean God has abandoned us. Jesus’ resurrection proves that even when death comes to us, that does not even mean he has abandoned us. The Father raised the Son, and if we believe in the Son, he will not abandon us to death, but we will be raised also.
Then, at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple is torn. It’s torn from top to bottom showing that it’s God who has torn it. The veil is torn, and this means no more sacrifice, no more temple, no more holy place. Jesus is the sacrifice, the temple, and the holy place. He fulfills what the Temple was supposed to accomplish but couldn’t. We can now approach God through Jesus, but not anything else. He was forsaken and given over to death so that we would be received. He was the recipient of God’s wrath upon sin so that our sin could be forgiven and we could have eternal life instead of death.
The first part of what Jesus’ death means is the Time has been fulfilled. God has fulfilled his promises to Israel. The Law is satisfied. The Temple is replaced. God’s promises to rescue his people have come true. The Second part of what Jesus’ death means is that God’s Kingdom has begun to come to earth. Compared to the other Gospels, Mark’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion isn’t very gory. He doesn’t emphasize the bloody details of Jesus suffering because he is emphasizing the reason Jesus suffered. Jesus is asked by Pilate if he is the King of the Jews in verse 2. In verse 9, Pilate addresses the crowd and refers to Jesus as the King of the Jews. In verse 12, Pilate asks the crowd what he should do with the “King of the Jews.” In verses 16-20, The soldiers mock and abuse him as the King of the Jews. They even bow to him. Verse 26 says that the notice written above his head on the cross is “King of the Jews”. In verse 31-32 the chief priests and teachers of the law mock him on the cross saying, “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross”. In verse 39, the Roman centurion who was guarding him, confesses, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
Over and over, Mark wants to show us that Jesus was convicted by the Jews and crucified by the Romans because of his claim that he is Messiah and King of Israel. The priests and teachers, the Roman leader Pilate, the soldiers, and the crowd all deny that Jesus is this Messiah and King, and they kill him for claiming to be him. In chapter 11, Jesus is hailed as King by the crowds when he enters Jerusalem. He goes to clean the Temple and teaches in it. In Mark 14:3-9 he is anointed. In Mark 14:61, the High priest identifies him as King. In 15:9 and 12 he is proclaimed to the people by Pilate as King. In 15:17-19, he is saluted as King by the soldiers. In 15:20 he is enthroned on the cross. Throughout the narrative of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, Jesus’ enemies unwittingly proclaim the truth about him.
Jesus is the King. They all recognize that this is who he is claiming to be and that’s why they kill him. This in itself isn’t so shocking, it happened several times in the decades before and after Jesus. What makes it shocking is what happens next. Those other so-called messiah’s and would-be kings were heads of movements. They had lots of followers. And all of the them fizzle and fade. But Christianity doesn’t fizzle; it explodes! In less than 250 years, the entire Roman empire will be declared Christian reaching from India to England. Jesus rises from the dead. In his resurrection, his claim to be Messiah and King and Son of God are all proven to be true. And since this is true, it changes everything. He suffered because of his claim to be messiah and King, and he rose from the dead to prove that in fact he is Messiah and King. He has fulfilled God’s promises and now God’s Kingdom is coming because the King has come. The King came and died, but he rose gain. This means that it is only a matter of time before his Kingdom comes in all of its fullness and completion.
The response that we are told we should have throughout Mark’s Gospel is belief and repentance. The King has come and although he was dead now he is alive. His resurrection proves he is King so we should believe he is our King. If he is our King, everything about our lives changes. We no longer live for the Kingdom of this world, but the Kingdom of the Risen Jesus. It changes our thinking, our actions, our motivation. We live in the in-between time though. So even though we believe this Kingdom will finally come, we still wrestle against the sinfulness in our hearts that fights against his Kingdom. So our belief and repentance isn’t something that happens once and then we live however we want until Jesus Comes. We must remain in this belief and repentance. We continue in this Gospel, practicing it daily. It requires more than mental adherence. It is more than an intellectual agreement. The Gospel demands our lives. Our King has come and will come again and we must prepare ourselves even today.
Is he your king?
Mark 13 is focused around Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question in verse 4 about when the Temple will be destroyed. In Jesus’ day, all of Jewish religion was focused on the Temple, but Jesus has been teaching throughout Mark’s Gospel that religion is changing because the time is fulfilled and God’s kingdom had come. As Israel’s situation became more and more desperate under Roman oppression in the 1st century, there was increasing expectation that God was coming to intervene and correct what was happening. Many Jewish people were awaiting a Messiah to come and overthrow Rome and bring in a golden age for Israel much like David had done. In this period of history there were many so-called messiahs who attempted to do this only to be violently defeated. But people continued to follow these types men who would arise with some measure of influence and military aptitude. The people thought God was coming at any moment to vindicate Israel.
In many ways, Mark 13 is a message contradicting this. Jesus is teaching against the man standing on the side of the street in a sandwich sign which reads “The End is Near!” In fact, Jesus is teaching that rather than being freed by military might, Israel is going to be overcome and the temple destroyed. Jesus is teaching that the time of this end is coming for Israel, but not as soon as they thought. He is telling them to get ready for the long struggle before them.
Historically, people have interpreted Jesus’ answer here in Mark 13 in various ways. Some say that the entirety is referring to the Temple being destroyed in 70 AD during the First Jewish-Roman War. Others say that it is partially speaking about this and partially speaking about the end of all things or “End Times”. Still others interpret this passage with only the End Times in mind focusing on what it may or may not teach about the future.
There are some things that should guide us in our understanding of Mark 13. First, we should focus on what the passage clearly says before we move to speculation on future events. Allow the biblical text to drive our system of thinking rather than trying to fit a text into our system. The Bible is not a crystal ball so there’s no clear and decisive picture of how the future events are going to unfold. There are elements of future events recorded in the scriptures, but only enough to drive us to a proper response. That response is hope that God will bring justice and restoration to his world and proper fear of God that directs our behavior so we are ready to meet him at any moment. A second idea that should guide our understanding of Mark 13 is that we should consider how Jesus’ answer fits into the message of the Gospel of Mark before we think about how it fits into our understanding of unknown future events. And third, we should consider how this might impact us now and today rather than in some theoretical future. So our task is not to speculate about when the end of the world may be, but to consider what Jesus is teaching us about the Gospel, or Good News of God in Mark 13.
There are many passages to study when it comes to “End Times” studies, but the focus here is on Mark 13. This is not an attempt at an exhaustive discussion on Mark 13 (that would be exhausting!). In light of the three ideas proposed above, there will be two points argued in this approach to Mark 13:
Jesus has spent the last few days in the Temple arguing with Israel’s religious teachers and leaders and teaching the crowds of people who had come to Jerusalem for Passover. In Mark 13:1-7, he now leaves the Temple with his disciples. As they are leaving one of the 12 remarks on the magnificence of the Temple structure. And in verse 2 Jesus says the Temple is going to be completely destroyed. His disciples reply in verse 4 with a question about the timing of this destruction. The remainder of chapter 13 is primarily concerned with answering this question. There are two parts to their question: 1) When will this happen? And 2) what will be the sign of the destruction.
The disciples want to be prepared for this, so they ask Jesus to teach them about when the Temple will be destroyed. Whatever your view is of the Bible’s teaching of the End Times, it makes no sense to think of Jesus not answering the disciples question in Mark 13. Verse 4 frames the entire chapter around the subject of the Temple being destroyed. Mark 13 is not centered around the End Times, it is centered around answering this question. This is not to say that End Times elements are not found here, but they are not the center or focus of Jesus’ answer to this question.
Jesus warns them in verse 5 of those who would deceive them about these matters. In verses 6-7 he says false messiahs will come and there will constantly be news about wars local and throughout the Empire. He says the disciples are to respond to these things calmly because the end of the Temple will not have arrived quite yet. Verse 7 says, “do not be alarmed”. Why? Because “the end is still to come”. In other words, history will go on as always. There will be turmoil and problems. This doesn’t mean the end.
This would be the period in between Jesus’ resurrection and when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, around 37 years. A lot happened during that time and Jesus was telling his disciples not to worry about the political upheaval and false teachers that would arise during this time.
In Mark 13:8-13, Jesus teaches that all of the problems the disciples were going to face should be expected. There will always be nations jockeying for power. There will be earthquakes and famines just as there has always been. Verse 8 says these things are birth pains. There is no doubt that you are going to have a baby when you have birth pains, but just because you have them, doesn’t mean labor has begun. Jesus moves from political turmoil and natural disasters to speaking about the preaching of the Gospel. The task of preaching the Gospel to all nations wasn’t going to be an easy one, so when his disciples do it they should expect to be opposed. Jesus says there will continue to be turmoil and upheaval all around them. They will be persecuted and it is through this persecution that the Gospel will be preached to the nations. This is what happens with Paul in the book of Acts when he goes before a Governor named Felix, before certain rulers, and ultimately he goes to Caesar himself and shares the Gospel. Verse 10 refers back to the question of verse 4. “What are the signs that the Temple will be destroyed?” is the question of verse 4. And verse 10 says, First, or before that happens, the Gospel will be preached to all nations. The nature of Gospel includes a missionary component from the beginning. It’s automatic that those who believe it will teach it everywhere they go. In the generation of believers after the resurrection, the Gospel spreads like wildfire all over the world. This is seen in the book of Acts: Paul and his entourage takes it throughout the Roman Empire. Church history holds that Thomas went to India. Philip preaches to an Ethiopian who believes and takes the Gospel to Africa. That generation after the resurrection takes the Gospel to the whole world. So, why was this necessary before the Temple would be destroyed?
Glad you asked!
If you recall, at places in several previous posts on Mark’s Gospel, we have talked about how Jesus was changing the way God’s people would worship him. No longer do the people of God need to go to a Temple and approach God through sacrifices, but now they can come to God face-to-face and approach him boldly through Jesus’ sacrifice. In order for Temple to be fully replaced, the Gospel needed to be fully established. We can think of it another way too: in order for the former Temple-and-Law-Religion to be replaced, the new Jesus-religion had to be established. So after the resurrection, the disciples proclaim the Gospel all over the world. All the nations of the earth now see how they may approach God through Jesus. They are no longer required to travel to a temple to offer sacrifice, because Jesus is their sacrifice and their temple. Here verses 8-13 talk about this task of taking the Gospel to all nations. It is not an easy task but it is a task that remains with us today and all Christians are called to it. Verses 12 and 13 speak about betrayal and death being results of participating in this mission. This has undoubtedly been the case for many throughout history from the apostles until today.
Mark 13:14-23 make reference to Daniel 11-12 and verse 14 refers to the” Abomination that causes Desolation”. It also appears in Matthew 24. Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled around 167 BC when a Roman ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes set up a statue of Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar in Jerusalem. Jesus borrows this same imagery when he foretells the temple destruction in 70 AD. The Jews revolted against the Romans in 66 and three and a half years later the Roman General Titus destroys the Temple in 70 AD. Jesus is warning his followers to be prepared and ready when they see this happen. In verses 21-22, he says false messiahs will continue to try to gain followers and Jesus says in verse 23 that his elect needs to be on their guard.
After this the language changes in Mark 13:24-31. The language becomes more stylized and figurative. Jesus is likely quoting Isaiah 13:10, but there are other similar passages to verses 24-25. Whether this is referring to AD 70, future events, or both is difficult to tell. One reason to interpret it as referring to 70 AD is because of the term “This Generation” in verse 30. Jesus is referring to the disciples and those following him at this point. Many of them lived long enough to see the Gospel expand worldwide and also for the Temple to be destroyed. This passage says that there will be no debate when this time comes. Jesus uses the fig tree again as an illustration. He says in verse 28 that when you see the fig tree covered with leaves there is not a doubt that it is summertime. Like this, Jesus says when all of these things happen, the end will be near. In other words, by the time you can tell it’s that close, it will be too late to prepare for it.
Moving on to Mark 13:32-37, there is another shift in the wording. Verses 17, 19, 20, and 24 refer to “Days” when speaking about the time surrounding the destruction of the Temple. Then in verse 32 it switches to “day”. There is a change of language that points to a change of subject. I view this as a change from Jesus speaking about 70 AD to talking about future events because of the change of wording in the text. Jesus changes the subject from answering the question in verse 4 about the sign of the destruction of the Temple, to the last Day or what we call the Second Coming of Christ. In verse 32 he says that although he has knowledge about the coming “days” of trouble in verses 17, 19, 20, and 24, about “that day” in verse 32, only the Father has knowledge. So the “days” of trouble are different from the coming “day”. He uses the example of a man leaving his house in charge of his servants in verse 34. This is pointing to Jesus’ resurrection and return to his heavenly throne. And he ends his answer with a challenge in verses 35-37 to “Watch” or be prepared.
So, after taking all of our time this morning to offer a brief explanation of Mark 13, let’s return to the two ways we need to apply it:
1. The Bible is teaching us that Temple religion is being replaced by Jesus religion. This first application is related to our thoughts and how we read the Bible and understand Jesus. Mark 13 continues to teach Jesus’ Gospel that the Kingdom has come and the time is fulfilled. Jesus says the Temple is going to be destroyed because he has fulfilled anything and everything the Temple was meant to do. We now go to Jesus and through Jesus for worship. We worship him and he makes worship possible by his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus fulfills the sacrificial system that was practiced in the Temple. Animal sacrifice could never take away man’s sin. So Jesus becomes man, lives perfectly, and gives his own life as the perfect sacrifice for the sin he never committed. This passage is about the period of time from when the Temple religion changed to the Jesus religion and the latter was decisively established when the Temple was destroyed. The book of Acts and much of the New Testament describes this in between time. There are lots of questions about how Jews who believed in Jesus are to live. Jesus speaks beforehand showing that once the Temple is destroyed a lot of their problems were going to be resolved. He also makes a way for the whole world to be brought into God’s plan of redemption. There was an outer court to the Temple so non-Jews or Gentiles could come to worship, but Jesus tears the innermost curtain of the Temple so that now there is no more separation between Jew and Gentile. All who come to Jesus are God’s people regardless of race. Verse 10 points to the inclusion of all races in the plan of God because everyone can come to God through the Good News of Jesus, or what we also call the Gospel. In light of this, if you are attempting to come to God on your own terms then you are mistaken. God doesn’t require us to clean up our act before he’ll accept us. In fact, even if we do that, it doesn’t mean he will. He will accept all who come to him believing in Jesus and repenting or aligning their life with him. Attempting to be reconciled to God in any other way is not enough. Only Jesus can make a way for us to come to God. Not only does Jesus fulfill and replace the Temple, but he demonstrates that any attempts to reach God on our own are deficient. Only Jesus gets us forgiveness and eternal life.
2. Living properly includes a watchfulness and expectation. This second application of Mark 13 is related to our thoughts and our actions. “Be on guard” is mentioned 4 times in v 5, 9, 23, 33. Verses 35-37 summarized the point of the whole passage with one word “Watch!” Jesus leaves his followers and us with a responsibility to prepare for whatever following him might invite into our lives. He says watch in such a way that you endure persecution, aren’t led astray, have hope, and do not fear his return. The Christian life is one of continual preparation. We are called to regularly evaluate the way we think about life and the way we conduct our lives and be sure they are honoring to God. The Christian church has always believed that Jesus could return at any moment and if we should meet the grave before he does, then for those who believe, we understand to be a peaceful sleep. We are to live our lives in light of this.
In the final days of Jesus’ ministry, he stands in the temple arguing with the leaders of Jerusalem and teaching his disciples and the crowds of people. You can imagine how much he would have taught so these few passages in Mark’s Gospel might be considered selections from his teaching over the course of the Passover week. Mark 12:35-37 is only a few verses, yet in these few verses is a profound lesson from Jesus. Rather than being asked a question, this time, Jesus raises the question before the crowd listening to him. Verse 35 reminds us that he is in the Temple teaching these things. We have already seen how Jesus’ teaching is reorienting the Temple worship around himself and this teaching continues to do this.
It was believed in Jesus’ day that the Messiah was to be a descendant of David. I’ve mentioned this before and it is an idea reflected in the term “Son of David,” used in the New Testament. This is the title Jesus was called the blind and deaf man he healed in Chapter 10, just before he rode into Jerusalem on a colt where they said “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our Father David” in Chapter 11. But Jesus is taking the term, and expanding it here in these verses. His question shows a problem with limiting one’s understanding of the messiah to a person from the lineage of David. He’s not denying this, but expanding it.
The Messiah was to come from David’s line, he was going to be a King like David. The popular conception was that the Messiah would be as great as David, but Jesus uses this quotation from Psalm 110 to show that the Messiah would actually be greater than David. He is like David because he is from his lineage and because he is a king. But, he is also not like David because he is David’s Lord. Jesus is teaching that he is both the Lord and the Son of David. The conception of a political messiah that would fulfill Israel’s patriotic and nationalistic hopes was communicated through referring to the Messiah as the Son of David. David was a warrior bringing peace through victory over Israel’s enemies. So the thought was, the Messiah will do the same thing; wage war and achieve victory. But Jesus points to being a Messiah that is greater than this. “Son of David” made the average Jew at this time think of a Messiah who conquers, waging war and overthrowing Rome. Jesus was helping his followers unlearn this.
“Son of David” was a misleading title for the Messiah for Jews, but it was a meaningless title for non-Jews. Non-Jews knew nothing of David, so calling the Messiah Son of David was unhelpful. So Jesus brings in both Jew and Gentile by referring to himself as Lord here. “Lord” was a title the early church would adopt for Jesus and one that we continue to use today. Jesus is Lord. He is Messiah and King together, man and God together. This can be seen in Romans 1 also where verse 3-4 says, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”. Romans 1:3-4 shows that understanding Jesus as Son of God and Son of David are complementary truths. Verse 4 also says “Christ” which is the term Messiah in Greek, and he is referred to finally as Lord here.
We understand the Lord Jesus as the Son of David fulfilling God’s promises to his people Israel, and has the Son of God bringing the Kingdom of God through his sacrificial death and resurrection. Paul’s Gospel is the same as Mark’s Gospel: Jesus is fulfilling promises and being King bringing the Kingdom through resurrection.
This is another example in Mark’s Gospel of what Jesus means when he says the Time is fulfilled. He is the one fulfilling the promised Time and keeping God’s promises. He is the one like David that was to come, and he is the one who is God dwelling amongst his people. He is the one who rescues us from our oppression, not a government or a tyrant. Jesus rescues us from the oppression of Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness, and he rescues us from the oppression of our sin and the result of death. As Messiah, King, and Lord he gives us true life eternal and resurrection into God’s presence forever.
He is like King David, but he is greater to an infinite degree. This is how Jesus uses this passage from Psalm 110 to teach his followers here in Mark 12:35-37.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem with his followers. This wasn’t such a big deal because lots of people were heading that way, because it was almost time for the great feast known as Passover. People from all over came to Jerusalem for Passover. But on his way, Jesus passes through Jericho and heals a blind man. As the crowds going to Jerusalem are increasing, more people are recognizing Jesus and not only going to Jerusalem, but going with him. His reputation as a healer and teacher with great authority was everywhere. Everyone knew him. So now that he was headed to Jerusalem, he heals a blind man who was calling him the Son of David.
David was Israel’s great King. He was a great warrior defeating giants and taking on God’s enemies. In allowing this man to refer to him as the Son of David, Jesus was no longer keeping quiet the fact that he is Israel’s Messiah. In fact, the crowd had tried to keep the man quiet, but it was Jesus who told him to speak, asking him “What do you want me to do for you?” There had been subtle hints and murmurs about Jesus being the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, but nothing this explicit or public until blind Bartimaeus is given his sight. And once the crowd hears this, the momentum of his ministry grows and Jesus continues to Jerusalem.
Jesus had been teaching around Israel for nearly 3 years by now. He has been teaching that the time is fulfilled and God’s Kingly authority was coming close enough to experience. The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom has come. And Jesus has not only taught this, but acted it out in his compassion healing people and feeding people. Now he is bringing this teaching and this action to Jerusalem. This is where we pick up the Story in Mark 11:1-10.
This scene has traditionally been called the Triumphal Entry and is often preached on Palm Sunday, the week before Easter. Mark’s version differs slightly from the other 3 Gospel accounts because they are emphasizing different aspects. Mark is using this story to bring together the message Jesus has been proclaiming which he calls the Gospel, or the Good News – The Time is fulfilled and the Kingdom has come. In this story we see this same message, this Gospel, presented in another way. Here, Jesus is acting out the Gospel that he is fulfilling the promises of God to Israel and through Israel to humanity.
God is coming to live with his people and rule his people himself. In these few verses, there are a number of Old Testament allusions and references that all point to this one specific truth: Jesus comes to fulfill the promised Time and he does this as the King bringing his Kingdom with him.
Jesus connects his own story with the Old Testament story in several ways. The first reference has to do with where Jesus is, before coming into Jerusalem. Verse 1 says that he was on the “Mount of Olives” which is to the east of Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:4 is a prophetic passage about God rescuing Israel from her exile and her oppressors and doing so from the Mount of Olives. There’s significance in the details here. Jesus is intentional about what he is doing because what he does and what he says are teaching the same thing. He is bringing together in himself all of the promises of God.
A second Old Testament reference can be seen in verse 2-7. In verses 2-6, Jesus sends his disciples to get a donkey or a colt. Perhaps this was pre-arranged so the people knew that Jesus would be sending his followers to get it. But, kings had the right to commandeer whatever they wanted. So this is meant to be a demonstration of Jesus’ authority to take the colt, use it, and return it. In verse 7 they bring the colt to Jesus and place their cloths upon it for him, and he rides on it. A King demonstrated the position of being a servant of the people by riding on a donkey or a colt during a royal demonstration. This practice is seen around 900 years earlier with Solomon in 1 Kings 1:38-40. Here Solomon rides on the royal mule to demonstrate his claim to the throne of Israel. The people see this and begin shouting and cheering. The scene in Jesus’ day was not so different from Solomon’s.
Matthew includes Zechariah 9:9 in his retelling of this event in Jesus’ ministry, but Mark only alludes to it. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt or a donkey to demonstrate that he is Israel’s King. Just like Solomon and others did, Jesus is showing he is Israel’s King. As Jesus rides this humble animal into Jerusalem, the people lay down their coats and palm branches and other things as a covering for the road.
This is a third Old Testament allusion seen here in Mark 11. In 2 Kings 9 a man named Jehu is made King over Israel by the prophet Elisha. Jehu is talking with some of the officers of the army he’s commanding and Elisha takes him inside a house to speak with him. Elisha tells Jehu that God has selected him as King and he pours oil on him which was the practice of anointing someone as King. Then, in a kind of funny way, Elisha takes off running out of the house and down the road. Then Jehu comes out of the house back to his officers and we read in 2 Kings 9:11-13 that Jehu’s men take off their coats and spread them on the ground before their King.
So, when the people do this on the day Jesus rides into Jerusalem, they aren’t just honoring him as a prophet or religious teacher, the crowd is hailing him as their King. With his actions, Jesus is making claims to being the King of Israel. In verses 9-10, we see the people singing and cheering in response to what Jesus is doing. These phrases they are shouting are also references to Old Testament passages. In verse 9 their words come from Psalm 118:25-26. The word “Hosanna”, means “Save us”, but many translations don’t translate it because it can also be simply a word of celebration or excitement. Kind of like when something good happens, some people say “thank God” but they don’t mean it in the literal sense of thanking God, it’s simply an exclamation. However, this is the reason that Jesus came. He came to save his people. So whether they are simply shouting a word, or not, they are shouting the purpose of their King. God had come to save them.
The other phrase they were shouting in verse 10 points to Jesus’ fulfillment and Kingship as well. In verse 10 they are saying “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our Father David”. God told David that he would have an heir on the throne of Israel forever. The people are proclaiming that Jesus is that heir who would once again rule Israel and bring in Israel’s golden age of peace and prosperity. In 2 Samuel 7 God tells David “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever. ’” This is repeated in 1 Kings 2; 1 Kings 8, and 2 Chronicles 6. In Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and other places, there is an idea that someone like David, descended from David, is going to do God’s work in rescuing Israel from her oppression and establish a Kingdom like David’s. So, when they say this in verse 10 they are proclaiming that Jesus is the one like David who is establishing God’s Kingdom. They are saying that the Time is fulfilled and the Kingdom has come.
There are 5 or 6 allusions to the Old Testament in these 10 verses as Mark tells the story of Jesus riding a colt into Jerusalem. Jesus does this as a way of illustrating that the promised Time is fulfilled and he is fulfilling it. The promises God made to Israel are coming true in him. The Kingdom of God was coming because he is the King and he is bringing it with him. Jesus brings together the Old Testament themes in his teaching and actions. Jesus brings together the promises to God made to Israel. This is what fulfillment is.
It’s important to understand this if we are to understand we mean when we call him “Messiah” or “Christ”. He is the one who is “anointed” in the sense that he receives and fulfills God’s promises to his people. It’s also important to understand this in order to get the most out of reading the Old Testament. We read it in light of who Jesus is and what he has done.
Now, some of us may fail to see how this affects our lives on a day-to-day basis. There are a bunch of random verses, some with funny names and you are wondering how in the world this helps you with the struggles you are facing in your life, your work, your health, your family, or any number of other places. An Old Testament history lesson doesn’t do a lot for you. You’re still stressed and worried. But have you considered how God orchestrates history so that Jesus enters into it at just the right time?
And what do they do? They kill him. He ties all of history up into a neat little bow and they crucify him. But he rises. It looks tragic, but it was his plan all along. He came to fulfill God’s promises to Israel and humanity and it cost him dearly. He suffered and died, but he rose again. So whatever you are dealing with, whatever struggles you are up against, you can find rest and hope in our Sovereign God who is guiding history to its end. We look around and we see some crazy things, some messed up things. We know it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Our world is broken. It’s sad and it’s tragic at times. But Jesus has risen. It’s only a matter of time before our King restores his kingdom. It won’t always be like this, one day he will set everything right and we will only see love, and justice, and mercy. He says he’ll never leave us nor forsake us, he says that we can cast all our cares on him for he cares for us. He gives us promises and we know he will keep them, because we can look back for thousands of years even to the promises he made to Abraham and see that he keeps his promises. He keeps his promises to the point of the cross, and he will keep his promises until the resurrection when we see him face to face.
So, maybe Old Testament history isn’t that exciting or relevant to you, but it demonstrates that God keeps his promises. Jesus fulfills God’s promises to Israel and through him, we are promised eternal life.
After Jesus rides into Jerusalem amid the cheers of the crowd, he goes to the Temple. In Matthew and Luke’s accounts, he cleanses the Temple here, but in Mark, he looks around and then leaves. Why does Mark separate the Entry and the Temple cleansing?
Jesus comes to the Temple and sees commerce and manipulation rather than worship. Here in Mark’s Gospel, his response isn’t rash or abrupt, he takes the night to sleep on it and returns in the morning to set things right in the Temple. Jesus takes the time to inspect the Temple, and observes all that is happening.
There is separation because of what is being emphasized in the passage. Jesus is fulfilling the promises God made to Israel for a King who sits on David’s throne forever. This is the point of verses 1-10. Jesus is also restoring the Temple, this is what will happen next.
Let’s read Mark 9:2-13.
There is great significance to Jesus going to a mountain. This is part of what it means when he says the Time is fulfilled and God’s Kingdom has come. In Exodus 33 God meets with Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses asks to see his face, but he refuses because it would have killed Moses. Instead, God speaks to him out of a cloud. He allowed his glory to pass by Moses while he hid him and even though Moses only saw the remnant of God’s glory, his face shined brilliantly so the people were amazed by it.
In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah is hidden in a cave on the same mountain Moses stood on and God passes by him. There was wind, then an earthquake, then fire, but the Lord was not in any of those. Then, there was a quiet whisper, and this was the voice of the Lord. Elijah was the prophet that was taken up into heaven in whirlwind with Chariots of Fire later in 2 Kings 2.
Mark paints this picture for us centuries later: there’s a mountain, a voice out of the cloud, and Moses and Elijah are even there. If you take the time to read those stories you will see that both Moses and Elijah were hidden so that they wouldn’t see God’s face. Moses was hidden in the cleft of a rock, and Elijah was hidden in a cave. But when Jesus takes his disciples up on the Mountain, he doesn’t hide. Instead, he is transfigured. There’s a metamorphosis. A transformation. Verse 3 describes this other-worldliness about Jesus’ clothes because they are so bright white. And Elijah and Moses are with him and they are talking to each other. The presence of Elijah and Moses in verse 4 points the disciples and those who read this story to the Messianic age where God dwells with his people. Both Moses and Elijah met with God on Mount Sinai and now Jesus meets with them on a Mountain.
This scene is meant to portray the place of Jesus in the plan of God, fulfilling a dual role of Moses and Elijah as the long-awaited Messiah. This story unites two expectations which were alive in 1st century Judaism: the coming of the end-time prophet which is like Moses and the appearing of Elijah at the dawning of the end-times. Malachi 4:4-5 says that Elijah would return before the Day of the Lord, when God will appear and make everything right and he includes Moses in the context of this prophecy. It was passages like this that fueled the Messianic expectations of the Jewish people in the time surrounding when Jesus lived on earth. They expected a great teacher like Moses and a great prophet like Elijah in the form of a military leader like David. The disciples see Jesus standing there with Elijah and Moses and they realize that their assessment of Jesus as the Messiah was correct. But, rather than teaching about the role that Elijah and Moses would play in God’s judgment on the nations, God’s deliverance and restoration of Israel, and God’s ruling over his people himself, this is a picture of the roles of Moses and Elijah being fulfilled in Jesus.
Some of the literature that is found from the in-between period of the Old Testament and New Testament fueled these Messianic expectations, but they never foresaw anyone like Jesus coming. God wasn’t going to send Moses or Elijah, he was going to send someone with a much higher authority. He was going to send his Son.
This is another way of displaying that in Jesus, the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom has come. HE is like Moses and Elijah but greater, he is God’s son. This is the point of this passage. All of the prophetic and cultural expectations of the Messiah, and the roles of Moses and Elijah in God’s final act in history are summed up in Jesus. This scene is another way that Jesus depicts the Time being fulfilled and God’s Kingdom coming.
In verses 5-6, Peter is so scared he starts talking and suggests that places of worship be built to honor Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Peter is so terrified, he has to do something so he suggests constructing some tent or building for worship. Verse 7 seems to interrupt Peter’s babbling. A cloud envelopes the mountain just like in the times of Moses and Elijah and a voice booms from it. “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” The disciples can stop waiting for a Messiah like Moses and Elijah, because the Son has come. This is an echo back to his baptism and a mark of the change in Jesus’ ministry. The Father speaks about his son when Jesus begins his ministry and now the Father speaks about his son as he goes to the end of his ministry. Verse 8 says this whole experience ended abruptly. Then just like that, everything went back to normal.
You can imagine the questions going through the three disciples’ heads: What was that all about?! But before they can ask him, and before he explains it, Jesus says, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the son of man rises from the dead”. Just as Jesus has told them to be quiet about saying he is the Christ, he tells them to be quiet here. If they told even the remaining 9 disciples or anyone else, it would no doubt fuel the misdirected misunderstanding of Messiah that were popular in their day. Remember that Jesus had said in verse 1 that some would see the Kingdom of God come in power, well, before the resurrection, James, John, and Peter have had a glimpse of it. But Jesus says, not to say anything about it until everyone gets a chance to see it when he is resurrected.
It’s Jesus’ death and resurrection that will calibrate the disciples understanding of Messiah, and Jesus tells them to wait until then. He refers to himself as “Son of Man” in 8:31 and also here in 9:1. This was a title from Daniel 7 which speaks to God’s vindication of his people through a coming ruler. Jesus had referred to himself in this manner before, but now the disciples have a new understanding of who the Son of Man is. After Jesus tells them to be quiet about what they have seen until he rises from the dead, in verse 10 the three disciples begin to ask one another questions about what Jesus might have meant when he referred to rising from the dead. The disciples still haven’t realized all that was going to take place.
They do know that they have just seen Elijah though, and that meant that Malachi’s words were coming true before their eyes. They were about to witness the “Great and awesome day of the Lord”. They were having trouble putting all of these pieces together, so they ask Jesus about Elijah’s coming in verse 11. Jesus’ explanation is not what they would have expected in verses 12-13. He says Elijah has come and the Elijah that was on the mountain is not the one to which he is referring. John the Baptist has already come fulfilling the Role of Elijah. He worked to restore all things through preaching a message of repentance calling the people of Israel to rightly align their lives. But the puppet king, Herod, had him arrested and later on killed. Jesus says, that this “Elijah” preceded him in ministry and in death, preparing the way. Elijah was the herald of not only the Lord’s coming, but his execution. Jesus again is teaching his disciples that the Kingdom coming has nothing to do with rebellion or military action. But it has everything to do with suffering and dying, and then finally rising. And Jesus will accomplish exactly that. He will be rejected, he will suffer, he will die, and then he will rise. This is how the Kingdom of God will come in power. But it is going to take some time before the disciples can understand this.
We are not so different from the first disciples. They were significantly influenced by their cultural understanding of God and the nature of the Messiah. We are naïve if we think we are not. So it requires vigilance and devotion to the word of God to guard against being led astray by false beliefs. If you remember previously in Mark, some thought that Jesus was a reincarnation of John the Baptist or Elijah or another prophet. On the mountain as Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah, the scene would have spoken vividly to the disciples that he was not a reincarnation, but a new and distinct person from them and possessed a greater authority than they ever did or would. Our culture is going to tell us things like all religions are essentially the same. It will tell us that one idea about God is as good as any other. But Jesus spends much of his ministry explaining through teaching and action the difference between the culture’s understanding of God and the truth. His chief lessons are depicted in the cross and in the empty tomb. And he says following him will cause our lives to look very similar in their death to ourselves and our promised resurrection. We all need the Lord to calibrate our theologies. We all need the Holy Spirit to lead us into true and give us grace to understand how his word integrates into our lives.
Jesus shows his disciples a glimpse of the glory he is withholding and it terrifies them. The time will come when they will see him suffer and die and they will again be terrified. But when they see Jesus risen, they are no longer terrified, instead they worship and they understand. Our understanding of who Jesus is and what difference it makes in our lives grows when we worship. When we read, pray, sing, and listen the Holy Spirit works to bring transformation to our hearts and minds. This happens individually and when we meet together, neither to the exclusion of the other. It takes time and we will grow in our understanding of who God is from now into eternity as we pursue the Lord forever. But understanding who God is, begins with believing that what he says is true, and aligning our lives accordingly. Understanding and even worship begins with belief and repentance.
Chapter 8 is a turning point for the story of the book of Mark. Up to this point, we have seen the concern has been over Jesus’ identity. Who teaches like this, heals like this, has authority like this? And in 8:29, we see the question finally answered by the disciple Peter when he says “You are the Christ, the Messiah”. Yet, their understanding of Messiah wasn’t necessarily the type of Messiah Jesus was and is. Popularly, the scribes and religious teachers taught all kinds of things about the conquest of the coming Messiah. Jesus is leading his disciples away from that type of understanding of Messiah to something quite different. The focus is now changing from identifying Jesus’ identity to identifying Jesus’ purpose. He says he must be rejected, he must suffer, he must die, and he must rise again.
This is very different from the way in which the people of that era were speaking of the Messiah. But, this is what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah. We finished chapter 8, but the context spill over to include 9:1. It’s anyone’s guess as to why the chapters are divided this way here, but let’s review the context and include 9:1 this time: Read Mark 8:34-9:1.
Jesus is speaking to the crowd, not only his disciples, and he says that some of them are going to see God’s Kingdom come with power. He is using military oriented words in 9:1, but he is not talking about rebellion. He is going to show that the Kingdom of God will come in power, after it has come in humility and weakness. This is where its power lies. The King submits to the kingdoms of this world and is rejected, suffers and dies. But, the Kingdom of God has such power that its King cannot remain in the grave. He is speaking here of the crucifixion and Resurrection.
The King will triumph over all the power that this world and the Kingdom of Satan has to muster in putting him to death. He will prove the Kingdom of God victorious when he triumphs over the grave. This is what it means for the Kingdom of God to come with power. It means resurrection. Many in that crowd remained to see Jesus rise from the dead. The resurrection is the demonstration of the power of God’s Kingdom. Bringing the dead back to life can only be done by the one who gives life. Jesus gives his life over to death and demonstrates his power by taking his life again. In doing this, he also demonstrates his authority to raise up all who believe in him.
He applies this understanding of the power of the Kingdom of God to his followers. He says triumph is found through dying to ourselves and pursuing the cross. The power comes when we realize that we can let our lives rest in the hand of God and live for the glory of God because even if we lose everything we can gain in this life, we will see our King at the resurrection.
In a time of turmoil and tragedy, we find hope in Jesus’ resurrection because we know that when we identify with him in his death, we also identify with him in his resurrection. Dying to ourselves, means living with Jesus. We have hope for this life and the life to come in Jesus.
The disciples are cast in the light of continually misunderstanding and misinterpreting what Jesus has been doing and teaching. But Jesus continues with them, not abandoning them, rather he teaches them and leads them. At this point in Mark’s Gospel, they have travelled to the Northern Region of Israel to proclaim the Gospel there.
Read Mark 8:27-30.
As they walked along the road, Jesus raises a question for his disciples. Several times so far in the book of Mark, we have heard the question “who is this?” asked. Having heard Jesus teach, or seeing him perform a miracle, people ask one another “who is this?” Who is Jesus? Finally, he comes out with it and asks his disciples about what people say. Wherever Jesus goes, his reputation has precedes him. Nearly everyone in Palestine has heard of him at this point. The disciples respond by saying that people believe he is someone like John the Baptist or Elijah. Others equate him with the great prophets. He is not just a prophet, but one of the prophets. People recognize Jesus is different from the other religious teachers and prophets that they have heard about because he has greater authority to perform miracles, to heal, and to cast out demons. Jesus brings the question close to home though, and asks his disciples, “who do you say I am?”
In verse 29, Peter speaks up, presumably as the representative of them all, and says, “You are the Christ”, “You are the Messiah”. They finally recognize that when Jesus has said the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come, that he was referring to his own identity as the one who would fulfill promise and demonstrate God’s authority on earth as King. As Jesus has healed people and cast out demons we have heard him tell them over and over to be quiet and not say anything. He even does it here with his disciples. They finally have a moment of clarity where they understand who Jesus is, and he says, be quiet about it.
Why does he do this?
Well, just because they understand Jesus to be the Messiah doesn’t mean they understand who the Messiah is. Just because you understand who Jesus is, doesn’t mean you know him. People have all kids of beliefs about God, but that doesn’t mean they know him, that doesn’t mean they walk with him or worship him. As I have mentioned before, there were lots of messianic notions and would-be Messiahs in the generations surrounding the time of Jesus (A great read on this is N.T. Wright’s book, “Simply Jesus“). However, there is nothing in the historical record, outside of the Bible, where anyone interprets who the Messiah would be the way Jesus does. Most conceptions of the Messiah involved political and military influence. Many if not most people thought the Messiah would be the King who would come like David, and overthrow the oppressive regime through military might.
Our day is no different. People have all kinds of beliefs about who Jesus is. These beliefs are affected by desires, politics, economics, suffering, oppression, health, and many other factors. We cannot control how our circumstances force our minds and hearts to interpret things. But, we can seek to align our beliefs with what Jesus says about himself, and what his earliest followers say about him. Beliefs we form about Jesus outside of the Scriptures have only our minds and circumstances as a foundation. Yet, with the Bible as a foundation for forming our beliefs, we have a fixed point of truth whereby our belief systems, though they vary greatly, may grow in their proper response to Jesus.
Jesus tells his disciples to be quiet about him being the Messiah because he had no intention of rousing a rebellion or raising an army. But, he certainly could have. Remember he had fed huge crowds of people – 5000 at one point and 4000 at another. Jesus could have raised an army of several thousand people had that been his intention. But it was not. So the disciples finally grasp who Jesus is, but they still only grasp it in part.
It will take time before they fully understand who Jesus is, but as they follow him they will grow in understanding. All of our theologies will be corrected in eternity, but as we follow Jesus, we will grow in our understanding of who he is. Our belief will be clarified and developed. But the disciples understood some basics. Jesus is the Messiah. How it affects our particular circumstances may change, but that fact remains. This is where belief and repentance join together properly. As we follow Jesus it will bring us to points of time where repentance is required. As we believe more adequately and our understanding of Jesus grows, so will our practice of repentance align our lives closer to him as we follow him. This in turn affects our hearts and our actions, our mind and our relationships. This is the road to restoration that will find it’s destination at the resurrection.
Knowing who Jesus is and knowing Jesus are two different things. The former requires historical and biblical knowledge, the latter requires belief and repentance. Knowing Jesus means following him.