Mark 13:21

“And at that time if anyone should say to you ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ ‘Look, there he is!’, do not believe it;


I know
I’m to believe
things known
to be true

I know
you believe
what you know
to be true

I know
belief
knows
it’s not true

I believe
what we know
stands between
our truths

I know better
than to believe
I know better
than yet unknown truth


In the process of trying to cut a time of tribulation short there will be many opportunities to take short-cuts away from the learning of mutual service.

Every attraction to someone taking care of things for you is a short-cut that will eventually be rued and found to have been a lie. Their short-cut lengthened the time we spent in an unproductive wilderness.

Taking a longer route through Wisdom and arguing with past verities to find a way through the brokenness of today to find a more whole tomorrow is actually a more efficient process. Compare the short-cut of yelling at a kid to “Come here” and the longer but better way of going to the child for another moment of teaching and learning. Yelling sets up further resistance while presence reestablishes a relationship.

There are plenty of people who desire nothing more than having you look up to them for guidance and their subsequent fleecing of your time, resources, and energy.

Short-cuts in a time of travail are described by Myers175,

Because we so often find these negative feelings [of response to a chaotic world] intolerable, we are constantly tempted to displace them with aggressive behavior toward an “enemy” who becomes the object of all our fear and rage. Or we turn our frustration inward in self-destructive behavior—deadening the pain with alcohol or food or drugs. Or we respond to the complex and disturbing challenge of our world with panaceas, simplistic solutions that excuse us from deep or nuanced analysis. But the most dangerous temptation of all is not to look, to narrow our awareness, to enter into psychic numbness, to become passive and withdrawn.

Mark 13:20

And, had not the Lord put a limit to those days, not a single soul would escape; but, for the sake of God’s own chosen people, he did limit them.


as quick as disaster
a sighting of joy
flitting among the ashes
with a twinkling song
voiced over

wherever poison
has been clapped away
a death-frightened child flies
well into borrowed time
a rescue-partner

who could know
a wall could fall so fast
a heart grow large so fast
a suffering cease so fast
a meaning arrive so full


This verse reminds us of a previous scene of Jesus and children, when cutting limbs short was the way to go. Losing a hand or foot or eye was touted as a way to rescue one’s self from a worse consequence.

Here G*D cuts time short.

It might also be said that Jesus is cut short.

All in all, this chapter is not looking for a replacement of creation, but a new way of engaging it. What is looked for is a cutting short of the principalities and powers in religion, state, and self that there be a blossoming and fruiting that will multiply the blessings of Creation (“It is good”) and Baptism (“You are beloved”) thirty-fold, sixty-fold, even a hundred-fold.

This suggests the Mercy extended by this cutting short is intended to shift what creation has become back toward its intended wholeness. There is no need for a late, great, left-behind planet earth or other doomsday mechanism. The realm of hierarchy and privilege are to be cut short, which will leave openings for a previous way to straightway reorganize through a model of mutual service with one another rather than enslavement of one another.

Reopening the option of service puts us back on track with seeds that grow of their own accord rather than the forced boom-and-bust cycle that we go through when our partnership with one another and creation has been subverted by what it profits someone, right now, to take advantage of accumulated resources and insure an imbalance in honoring an innate goodness/belovedness in others. When people become economic objects we are on our way to where fires never go out.

It is questionable whether this happens by some fiat from G*D that avoids the hard work of accepting a Jubilee.

Mark 13:19

For those days will be a time of distress, the like of which has not occurred from the beginning of God’s creation until now – and never will again.


suffering
great suffering
greater suffering
even greater suffering
is instructive

each iteration
rises only to fall
for worse does come
until it comes
to die

death and taxes
fade to laughter
before suffering death
with no palliative care
in sight

unseen in our fear
of worser worse
is a large hilarity
never finally overcome
did you forget again


It seems we are always in the midst of days that have great suffering. Whenever there are those who desire a meaningful life but are not willing to lose any of their property or comfort, there will be those who suffer as a result. Likewise, whenever there are those who desire a meaningful life and are willing to lose both their property and their life to guarantee they are deserving of such, there will be those who suffer as a result.

Both of these contrary actions can lead to suffering. The first is a suffering of self at not experiencing a meaning-full life. The second brings the suffering of others when they don’t measure up to the moral superiority of those able to claim a required “cross”.

Each suffering will have its own quality, never seen before or since.

It is helpful to look again at the comments on 4:28 and 6:43 and the understanding of “Dayenu”—a sense of enough that comes through an assurance of Belovedness and can be carried into every wilderness, including that of death, and back into the lives of others.

Bratcher409notes, “Tribulation [great suffering], as a noun describing a process, must be translated often as a verb, e.g. ‘people will suffer’.” It is helpful to always put these universal-tending categories in much smaller units that relate to living humans or some part of their environmental context.

Connecting “Suffering” with “Creation” deserves greater attention. A literal translation of the Greek about the context of suffering is “from [the] beginning of [the] creation which [is] created [by] G*D until now.” This is work for the Reader. Blessings on your work.

[Note: this last paragraph is here because the potential book version of this blog will use the Common English Bible translation and it is much less clear about the reference to Creation. This is a reminder that the scriptures used here are from the online Open English translation which is available for unrestricted and free use.]

Mark 13:18

Pray, too, that this may not occur in winter.


whether we have seen
promising flowers
or their nascent fruit
inexorably growing
or even picked
at their height
or stored away
for later
or flourishing
for years on end
here comes
a famine
of human kindness
ravenous for
next year’s seed
in the face of only now
tomorrow stands no chance
of being prayed close


Not everywhere has a “winter”. The prayer is that nothing physically impede a retreat.

Taking into account the persistence of predictions of “the end of time”, the stimuli for such warnings range widely. Our tendency to want to be horrified within safe boundaries (note the popularity of horror films or even extreme roller-coasters) is sufficient reason to see this chapter as more apocalyptic than necessary.

Wars and rumors of war and disrespect and dishonoring of women and children need addressing in every generation. These are not the end, but a sigh and sign of the witness still needed regarding changed hearts.

The days leading up to and during the sack of Jerusalem and the crucifixion of thousands of Jews is certainly the biggest of reasons to project a “cosmic catastrophe” (Wright183). For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, there are any number of additional trigger points for this chapter—Pilate’s setting up Roman standards in Jerusalem or the continued silence of the Herodians to the effect of occupation or the High Priests’ privileged position or the Sadducee’s over-reliance on Moses or the Pharisee’s attempts to mediate overarching rules in a contextual setting or the Disciple’s on-going missing of Jesus’ way or the Crowd’s manic/depressive cycle or Readers so resistant to claiming their belovedness or something too simple and ordinary for us to credit.

Sabin2119sums up Jesus’ use of apocalyptic images:

…Mark shows that while Jesus uses some apocalyptic terms, he does not share that perspective. In Chapter 4, we looked at the way Mark shows Jesus telling the apocalyptic parable (the sower), and then two more parables that reverse its meaning (the seed growing secretly and the mustard seed). In the same way here, Mark shows Jesus using the apocalyptic language of some contemporary writers in order to show how he differs from their point of view.

Mark 13:17

And alas for pregnant women, and for those who are nursing infants in those days!


how terrible
for birth
to be put
on hold

how terrible
for babes
to be put
on hold

how terrible
for breath
to be put
on hold

holds
hold
all
terrible.


“Terrible” might better be translated as “Painful”. This makes it a double pain for pregnant women who face labor pains along with the pain of displacement. It may even be more than a double pain if someone is nursing more than one child at a time. These sorts of pains do not max out.

I found it interesting that at this point a guide to translators into different languages and cultures [Bratcher408] felt it necessary to warn about the terms, “pregnant” and “nursing”:

…there are always expressions for pregnancy in all languages. The trouble is that there are so many, some of which are regarded as vulgar, others as humorous, and still others as proper, though in this latter instance propriety may be dictated by whether a man or a woman is speaking.

[Nursing or] “Give suck” must be translated with care in order to avoid possible vulgar expressions and also so as to make certain that the words of Jesus are those which are fitting for a man to utter, since often distinctions are made between men’s and women’s speech at this point.

While this is couched in cultural terms it might carry with it a question of what it means that Good News is also scandalous news when it comes to challenging an entrenched control of yesterday and tradition over tomorrow and a new partnership. It is this conservative tendency that can keep religion from making needed changes in its own processes as well as engagement with a larger community.

The question here is, when does propriety becomes the enemy of Good News?

This is an intensifier as to troubles that are in the offing as consequences of decisions being made today. The “O Woe” that begins this verse reminds us of the plight of widows and orphaned children who become a focal point for the prophets of every age. Those with the least security seem to be the first to have even their little security taken from them. This is far more basic than an urban/rural dichotomy. This is bedrock meanness being lived out at women’s expense.

Mark 13:16

nor must one who is on their farm turn back to get their cloak.


when clouds mushroom
there is no time
to take shelter
and even if you did
the ravenous nothing
following on
would swallow you whole

there is no time
to put your pants on
one leg at a time
they’ll only be soiled anyway
we only have one another
not even one fig leaf
between here and eternity


The second specific response is for those in rural areas. Here, also, there is no time to gather extra provisions. In fact, those that have been brought out to the field are to be left behind.

Those from the city or the field are both going to be caught up in a need for immediacy—one of Mark’s oft used words. The sense of urgency is put on high alert.

To run to the hills is to come to a place of retreat deep inside wilderness. There is chaos in everyday life; there is chaos in wilderness. The place of healing/safety lies beyond these. Refuge and retreat are places where perspective can shift—like unto a heart change for baptism.

From this place of assurance and belovedness, we are then able to make our way back into the chaos of a natural wilderness and into the chaos of the unnatural wilderness of bullying (power over) others, whether religious, political, or military.

Whether from city work that takes place with a cloak on or field work that has removed the cloak, with one cloak or none, we are called from chaos all about to a stillness within where through clouds that strip our knowing from us we visit a dark night from whence will come a next beginning of Good News.

The disciples might be considered to have one cloak with which to be sent forth. Those in the crowd and additional followers can be seen as working toward having a cloak, but currently without one. Whether one is in the inner-circle, an outer-circle, or is a Reader outside the circle, just looking in, there is a wondering about why things can’t just be made better by having us be in charge.

Without an experience of being out-of-control and having a deeper-than-wilderness experience of meaning beyond tradition our power would soon degrade into power over others. We would claim an authority beyond our ability to be responsible.

Mark 13:15

and a person on the house-top must not go down, or go in to get anything out of their house:


hey you
watcher on the roof
it’s time
jump
I’ll catch you

now
run run
there’s no time
to take anything
I’ll run with you


To emphasize the need for speed and running to the hills, to your garden, to a wilderness, Mark gives specifics.

The first is for those in the city. There is no leisure spot to be a couch potato. In the cool of the evening, when it is time to talk with your G*D Partner about the day just completed and prepare for a new day not bound by this one, there is no time to even say “Amen”. Anything not proactive is betrayal. We can’t laze our way into better.

This is not an appeal to run that you can live to fight another day. This returns us to Baptizer John. All the multitude from Jerusalem that left to find John in the wilderness bellowing about Isaiah’s “straightway” and baptizing changed hearts need to be joined by those of today who have finally focused on the disaster around them and need to get mobilized.

This is an echo of Abraham’s warning to Lot to flee the abomination that results in desolation when Neighb*rs are abused, when a Belovedness-creating G*D is replaced with anything that will serve us and avoid our having to serve or deacon in the world. Be diligent in your fleeing. There will be no time to catch a glimpse, over your shoulder, of what is already burning like the never-ending garbage in old Sodom’s Gehenna.

Myers172notes:

The “desecrating sacrilege” (see Daniel 11:31, 12:11) and Mark’s cryptic editorial comment (“let the reader understand”) in 13:14 refer to the final Roman siege of Jerusalem. In the tradition of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 21), Jesus calls for his followers to abandon the defense of the Temple-state as a lost cause. The conditions described in 13:15–18 certainly reflect the plight of wartime refugees.

Today, with the increase of refugees everywhere, we see the results of a quick flight. Travel with no change of clothes, with no extra provisions, takes us back to Jesus’ sending forth messengers two-by two. Before a healing is available, there needs to be an awareness of how dire the situation is—12 years bleeding, a daughter dying.

Mark 13:14

“As soon, however, as you see ‘the Foul Desecration’ standing where it ought not” (the reader must consider what this means) “then those of you who are in Judea must take refuge in the mountains;


ruled by disgust
we set up rules
about who is pure
who is most foul

eventually our disgust
of them and those
comes to the center
of a sin-sick soul

betrayed by our own heart
in its deep-heart’s core
drip drip dripping
our peace away

we leave a usual harbor
push through protective barriers
to stormy wildernesses
well past survival’s need


It is very easy to become affronted by everything. Everywhere we look we see disgusting and destructive acts. It is particularly galling when these seem to be done by choice, to be intentional. It is enough to make one run away. This can occur in any number of arenas—religion, addiction, politics, and even family dynamics.

Here a Reader is encouraged to analyze one key stimulus that will motivate them and focus them so they will not be so reactive that everything is seen as an equal challenge and they find themselves fatigued rather than engaged.

The reference in the first part of the verse is found in Daniel 11:31–32; 1 Maccabees 1:41, 48, 54, 60–61; and 2 Maccabees 6:3–6. If this were updated we could translate Antiochus into Hitler and understand the attempt at genocide that hits so hard with examples such as Auschwitz.

Sabin167–68downplays the apocalyptic:

The significance of the phrase is rhetorically highlighted by its placement at the center of Jesus’ discourse. The very centrality of “the desolating sacrilege” distinguishes Jesus’ discourse, I think, from any trace of “apocalyptic” eschatology because it makes the cause of human misery neither God’s wrath nor Satanic victory but the ordinary human lust for power….
     …. the linking of the present distress with the biblical images of recurring tribulation points to the other end of the cycle, which is one of hope. Jesus’ discourse in fact also concludes on a note of countering imagery.

Mark 13:13

and you will be hated by everyone because of me. Yet the person who endures to the end will be saved.


for goodness sake
your goodness
learned from others
only carries you
to the edge of suffering

past suffering
to a further shore
there is no being carried
as we are stripped
until alone we are
for goodness sake


Mark only uses the word ὑπομείνας (hupomeinas, “one who endures”) once but it is a key to the rest of the story that has a promise of suffering and death hovering over it. Will the beginning of Good News find that it really is a start or will it come to no good end?

“Will you endure with me?” is a continual question Jesus raises with both his partner disciples and his partner G*D. In response to this question there is running away and silence.

It is this sort of question that keeps the travails listed in this chapter from becoming mere apocalypse and opens the possibility of there being an eschatological significance to this journey to Jerusalem. It is through an endurance of trust that we find our way, not our relative moral superiority to another.

Wright180reminds us of endurance as a virtue, in and of itself.

Jesus told us we would need patience to hold on and see the thing through. We should not be surprised if we are called, through whatever circumstances, to practice that virtue—however unfashionable it may be in our hurried and anxious world.

This will echo Paul in Romans 5:2–4:

We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (CEB)

Endurance is a word well-suited to the kind of intentional wilderness wandering in which the Israelites and Jesus were tested. It is an essential element to allowing an involved detachment that comes at today’s problems from the perspective of tomorrow’s Good News. Endurance gives a way to measure how today’s disciples are doing.

As democratic processes around the world are being tested by varieties of fascism, this ancient virtue becomes critical to coming through another beginning—a beginning of a next darkening age.