Mark 13:28

“Learn the lesson taught by the fig-tree. As soon as its branches are full of sap, and it is bursting into leaf, you know that summer is near.


seasonal trees
appear barren
some seasons
blossomed fruited
some seasons

a large clue
is given all
by attending both
joy of eating
satisfaction of planting

just when we thought
all had withered away
we turn to look
and find new life
in a tasty taste


All politics is local can be paralleled with all writing being local. The details of any locale are sometimes very difficult to describe in another setting. What might seem as an easy picture of “summer” is extremely difficult in large portions of the world where the major markers are not the length of day and thus of heat and cold, but are the tropical seasons of wet and dry.

This is part of the difficult of translation. Even in temperate climes there are growing zones where a plant will or will not grow. Adding to the difficulty is the climate change that is currently going on where the zones are quickly changing. Who knows what will grow where anymore?

Regardless of what the particulars are, we can understand seasons and know that there are local markers of change. We are asked to apply our particular skill set(s) to the issue of change. Every employee knows different things than their employer does. They can see needed changes before the employer. Repair technicians could teach engineers a thing or two about whatever they are designing. Teachers could help politicians with the value of a lesson plan that builds toward something rather than piecemealing legislation.

When red-wing blackbirds show up or morels poke up or leaves turn color or a harvest shows itself—we know where we are. An unseen growth has been happening. It is time to attend to this season and begin preparing for the next while letting a previous season go, particularly the season before that. It is this movement of a moment into a next moment that will lead out of the chaos of darkness in which a north star has been lost.

The curse of a fig tree out of season, the travail of time out of joint, can now be seen as reversed. A broken Jerusalem can, again, have a flowing river of life. A rising of sap is a rising, nonetheless.

Mark 13:27

and then he will send the angels, and gather his people from the four winds, from one end of the world to the other.


G*D’s eyesight is shot
used to be G*D could see
a partner from a mile off

now a scene must be cleared
of riff and raff to see
what’s under G*D’s nose

what’s not shaken or blown away
must be what G*D’s looking for
an honest broker way off there


Mark has many translational problems. This verse is one of them.

Jesus has been talking about his rising for some time. This is the first time he has put forward that his disciples, his followers, will have their own rising. The condition here is their election or having been chosen. These qualifiers play against the way Jesus has participated in the first part of Mark—healing prodigally. Even those who would seem to be unchoosen or the unelect have their condition changed through their having been healed.

It is the second half of Mark that highlights the unchoosen—Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Herodians, High Priests (but not all of them). This may be a later understanding important to Mark’s telling but of less import to Jesus accepting the consequences of his challenge of tradition and power.

The Greek speaks of “four winds”. Not every language has four winds or uses wind to speak directionally. Even for those who can use the idiom of winds to mean west, east, south, and north, there is something lost if it fails to bring to mind the travails being spoken of—people who are blown away from their place(s) of security, scattered to see what soil they’ll end up in.

The third difficulty has to do with the ends of earth and heaven. The word ἄκρον(akron, farthest bound, extreme) can be connected with a previous cosmology of a three-story universe—

It can be read horizontally, directionally, as from one end of earth to the opposite end of heaven. It has also been understood vertically from the lowest part of earth to the highest point of the sky.

The promise points to additional risings. The question for the reader is how universal that rising is, will all creation be “raised”?

Mark 13:26

Then will be seen the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory;


son of adam
son of Adam
Son of Adam
adam’s Image
whatever the orthography
a presence
is implied
without the aid
of earthquake wind or fire
to reveal
said presence
all of which
is easier
without
confused titles
dependent relationships
but simply eaarth child


It is in a cosmic darkness that adam’s Image has enough distraction removed that it becomes visible as the background of all else, as presence. Such presence reminds us of Brother Lawrence and his thin book, The Practice of the Presence of God.

It is this background presence that removes the apocalyptic sense from the traditionally apocalyptic words and images being used. This was tricky, dangerous business for Mark to try to pull off as it trusts that people will have ears to hear beyond the surface of his story. It is, though, in keeping with the way in which Jesus continues to be a mystery, an unrevealed secret, to his very disciples, even the Twelve.

Bratcher415, talks about the construction of this verse:

The occurrence of the ”pivot construction,” in which the Son of man serves as the object of one verb, namely, see, and as subject of another, namely, coming, may require two clauses, paratactically combined: ‘the people will see the Son of man; he will be coming in clouds…’ Strictly speaking, the object of the verb see is not merely the Son of man, but the entire following dependent clause the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory, for what is seen is not just a person, but the entire event.

Just as “Watch Out!” acted as a transition from that which we are currently experiencing to that which ups the ante to a creation-wide event, so “adam’s Image” returns us to a creative garden and prophetically advances us to a new garden, a new Jerusalem, a new eaarth (read Bill McKibben’s Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet).

Parables and apocalyptic language are both intended to riddle us into a new awareness. Koan-like language and images are present in the traditional tales and poetry of every religious tradition (see Rumi as an example). It is a familiar way to be opened beyond the fragility of denotation attempting to describe ineffable experience.

Mark 13:25

the stars will be falling from the heavens, and the forces that are in the heavens will be convulsed.


in a time
of reckoning delayed

guiding stars
will wander afar

guardian angels
lose their way

the oh so sturdy earth
fall apart center outward

so comes every innovative shift
bringing chaos in its wake

grieve now all future loss
every foundation shaken

mountaintops and green pastures
await such a next opening


The stars in our eyes will turn from a gleam to burning until only a socket is left. Our fondest dream will appear as nothing more than Ecclesiastes’ smoke. Such vanity is what we have lived and on which we have staked our lives.

Our firmest beliefs will shake in their surety until they fall apart, not even a component part will be worth its weight in anything.

Those we have trusted as mentors, as guides, will be seen as infants needing nurture instead of the breast of sustenance seeing us into independence.

One image after another will crash like wild waves over us, dashing us to pieces on sharp rocks. What was just the beginning of the labor pains has grown exponentially into tides of impossibility in any transition to any thing of value. We have to ask about this being a part of some larger Mercy that cuts all of this darkness short. Have we been deceived? Are we left alone?

To meditate will pay dividends, but nothing you can put in a bank or add to your resume as an honor. Any renewed promise we gather here will come as a mere wisp, if that. We will hesitate to name any meaning as more than momentary.

These images of the sky, of some upward direction of a heaven, bring us back to earth as simple clay. There is a remolding standing ahead that rips blinders from our eyes, spits in our eye, and leads to a slow blinking awareness of life around to be partnered with rather than to claim dominion over (whether animals of the field or G*D’s Wisdom). A tentative presence begins to waver into a view of wider wakefulness.

Mark 13:24

“In those days, after that time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give her light,


the darkness of depression
blocks strong brother sun
obscures gentle sister moon
puts a basket
over a little candle

the brilliance of ecstasy
outshines the largest sun
is crazier than any full moon
shapes everything
in its own image

a depressed ecstasy
rises to fail
fails to rise
settling into habit
addicted to everything

such is clear enough now
about past patterns
it will still take awhile
to repent today
to respect tomorrow


Here is the next deeper circle of Dante’s despair, after the all too usual sufferings at the hand of those seeking power over—an age of darkness questioning and denying every trust you have placed.

Creation will appear to walk backward. The outward expansion of what we know as Universe will seem as though it were collapsing back into a Small Whimper. We will be so distant from stars they will appear to go out. That which we had set our lives by will waver; there will be no more North.

There will be no sign flickering in the dark.

Readers would do well to come to grips with Swanson’s80attempt to see this part of Mark as a “true story”:

Perhaps Mark’s story comments, with bitter irony, on the likelihood that lost and scattered Israel will ever come home. If so, a storyteller would do well to figure out how this bitter irony shapes the rest of Mark’s story, and then apply these discoveries to playing this scene.

To “play this scene” is to allow it to shape our actions and reactions to our what we find or don’t find in our everyday experience, which, holographically, is creation writ small.

When our personal dark night is found to be one shard of many lying all about, none of which can encourage another to “Watch Out!”, it is as though the sun blinked out before our expectation of its doing so. This is more than a facing of the unsurprising troubles of an abuse of power taking the little the poor have from them (under the guise of helping them become responsible) or one genocide or another on any of the continents in any year.

Mark 13:23

But see that you are on your guard! I have told you all this beforehand.


watch out
with a relaxed gaze
watch in
appreciative wonder

watch out
for deliberate harm
watch in
determined resistance

watch out
for trickster coyote
watch in
irony and laughter

watch out
danger abides
watch in
assurance of abundance


“Watch out” has a future cast about it. This is not simply an old saw, “take care of today and tomorrow will take care of itself.” It is asking us to attend to consequences as much as we do causes. Without attending to consequences we don’t know how to take care of today.

And around we go, again.

Ahead of time, Jesus has told of his suffering, death, and rising. Ahead of time, each of us can anticipate suffering, death, and rising. No matter what partnerships we have made, how many resources we have available to ourselves, how attentive we are to today and tomorrow, or what goals and intentions we still hold to, there is no escaping suffering, death. Rising continues to be a trust issue.

While most of the focus of this form of “Watch Out!” is oriented toward what is yet to come, it also acts as transition point between the tribulations that are human caused and those that would affect our understanding of creation and lead to a change of heart. What we have been dealing with are matters of survival in the body and in the community. Yet to come are those shakings of a framework not limited to personal and communal breathing.

To review Jesus’ response to a request for signs and times of an end, between “Watch out you don’t fall for lies” (verse 5) and “Watch out!” (this verse)—every question about signs and times is a false question that only gives rise to saying more than can be known. Standard understandings of the frailty and fallibility of all things are always in order. Don’t presume, in any easy moment, that all unexpected consequences have been vanquished. This little inclusio began with a warning against deception and ends with a statement that claims of false leaders (Christs and Prophets) are and will be present.

The test of this and every signless wilderness will be a persistence to go deeper into it and finally know its shallowness.

Mark 13:22

for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and display signs and marvels, to lead astray, were it possible, even God’s people.


for every prophet
later known
for a larger truth
than their present
could fathom

a wanna-be prophet
known in the moment
for common sense
everyone knows and fears
eventually decays

no one can wait
long enough
to tell them apart
no one can tell
one wonder from another

decisions will be made
without sufficient data
about the best available
is to over rely on
a mystery of mercy


Should “Christ” be capitalized or not in this verse? There seems to be no standard notation. It may depend on how sacred you hold “Christ” to be.

The Greek ψευδόχριστος (pseudochristos, false-christ) would tend toward a lower case translation. It seems rather fragile of his followers if Jesus is the only one who can be a designated capital “C” Christ. As a title or category, if you lose the capital, you lose the weight of how important it is to know just what is being presented. A false christ should be fairly easy to detect. The warning here is that it is not so easy to tell the marks of a Messiah. A false Christ will deceive well.

A question goes back to a previous scene when the disciples are upset that someone is healing in Jesus’ name without having paid their graduation fee to the disciple’s nonprofit foundation.

If a false Christ is doing good, do we let slide their claim of Christness? If they are false, at what point does that make a difference? Is this a theological purity trick question? Does it make a difference that this is said by Jesus instead of his disciples? Which leaves us with the question of whether this is a statement that Jesus might have believably said?

The Jesus Seminar has designated the previous verse as gray—likely something Jesus never said, but that it sounds like something he might have said. This verse and the next, according to that same Seminar, is from some other or later tradition and so it is designated a black verse. Their sense is that Jesus rejects this sort of speculation in Luke 17:20–21 and Thomas 113:2–4 and they regard that as more characteristic of Jesus than Mark’s reporting here.

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.]