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Monday, July 03, 2006

The Olivet Discourse

I am currently preaching through the Gospel of Mark. Last Sunday, my text was chapter 13, which is commonly called the Olivet Discourse. I found it difficult to break down the chapter into multiple sermons so I tackled the entire text in one sermon. Further reflecting has led me to believe I could have broke the text possibly into two sermons having vv 32-37 as a stand alone, but this would entirely depend upon one's interpretation of these verses.

Anyone who has examined this text as it is written in Mark knows the great difficulties it possesses for interpretation. The question which guides the speech of Jesus concerns the destruction of the Temple Complex. Jesus says to the Disciples, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." To which the disciples respond, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?"

It is held by many that Jesus is talking about two separate events. First he is addressing the coming destruction of the Temple. In addition to this, many believe he addresses the signs preceding his 2nd coming, no doubt in part because in the Gospel of Matthew the disciples ask Jesus both questions (Matt. 23:3). Yet, when examining Mark's version, we must first seek to understand it as he has written it, not as Matthew has written the exchange.

I have settled (may change with time) on the position that Jesus' words contained in verses 5-31 are addressed with the destruction of the Temple in view, not his 2nd coming. I have uneasily settled on verses 32-37 referring to the 2nd coming of Christ Jesus, but am tempted to see these as addressing the Temple as well.

These are the difficult verses for my view found in the context of chapter 13:
1. Mark 13:10, "And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations."
2. Mark 13:19, "For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be."

For those who see most of this speech referencing the signs and events which precede the 2nd coming of Christ, the huge problem verse is Mark 13:30, which says, "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

Needless to say, there are no easy answers for both positions. Even in Matthew's version, you still have to differentiate where Jesus is addressing the Temple and where he is addressing the 2nd return in addition to a comparable statement to Mark 13:30 (Matt 24:34).

Any comments...and does anyone know of a good sermon preached from Mark chapter 13?

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