Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Asleep
Mark 13:1-8
Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
The RCL-appointed Gospel for November 16, 1997–Pent. 26–is Mark 13:1-8. It brings us full circle from where we were fifty sabbaths ago. Advent I in the Year of Mark began with his apocalypse chapter 13. Now with one Sunday, Christ the King, yet to go in Year B we’re back to his apocalypse again. I just checked the Sabb.Theol. offering for 50 weeks ago, and discover that I there said–for reasons now unknown to me–that Advent I gave us our one and only text from Mark’s apocalypse for the entire lectionary year. Not so. The Year of Mark begins and ends with chapter 13.

Some of the prolegomena items of 50 weeks ago are worth reviewing here at year’s end.

  1. Mark’s apocalypse is the linchpin between Jesus’ final confrontation with the people of the temple (chapters 11 & 12) and the passion narrative (14 & 15). For us as church that chapter is also the linchpin for our connection (or to expose our dis-connection) with the Jesus of the Passion narratives.
  2. Mark’s entire gospel proposes a theology of the Crucified Loser to a community perplexed and tempted to apostasy by virtue of their own experience of suffering and their own profiles as losers, not winners. The question(s) posed by the disciples in our Pent. 26 text is no less uncomprehending than all their questions throughout the lectionary year. At best they show the disciples with blindness “half-healed,” like the man in Mk. 8, seeing humans as though they were “trees walking.”
  3. A Messiah for losers is the good news of Mark’s gospel. It surfaces especially in his 31 uses of the Greek term: ochlos, most often mis-translated as “crowd, throng, multitude.” As Korean Minjung theologians from Korean Seminex have shown, ochlos in Mark is not a quantitative term, but a qualitative term: the crowded-out, the outsiders, the folks trashed by the operating systems of the old eon, both its churchly and its worldly systems.
  4. Mark’s proposal for Christians during the End Time is as follows: The End Time is any time that is “a time for confessing.” If that is so, then there already have been many end times and very likely there will be more (many more?) before the actual “last”of the last days.
  5. Christ’s disciples survive the apocalypses of subsequent history by their faith-connection to Jesus’ own apocalypse unfolding in the passion narrative. In his soon-to-unfold passion Jesus will undergo judgment day. Good Friday is his Apocalypse Now. But in this apocalypse now God is offering a “merciful” judgment day to sinners. Such sinners, were they compelled to cope with that apocalyptic day on their own, would also be God-forsaken. By entrusting themselves to Jesus such sinners become disciples. Since he endured God’s proleptic apocalypse–in his own body on the tree–disciples are “home free” when subsequent ones come, and finally “already all the way home”when the last Last Day arrives.
    1. The question from the faithful disciple is not “When WILL it be?” but “Is it Apocalypse NOW?” That constitutes the issue of watching or sleeping.
    2. If it is such a time, the next question is: “Am I/are we on the witness stand, and if so, which Messiah am I/are we confessing?” That is the issue of being astray or being elect.
    3. Then follows the act of confessing in the face of hatred, betrayal, or death sentences, all inflicted to intimidate the believers and stifle their confessing Christ on the witness stand. That is the issue of confessing or being ashamed of Christ with its corollary of his confessing or being ashamed of us at the Final Apocalypse.
  6. In Mark 13 Jesus addresses the end-time problem of disciples — both then and now. Read the entire chapter before you proceed any further here.
  7. The six stages of the Mark 13 matrix of 50 weeks ago were: Diagnosis. 1) Asleep, 2) Astray, and 3) Ashamed. New prognosis : 1) The Merciful Apocalypse in the Ochlos-Messiah (including an excursus on ochlos theology), 2) Spirited Confessing when it’s Apocalypse Now, and 3) Tending the Store by Gathering the Ochlos. [For the full matrix on the Advent I text see Sabbatheology 39 on the Crossings web page: www.crossings.org.]

A MATRIX FOR MARK 13:1-8

DIAGNOSIS:

STAGE 1
Asleep: Christ’s own disciples–then and now–are not immune to misreading reality: “What magnificent buildings!” Asking the wrong questions: “When will these things happen?”

STAGE 2
Astray: Worse than asking the wrong questions–as bad as that is–is to believe the wrong answers offered by false messiahs (v. 22) with their alternate interpretations of present history. Alternate in the sense that the death and resurrection of the genuine Messiah are ignored or misread in interpreting what is happening and what is to come. Such deception detaches Christians from their Christ-connection and leaves them defenseless in facing their own apocalypse now. With the result that. . .

STAGE 3
Ashamed: “Awakened to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan.12:2, the first reading) as the apocalypse rolls over them. Their own life and the world they occupy is left “not one stone on another…all thrown down.” Without Christ it is not only the creaturely constituent components of such lives that crumble. They also crumble before God’s seat of judgment in the “real” (not “shadow”) house of God–ala the day’s second reading from Hebrews 10.

A NEW PROGNOSIS:

STAGE 4
The Mercy Apocalypse of the Ochlos Messiah The saving effect of Jesus’ own apocalypse for those crumbled in stage 3, an apocalypse “ahead of time” (Mk 13:23) soon to unfold in his passion. Its validity, even against God’s own judgment of sinners, “will not pass away” (v. 31). That is what makes Jesus the “true” Christ in comparison with all “false” ones. His “word” about us is valid before the Judge of the Supreme Court. In Jesus, God has “cut short the days” of his critical apocalypse or else “no one would survive” (v.20). But that cutting short saves the elect.

STAGE 5
Confessing “Watching out . . . being on guard . . . standing firm . . . not believing the false prophets and false Christs . . . keeping watch.” All of which signal what faith is in Mark’s Gospel: locking in on and trusting the word from Jesus, as the word that will not pass away. Doing so in the face of all other evidence, all other “words” to the contrary, even from God!

STAGE 6
Taking Care of the House Until He Comes (13:34) Relinquishing everything, “house, goods, fame, child and spouse”–as some of us sang a few days ago–when the moment calls for it (v.15 & 16). Gathering other ochlos to Christ from wherever “the four winds” have scattered them. Not “sleeping,” nor “being alarmed” as apocalypses unroll, but “saying and doing” what Christ wants said and done on all the witness stands where he places us, so that for others too “the days be cut short” and they be added to “the elect.”

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