My Words Will Not Pass Away
Ordinary 33 Year B
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Mark 13: 24 — 32
As this is at, or almost at the end of the Church year, it is our last passage from St Mark’s Gospel for meditation. (The final reading for the year is chosen especially from St John’s Gospel, and celebrates “Christ the King”.)
Our notes below do not follow the normal verse by verse commentary. We have chosen to
supplement the reading with some key ideas presented verses preceding our Sunday text.
(Readers who would like an overview specifically of the Sunday Gospel, read our “Supplementary Note“.)
The discourse of Jesus in Chapter 13 was given on the Tuesday evening in His last week before the final Passover. As was His custom at that time of the day, He left the Temple and the city and walked with His disciples across the Kidron Valley, to the Mount of Olives.
In the Reflections which follow, we have provided, as mentioned, a few thoughts on verses leading up to the Sunday Gospel. This is because of the difficulty readers have expressed when dealing with end-time prophecy. They are offered here only as background. The chief emphasis should be on the text set for the Sunday. This text for the Sunday follows, at the end of which we have included the few remaining verses in chapter 13.
Many of us find this sort of writing to be uncomfortable, and difficult to follow. But take heart, the Sunday text has two of the most exciting prophecies from Jesus. These really are encouraging! Let’s take a look, and see what we can find.
Some Reflections on the Text
Verses 1 — 14 (Refer to attached text.)
On His way out of the Temple, passing through its beautiful courts for the last time, Jesus hears a comment by one of His disciples:
“Rabbi, what massive stones!
What magnificent buildings”.
To this Jesus replies, “Not one of them will be left lying on another — every stone will be thrown down.”
The disciples get the hint, and make no further comment.
They carry on their walk towards the Mount of Olives — actually they are heading to Bethany — which is rather like going to the outer suburbs. At a favourite point on the western bank Jesus sits down and takes a look across the valley at a sight He loves so very much: Jerusalem!
Two pairs of brothers, Peter and James, John and Andrew, taking advantage of a little privacy, ask Jesus to explain some rather mysterious things He has been talking about what they should watch out for.
“Tell us when these things will happen. What will be the sign
that they are about to be fulfilled?”
A long discourse by Jesus follows, dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem and His personal, future return. For meditation purposes, we suggest four key thoughts.
1. A Panoramic Prophecy:
Verses 5 — 13 (Refer to the attached text.)
Jesus passes before us, in a sort of prophetic review, the entire age between His departure (Ascension) and His return (Parousia). He is talking to four disciples, but in fact, He presents the teaching for the whole Church. We are that body of people extending through the whole of that period, and thus have a part in the sequence of events. Jesus intertwines His prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem with His return. He leaves us to ponder the reason for doing so. As He talks, He warns us:
• Beware of false prophets!
• Don’t interpret specific events as absolute signs.
Jesus explains that the whole Body of His people will experience hardship and persecution as He did. Great care must be taken not to be distracted from the commission to proclaim His teaching in a way that reflects exactly what He taught, making sure it can be understood by the average person. There will be no situation we need fear that the Holy Spirit will not be with us to lead and guide.
Verses 14 — 23 (Refer to the attached text.)
As persecution intensifies, we are warned not to follow false Messiahs who offer convenient escape routes (and there are plenty of them around). The tribulation which precedes the return of Jesus develops out of the persecution and continual opposition of our age. We are to keep our attention focussed on our task and let events roll on. This will be hard, but that is why Jesus is getting in first with His personal advice.
3. Our Pre-occupation:
Verses 24 — 27
“But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be
darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers
in the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the
clouds’ with great power and glory,
and then he will send out the angels and gather (his) elect
from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
The signs which immediately follow the “great tribulation” Jesus talks about, directly precede His return. In one sense they seem specific and clear, and yet on reflection also appear ambiguous. But our Lord will not allow the occasion to be marked on a calendar.
What we must be preoccupied with is not when but what happens: all people of good will are to be drawn to Him. The prophecy of the crucifixion is to be fulfilled in glory.
“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw
everyone to myself.” (John 12: 32)
4. Prepare and Pray:
Verses 28 — 37
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch
becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that
summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not
“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the
angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
(See Supplementary text on the next page)
(Supplementary text — Verses 33 to 37.)
“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places
his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the
gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is
coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow,
or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch’!”
With this great climax in view, Jesus urges a very specific piece of advice: watch; stay awake, be alert. The old Greek text had, “watch and pray”. The reference to praying is omitted from the most popular (but not necessarily better) modern editions. But the infant Church never hesitated to explain our Lord’s instruction as:
“Keep your inner sight and your inner hearing fixed on the
For the early Christians, that meant prayer and study!
In a way, Jesus does not give His disciples the clear-cut formula by which they will have the advantage of the situation.
Some have been brought to ask, “What is the point of the gift of prophecy, if not to predict accurately what is to occur? One widely-used commentary has a clear view about this”:
“…the true purpose of all Biblical prophecy which is not
speculative but practical, is not to enable us to forecast the
future, but to interpret the present; not to satisfy curiosity
but to deliver from perplexity and to encourage watchfulness.”
(From: The New Bible Commentary Revised, Intervarsity Press, 1970.)
We started our study of Jesus (at the beginning of the Gospel of St Mark) with His proclamation: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Now He draws it to a conclusion saying that the fulfilment is near, and we are pointed to the return of Jesus.
We therefore come to realise that Jesus us not talking so much about near in time or in space. Rather, for His disciples, the fulfilment is always near at hand when they have their whole attention, their inner-gaze, fixed on Him.
The key message is now clear and it is the first and last word of His discourse: “Watch!”
Charles Erdman’s elaboration on that is invaluable:
Watchfulness, therefore, does not consist in idle speculations as
to the time of the advent, not in presumptuous setting of dates
which God has never revealed, not in neglect of duty. It is
expressed, rather, in absolute fidelity to our daily tasks. We are
to be like servants, whose Master has gone to another country,
but has given to each one his work. We are to be so wakeful, so
diligent in our several places, so concerned that the gospel shall
be preached unto all nations, that we shall have no ground for
fear or for regret when we learn that our returning Lord is near.
(From: The Gospel of Mark by Charles Erdman, Westminster Press, 1945)
When we reflect on the teaching of this chapter (13) we can be thankful for the spiritual content. The message from our Lord is encouraging, and if meditated upon, will help keep us steady on our course as we find chaos developing around us.
Christian civilisation is disintegrating rapidly. It is true the Church has always been under attack in one way or another. From the 17th and 18th centuries this has been particularly so, and reached a horrendous scale in the 20th century worsening in the 21st. However it must be remembered that the damage and suffering caused from external conflict are, seemingly, no worse than the damage caused by the breakdown in discipline within the Church. There is indeed, cause for great alarm; but it, too, must not become a distraction or obstacle to our continued efforts.
For most of us this can only mean taking the lesson from our Lord we have just considered, and keep on keeping on. He will deal to the betrayers and those who have hijacked His Church for their own purposes.
Meantime the message to us is, “Watch and pray!”
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Mark 13: 24 — 32
Mark pulls together a number of apocalyptic images from the Hebrew scriptures to describe the end time. Cosmic events can be understood more symbolically than literally: before the final day comes humanity will endure more disasters — suffering, injustice, and oppression. These evils will not always be with us, however: the ‘Son of Man’ (usually understood to mean Jesus as a human being), manifesting God’s own power, will gather a scattered humanity from its brokenness. The steadfastness of God’s love will call all people to return to a life of love and justice.
Verses 28 — 32 are a series of unconnected parables and sayings, placed by Mark to add to the picture of the end-time painted above. The parable of the fig tree bids us watch the signs of the times for portents of that end-time, and the saying in verse 30 implies that Jesus’ listeners will see these signs. The saying in verse 31 in any context could be used to underscore the transcendent value of Jesus’ whole message. Contrary to the warnings of verses 28 — 30, the saying in verse 32 argues that there is really no way anyone, even Jesus, can know when the final judgment will come: that time is God’s alone to determine.
“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
My Words Will Not Pass Away
St. Mark 13: 24 — 37 Ordinary 33 Year B
1. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets!”
The world is full of people and groups who are obsessed with claiming a special power from on high and giving their prophetic views about every event in our time. Only a solid formation in the teaching of Jesus will equip us to discern the confusion, delusion and danger of listening to false “prophets”. As Christians we need to have a clear understanding of what the gift of prophecy is all about.
“….. the true purpose of all Biblical prophecy which is not speculative but practical, is not to enable us to forecast the future, but to interpret the present; not to satisfy curiosity but to deliver from perplexity and to encourage watchfulness.”
This gift of prophecy is for all, not just some, disciples of Jesus!
2. Jesus said, “….. they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, His elect from the four winds ….. .”
The fury, decadence and upheaval all around us will be a nightmare but disciples of Jesus are to remain focussed on the Lord’s return. We will see Him coming back to gather us into His Kingdom. How could our Lord be more assuring?
3. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
My Teaching, my Torah, the Way that I have gifted to you will not pass away. All that I have passed on to you will remain in place, and will continue to reflect to you the beauty, the wisdom, and love of God. Let that continue to give you confidence, courage, and great joy throughout the time of your hardship.
Do not look back, look up!
Mark 12: 28 ― 34
Ordinary 31 Year B
28 5 One of the scribes, when he came forward and
29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!
30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as
32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are
33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your
34 And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with
5 [28-34] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 22:34-40.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised