Friday of Lent 4 – Mark 13:14-23

Friday of Lent 4 – Mark 13:14-23 March 8, 2016

Stones from the TempleMark 13:14-23

For a number of reasons, I believe this passage and others like it are primarily about the cataclysmic events that happened in the first century.  Without belaboring the point, it’s worth noting that Jesus is talking to His first century disciples and assuming that they will not only understand these things but also that these things will happen to them, and not necessarily to us (I don’t expect to be beaten in the synagogues and kicked out of them or to be hauled before rulers and kings).

If we truly understood how radical and revolutionary the coming of Jesus Christ was, and if we truly understood the prophetic language of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, I think we’d see things more clearly.

But regardless of our eschatology, this chapter provides us with a stern warning to wake up from our spiritual slumbers and understand our time and circumstances.

The terrors that befell the first century Jews in fulfillment of prophecy and as the Old Covenant was torn apart to make way for the New are described in technicolor by Josephus, the first century Jewish chronicler of the Jewish Wars and the calamities of the Jews.  If these are the terrors that were in store for those who ate the fruit of the Old Covenant and yet rebelled against God, how much more terror will be in store for those who taste of Jesus Christ and reject Him?!

By Josephus’s account, we may measure the price for our own rejection of Christ.  “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him?” (Hebrews 2:1-3).

Josephus describes a succession of false prophets and slaughters.  He describes in A.D. 66 how 50,000 Jews were slaughtered in Alexandria, saying that “No mercy was shown to the infants, and no regard had to the aged; but they went on in the slaughter of persons of every age, till all the place was overflowed with blood, and fifty thousand of them lay dead upon heaps.”

The Sea of Galilee, so well known by Jesus and His disciples, became a watery catacombs.  “And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners every where, till the rest being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land, while the vessels encompassed them about [on the sea]: but as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped.  And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air, insomuch that the misery was not only the object of commiseration to the Jews, but to those that hated them, and had been the authors of that misery.”

Of one of the slaughters in the Temple, Josephus writes that “any persons who came thither with great zeal from the ends of the earth, to offer sacrifices at this celebrated place, which was esteemed holy by all mankind, fell down before their own sacrifices themselves, and sprinkled that altar which was venerable among all men, both Greeks and Barbarians, with their own blood; till the dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of the priests, and the blood of all sorts of dead carcasses stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves.”

At one point, Titus caught and crucified 500 Jews per day.  The famine for the Jews was excruciating, and the Romans delighted in devising many cruel and unspeakable ways of extorting from them whatever little food they did have.  So great was the famine that it obliged the Jews “to chew everything, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them; nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed : the very wisps of old hay became food to some; and some gathered up fibres, and sold a very small weight of them for four Attic, [drachmae].”  Josephus describes in horrific detail an act of cannibalism by a mother upon her child.

The Temple was burned, those who fled the slaughter hid among the caves and rocks, and Jerusalem became a desert.  This is only a fraction of what Josephus describes, but from it we learn the greatness of the judgment on the Jews in the first century.

But sitting here in Tyler, Texas, in the comfort of my study, what do these things have to do with me?  I’m a little disturbed about the direction our country is taking, as Christ and His Kingdom seem to be losing their grip on the U.S.  Sure, I read of occasional persecutions of Christians in lands far, far away, and I remember reading about the persecution of the Christians under the Roman Empire before Constantine, but what do they all have to do with me?

This: Take heed!  Christ is coming to judge both the living and the dead.  We should not let earthly appearances deceive us.  Behind the facade of civility and technology there is a spiritual realm more real and vast than we can imagine.  Look at what great destruction came upon the Jews when the Old Covenant was destroyed!   And now something much greater is here, for God has come to man.

We read such things, not to scare us into producing an adrenaline rush, as we might read a Stephen King novel or watch another slasher movie, but to produce true fear.  Such destruction, desolation, and gore should provoke us into action, unlike a horror book or movie which leads to no productive action.  By such real horror we can judge the severity of our sins during Lent.

By such real horror, we may also judge the magnitude of the mercy of Almighty God.

Prayer:  O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,

Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,

Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the faithful,

Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,

Have mercy upon us.

Remember not, Lord Christ, our offenses, nor the offenses of our forefathers; neither reward us according to our sins.  Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast

redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.

Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and all uncharitableness,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all inordinate and sinful affections; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,

Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,

Good Lord, deliver us.

Point for Meditation: 

  1. Meditate on the dangers, terrors, and punishments from which God has delivered you.
  2. Allow the suffering and judgment of mankind motivate you to pray and act for the salvation of your neighbors.

Resolution:  I resolve to weigh the seriousness with which I take spiritual things in my life.  I further resolve to commit one specific act of thanksgiving or praise or repentance today. 

© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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  • Connie Cozzini

    Centering and sober. Thank you!