Mark 13:1-13


Mark 13:1 As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" 

The sentence begins with a genitive absolute of which Jesus is the subject. Commentators differ among themselves as to the place where one of the disciples said this. The text indicates that they were close to the temple.

Fahling: Josephus tells us that the stones used in the Temple were 'white and strong and each of their length was twenty-five cubits, their height was eight, and their breadth about twelve.' For building purposes the length of the cubit was about twenty inches.
Lenski: All of fifty years had already been spent in replacing one building after another in grander and richer form. The work was not yet done; it went on for years until shortly before the great war.
The temple of Jerusalem, which Herod rebuilt, was considered one of the wonders of the world, being built of marble and richly adorned with gold.

Mark 13:2  "Do you see all these great buildings?"  replied Jesus.  "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." 

Now comes Jesus' reply. Note that we have the emphatic negative, twice in the last sentence, once in the main clause and once in a subordinate clause. It denotes total destruction.

Ylvisaker: His reply is a word of reproach. The disciples were concerned with the shell, with physical values. They had failed in their appraisal of spiritual things.

Lenski feels otherwise. He feels that though their eyes were feasting on the magnitude and beauty of it all, Jesus had a tremendous announcement to make. This answer must have shocked the disciples very much. It seems that they all walked in silence up the Mount of Olives where they sat down. That is quite a distance.

Mark 13:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately,

Note that this is a major paragraph and that also this sentence begins with a genitive absolute of which Jesus is the subject.  "Opposite the Temple" must have been a magnificent location to view the building. The disciples were away from the crowds. Note that the verb is singular but that we have four subjects. Perhaps Peter was the spokesman. Here we have two sets of brothers.

Mark 13:4  "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?" 

The questioner begins with "Tell us." This shows how familiar they were with Jesus. The question is twofold:  "when" and "what." Actually He answers neither of these two questions but speaks at length concerning what is important for them.

The question in Matthew 24:3 is more detailed: "When will these things happen and what is the sign of your second coming and of the end of the age?" They are speaking about two things: the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. What prompted this question?

Ylvisaker: From the Old Testament they know that the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Gentiles will be followed by the advent of the Lord.
Stoeckhardt: Their thoughts of the end of Jerusalem and of the world were linked together, as they are also in the writings of the prophets, and as the Lord foretold in Matthew 16:27-28, indicating that the destruction of Jerusalem was the beginning and a purview of the judgment of the world.
Fahling: It was also quite natural for them to connect the destruction of the Temple with 'the end of the world' and 'the coming' of Christ. According to the certain prophecies of the Old Testament as well as in the light of the Savior's predictions His final coming might be viewed together with the destruction of Jerusalem as the beginning of the end. Daniel 12:9ff; Matthew 16:27-28; 23:38-39; Luke 13:34-35; 17:23-24.

Note again that they asked "when" and for one specific sign. He answers neither question.

Mark 13:5 Jesus said to them:  "Watch out that no one deceives you." 

Bengel: He had said little previously concerning these things.
Lenski: It marks the length and the importance of what Jesus said.

And what does He say?  "Be on your guard lest someone mislead you." 

Lenski: All men have an affinity for religious error.

My sinful nature loves error.

Mark 13:6  "Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many." 

This is an explanation of the previous verse. Note the word "many." 

Ylvisaker: As a punishment God will permit false Christs to appear. There is no record of any false Christ previous to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Lenski: The procession of such deceivers from Simon Magus and Barcochba on to the great anti-Christ and all the anti-Christs goes on to the end of time. . . . They all use the revelation of Christ as their sheep's clothing. The sad thing is that they shall actually succeed in deceiving many.

There will be many deceivers and many deceived. "On the basis of my name" means that they will make a false claim appear true. Each generation produces false Christs. The reader should be able to name two or three in our own time. "I am he" is elliptical for "I am the Christ." 

Mark 13:7  "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." 

Note that this complex sentence is constructed on the analogy of the present general condition. "Whenever you hear of wars and rumors of wars, never be alarmed." NEB reads:  "When you hear the noise of battle near at hand and the news of battles far away do not be alarmed." TEV is similar: "Don't let wars or talk about war upset you." Think of how upset many Americans were and are about the Vietnam War. Think of how futile the efforts of many to do away with war.

Hendriksen: Wars and rumors of war did not cease with Jerusalem's fall . . . One author counted three hundred wars in Europe during the last three hundred years. . . Not any single one of them could ever give anyone the right to make predictions with reference either to the date of Jerusalem's fall or to the time of the Parousia.

Then Jesus goes on to say: "These wars must come, but the end is not yet." The necessity is due to the sinfulness of mankind and the judgment of God. General Sherman said: "War is hell." His words have been repeated by many heads of state since. Wars are simply awful. But there's more.

Mark 13:8  "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains." 

The first word in Greek, not translated here, is "You see." An explanation. Look at how maps have had to be changed many, many times since 1900 because of "nations rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom." Then, "there shall be earthquakes in many places." "There shall be famines." 

In verse 4 the disciples had asked for just one sign which would indicate the end of the world. Jesus does not give them one sign for such a purpose, but He mentions many signs: false Christs, wars, talk about war, earthquakes, famines. None of these can be used to determine the end of all things and Christ's second coming. All of these signs, things beyond our control, are warning for us to repent. Verse 8 ends on a somber note: "These things are only the beginning of the birth-pangs." 

Lenski: the world of nature is affected by sin in the same way as the world of men, and thus these disturbing manifestations are signs of the end . . . These are only a prelude 'a beginning of birth pangs' much severer pains and writhings must be added before the new heavenly eon comes to full birth.
Fahling: While these things are preclusive both of the destruction of Jerusalem and of Christ's second coming, these things are but 'the beginning of sorrows' because 'the end is not yet.'

Mark 13:9  "You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them." 

In verse 5 they must watch out for deceivers. Here it has to do with the person themselves.  "Look out for yourselves." Verses 9-11 form a unit and verses 12-13 form another. The first unit speaks of what will happen from without and the second of what will happen from within. The word "betray" is common to both. In both cases the betrayal leads to something worse. Compare Matthew 10:17-22 on this section.

Bengel: Mark is not an epitomizer of Matthew.

Before the present century many thought that Mark is an abridged form of Matthew.

Ylvisaker: However disunited the world may be otherwise, it is one in its hatred of Jesus' disciples.

Thus far He is speaking of persecution by the Jews. Persecution of true children of God began with the Jews, the Covenant people. On this compare Acts 22:19; 26:11; 2 Corinthians 11:24.

Hendricksen: From the book of Acts (22:19) we learn that Saul (Paul) of Tarsus caused believers in Christ to receive this horrible punishment.

But persecution was administered also by Gentiles.

Hendriksen: Think of such procurators as Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus; as to 'king' of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1) and of Agrippa II (Acts 25:13,24,26). Even Herod Antipas, who technically was not a king, is also given that title at times (Matthew 14:9). It was Pontius Pilate who sentenced Jesus to die on the cross after he had sent him to 'king' Herod Antipas (Mark 15:15).

What happened to Jesus will happen to His disciples, persecuted by both Jew and Gentile. "Because of Me." Look at Acts 9:4-5; 22:7-8; 26:14-15, John 15:18-21.

RSV translates "To bear witness before them." NEB: "To testify in their presence." AAT: "To tell them the truth." Jesus did not soften the persecutions which were coming. We must remember that for ourselves too.

Mark 13:10  "And the gospel must first be preached to all nations." 

Bengel: The preaching of the Gospel was furthered by persecution, before the end shall come.

"Must" denotes the necessity caused by the will of God. Look at Matthew 24:14: "And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world for the purpose of a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." 

Lenski: This is the clearest statement in the Gospel concerning the actual time of the end.

Unknown and foreign lands were first entered by missionaries. Think of the world-wide mission work which is being done. Here are some Old Testament passages which prophesied of this matter: Psalm 72:8-11,17; 96:1-10; Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6-12; 52:10; 60:1-3,6; Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 26:4; 28:14.

Mark 13:11  "Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit." 

This is a very comforting verse. The disciples are plainly told not even to think about what they shall say. He gives the reason why they should not even thing about what they would say. It will be given to them. All they have to do is to speak what will be given to them. This is an amazing sentence. "For, it's not you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit is speaking." He does not mean, of course, that they will become mere robots. The concurrence of the activity of the Holy spirit and the new man in the Christian is truly amazing.

Hendriksen: That this prophecy, too, was gloriously fulfilled is evident from the speeches of Peter, or Peter and John (Acts 4:8-12,19,20 with the effect upon the audience described in 4:13-14) and from those of Paul (Acts 21:39-22:21; 23:1,6; 24:10-21; 26:1-23).

Mark 13:12  "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death." 

We mentioned in verse 9 that verses 9-11 form a unit and verses 12-13 form another. Verses 9-11 dwell on persecution from without, from both Jews and Gentiles. Verses 12-13 speak of persecution from within. Compare Matthew 10:21-22. Ylvisaker is of the opinion that apostates are included in this verse. That could be.

Ylvisaker: The apostates frequently became the most fanatical of persecutors.
Lenski: Jesus is speaking of frightful cases of denunciation in pagan courts, some of which happened during the ten great Roman persecutions.
Hendriksen: Because of basic religious difference, intra-family relationships were often far from ideal. It is clear that the cleavage took place on account of Christ.

Nothing divides close relationships quite so much as do differences in religion. Look at Luke 12:49-53. Betrayal, rebellion, death among close relatives are mentioned in Mark 13:12. Lenski quotes Besser who says that two things are stronger than natural love, the one born of hell, the other born of heaven.

Mark 13:13  "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." 

The verse begins with a future periphrastic, passive voice. It denotes constant action. "You will be constantly hated, etc." This speaks of the general hatred of the world for the Christians. The Christian can expect hatred from the most unexpected quarter. Why can the Christians expect this hatred? Because of Jesus' name. Obviously Jesus means that this person confesses the name and teaching of Jesus. Even among Christians it happens that those who remain faithful to Jesus' Word are hated by other who call themselves Christians.

But the last sentence in this verse is very comforting. All things in this life come to an end, no matter how beautiful or terrible they may be.  "He who endures" means the person who stands up under adverse circumstance. "To the end" means "until death" not "until the end of the world." Though of course there will be instances in which the end of the world will be the deliverance of Christians who are still living at that time.

Here we have a prophecy and a promise. Beginning with verse 6 Jesus predicts a number of items. The most comforting of all is "shall be saved." 


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B Mark-John, Sundays after Pentecost, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 77-80

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