Mark 13 & John 12: 27-36
The Gospel of Mark, as the earliest gospel, is written right after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, and contains a very strong apocalyptic world view. The writer and the community that the gospel was written for believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. The sign of the destruction of the Temple, being told in this passage, was the beginning of the days when Jesus was preparing for the return.
The author’s message to the faithful is the same message that is common in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition, to stay faithful, that the Lord will redeem the righteous. The early church did face persecution at times, it faced a difficult relationship with its Jewish co-religionists. It was a difficult time as the early believers, mostly Jewish, had to cope with a Roman Empire that was very antagonist to the Jewish community that had rebelled against the empire in the 60’s. The message of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark is to remain faithful, that the Lord will come.
For the modern church, we wonder how long we must be faithful? When will Jesus return? What happens when we see so much devastation around the world? Are these signs of the end? It is hard to be faithful in trying times, like even during a pandemic. But the modern church is not the only body of the faithful who has been challenged by the delay in the Parousia, the Return of Christ.
The Gospel of John was written perhaps two generations after Mark, it is written to a community that must cope with the delay in Jesus’ return. How do we explain this delay, but more importantly how do we deal with the delay? Jesus in the Gospel of John speaks of a realized understanding of the history of salvation in John 12: 27-36. Jesus speaks as things have been already determined.
Notice how the prayer of Jesus begins with a sense of doubt, “Now my soul is troubled..” mirrors some of the human emotions that we hear in Jesus’ prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane. But these doubts are quickly dispelled because Jesus knows that God’s Will will be done, there is no doubt. For John and John’s community, the presence of Christ in the world has changed history, God’s plan of salvation has come to fruition. Those who live in the light are already saved, this is not something that will happen in the future, it is now!
While John points ahead to the future of Jesus’ return, the author also emphasizes that we need not wait for that future, we are saved now and are called to live as those saved and prepared to meet Jesus at Jesus’ return. The world is divided in the Light and the Dark, those who See and those who do not See, the faithful are those who See and live in the Light.
These two readings sum up the theological understanding of Now and Yet Not Yet! In otherwards, we live faithfully in this time, recognizing that God has empowered us through the Spirit, but we also wait for the return of Christ. Our challenge it to find the strength to live in this in between time. As we witness to the Passion of Christ, we witness to the Power that enables us to live in this in between time.