The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 13

Analysis and Commentary

Inside the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, RUSSIA
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In the thirteenth chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus is depicted as providing his followers with an extended prediction of a coming apocalypse. This Marcan Apocalypse is complicated by the presence of a fundamental tension in the narrative: even while exhorting his followers to be aware of the coming events, he also tells them not to get too excited over possible signs of the End Times.

Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple (Mark 13: 1-4) (Mark 12:1-12)

Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem is one of the most important features in Mark’s gospel. Scholars have been sharply divided on how to deal with it: was it a genuine prediction, demonstrating Jesus’ power, or is it evidence that Mark was written after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE?

Jesus Explains the Signs of the End Times: Tribulation & False Prophets (Mark 13:5-8)

This, the first section of Jesus’ apocalyptic prediction, likely consists of events that were ongoing issues for Mark’s community: deception, false prophets, persecution, betrayals, and death. The words Mark attributes to Jesus would have served to reassure listeners that however awful these experiences, Jesus knew all about them and they were necessary for the fulfillment of God’s will.

Jesus Explains the Signs of the End Times: Persecution & Betrayal (Mark 13:9-13)

After warning four of his disciples about the coming troubles that would afflict the world, Jesus now turns to the troubles that would soon afflict them personally. Although the narrative portrays Jesus warning just these four followers, Mark intended his audience to regard themselves as also being addressed by Jesus and for his warnings to resonate with their own experiences.

Jesus Explains the Signs of the End Times: Tribulations & False Messiahs (Mark 13:14-23)

Up until this point, Jesus has been advising caution to the four disciples — and by extension, that’s what Mark has been advising to his own audience. As bad as things may seem to be, don’t panic because it’s all necessary and not an indication that the End is close. Now, however, a sign that the End is about to arrive is given and people are advised to panic.

Jesus Predicts his Second Coming (Mark 13:24-29)

The one section of Jesus’ predictions in chapter 13 which definitely doesn’t reflect recent events for Mark’s community is the description of his “Second Coming,” where he takes part in the apocalypse. The signs of his arrival are unlike anything that has come before, ensuring that his followers won’t mistake what is going on.

Jesus Advises Vigilance (Mark 13:30-37)

Although the majority of chapter 13 has been directed at reducing people’s anxiety towards the coming apocalypse, now Jesus is advising a more watchful stance. Perhaps people shouldn’t be afraid, but they should definitely be vigilant and careful.