2014-04-19

Jesus’ Crucifixion From the Olivet Prophecy to Gethsemane & the Fall of Jerusalem

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by Neil Godfrey

This follows on from my previous post.Three hours of darkness 2There is nothing new about noticing that the prophecy of the “last days” that Jesus delivered to his inner disciples in Mark 13 contains allusions to events in the ensuing narrative Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. I addressed one of these points in the previous post. There are others.

Among them . . . .

Keep in mind that these are answers to the question: Tell us, when shall these things [there shall not be left one stone of the temple upon another] be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled (Mark 13:4)

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up [παραδώσουσιν] to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten. . . . (13:9)

And he that betrayed [παραδιδοὺς] him . . . And all the council sought to put him to death. . . and the servants did strike him . . . and [the soldiers] smote him . . . (14:44, 55, 65; 15:19)

Now the brother shall betray [παραδώσει] the brother to death . . . and shall cause them to be put to death. (13:12)

And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray [παραδώσει] me. (14:18)

And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. (13:16)

And they all forsook him, and fled. And there followed him a certain young man . . . and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked (14:50, 52)

the sun shall be darkened (13:24)

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (13:33)

Now learn a parable of the fig tree (13:28)

And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots (11:20)

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (13:32)

Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation (14:38)

Watch ye therefore: for you know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all. Watch. (13:35-37)

And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? . . . And when he returned, he found them asleep again. . . And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (14:37-41)

And let’s also recall the Temple scenes that enclose the Passion Narrative. Upon entering Jerusalem Jesus violently stops the sacrifices at the Temple; at the moment of his death the Temple veil is torn by a divine hand from top to bottom. If Mark’s inclusio patterns in other narratives (e.g. the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the hemorrhaging woman) mean that each narrative is meant to be interpreted through the other, is not the reader being directed to interpret the Passion Narrative itself through the destruction of the temple in 70 CE?

The emphasis on “handing over” in the above quotations is most prominent. The word (misleadingly translated as “betrayed”) occurs many more times than I have cited above. Karel Hanhart (see the previous post) sees in Mark’s use of this word a pivotal theme for interpreting the entire gospel. At one level the gospel is about the handing over of the rule of God from the Jews to the gentiles, or at least to a new (non-Mosaic) ekklesia that no longer separated between the two. This is why the message given to the women at the end is to announce that the resurrected Jesus will be found in Galilee, “Gal of the nations”.

The debate over whether the historical Galilee of the first century truly contained a mixed or gentile population is irrelevant. The significance of the place is found in Isaiah 9:1. Kelber showed the way the author played with its setting to argue for a new body of Christ that was a mix of Jew and gentile. See The Story of Jesus: History or Theology. The place is as symbolic as Jerusalem is symbolic of the entirety of the old order.

Mark loves to play the foreshadowing game. He creates scenes that prefigure later ones. Jesus enters Simon’s house and is served there by an unnamed woman in the beginning of the gospel and is found in another Simon’s house where he is anointed by another unnamed woman at the end; at the beginning Jesus rises well before dawn and at daylight people come looking in vain for him, just as at the end he rises from the tomb before dawn and women come seeking him in vain — in both instance he is said to have moved on to other places in Galilee; and so on. I have listed many examples of these at my vridar.info site.

Similarly, the suffering of Jesus in the closing chapters can be read as a foreshadowing of the judgment of God upon Jerusalem and the temple — that is, as a foreshadowing of their destruction. For Mark, as in apocalyptic literature of old, so in his own time, the glory of God was revealed in the overthrowing of powers on the earth. 2 Samuel 22 and Isaiah 13 illustrate this principle: God’s apocalyptic glory is revealed in the destruction of kingdoms on earth at the hands of enemy armies. Daniel 7 and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah repeat the message and motifs of both are among Mark’s favourites.

But through it all lies the promise of the return of the people of who “know their God” as the assembly of Christ-followers. They won’t be found in Jerusalem but among the nations.

He goes before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. (16:7)

So the reader is directed to return to the beginning of the gospel and start reading it again, afresh, with new understanding and meaning.

The narrative is not interested in the physically blind; it is about the spiritually blind. The healings of the literally blind are symbolic. The same for the feeding of the 5000 and 4000 with a few loaves. Jesus walking on the water loses all meaning if it is interpreted literally. We are being inconsistent if we then at the end of the gospel decide that the events there, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection, should be read literally.

The Gospel of Mark is just as metaphorical as is the Gospel of John. The one focuses on the metaphor of narrative; the other on the metaphors in dialogue.

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