Let the reader…

This should be the last of my posts on Mark for now. It was sparked of by Matt Valler’s post and a few twitter exchanges. Scripture continually surprises. As we bring ourselves to these astonishing texts, we struggle with them. Sometimes in the wrestling we twist texts to our understanding but occasionally the Spirit gets through and the text twists our understanding. To be honest, I don’t know which type of twisting my posts on Mark are.

‘Do you still not see or understand?’

‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?’

‘Do you still not understand?’

They did not understand.

Let the reader understand.

Mark plays with us. A rough bumpy narrative with no ending. Everyone’s sternly commanded to keep silent. And then, we’re asked to understand. This is madness. Maybe that’s Mark’s ploy. Maybe he’d rather we have no understanding than wrong understanding.

Let the reader understand…

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Mark 13:32)

Again a Daniel reference. Daniel speaks three times of this abomination that will be set up in the temple (9:27, 11:31, 12:11). It is a sign of the end. Mark adds intrigue: ‘…standing where it does not belong.’ Then you hear Mark stepping out of his narrative and shouting ‘LET THE READER UNDERSTAND.’

Could this mean that the abomination won’t be in the temple as expected? Is the abomination something that Mark presents within the gospel itself?

Some of Jesus’ warnings and predictions in Mark are fulfilled to varying degrees within the gospel.

…or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. (Mark 13:36)

He came and found them sleeping. (Mark 14:47)

And

I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God (14:25)

And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. (15:23).

He also predicts the desertion of the disciples and Peter’s betrayal. So what is the abomination of the desolation that Mark presents to us?

I’d like to suggest, hesitantly, that Jesus on the cross is the abomination of desolation.

Why?

Here are some possibilities from Mark’s point of view.

Jesus is the new temple. (See previous post) The curtain is torn. The Holy Place where the abomination is supposed to stand is now Jesus on the cross.

Jesus abolishes sacrifice. He is the final sacrifice. (Heb 10) Obviously the early Christians talked about it. If Barnabas was the writer of the Hebrews, then one could imagine (if it’s the same Mark) that Mark was quite good friends with him.(Acts 15:37)

Paul has written that Jesus becomes a curse for us. (Gal 3:13) Mark might have known of this.

Jesus’ death makes him unclean. He is killed in the most shameful way in a place of unrighteous death. Yet he is temple, priest and sacrifice most holy. Mark crash lands his metaphors and allusions onto the cross. A foreign killer, a cog of the empire, states the ridiculous: ‘Truly this man was a son of God.’ He represents God, an abandoned and broken by-product of empire politics.

But as the stone shows, this is our Genesis.

Let the reader understand.

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