On Tuesday I began looking at Mark 13 as a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. Yesterday we considered the objection about the cosmic imagery. Today we’ll look at the son of man imagery that comes immediately after it.
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, we have been told that Jesus is the Human One, the Son of Man. As Son of Man, Jesus has the authority to act in the name of God, and to free others to do the same. As the Human One, Jesus has a vocation to die–this is what it means for him to be the Messiah. The Son of Man / Human One title holds together Jesus as suffering king. That’s what we have seen so far in Mark: as Human One Jesus is the one given authority to speak and reign for God, though his path to coronation runs the paradoxical road of the cross.
In Mark 13 and 14 we see why “son of man” is the appropriate title for someone so entrusted with divine authority. To be “son of man” is to fill the role of the “son of man” in Daniel 7. These passages both clearly allude to this OT predecessor. Jesus is going to play the role of Israel in coming into the presence of the Most High and being given authority over the nations of the earth.
“Are you the messiah, the son of the Blessed?” asks the high priest at Jesus’ trial. “I am,” affirms Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Power and coming on the heavenly clouds” (Mark 14:60-61). The allusion to Daniel makes the same argument as the original story: the son of man is enthroned by God at God’s right hand. Jesus is the Messiah, the King, the one who rules at God’s right hand.
Interestingly, both Mark 13 and Mark 14 say that Jesus’ coming on the clouds will be seen. In Mark 13, “they” will see the son of man in splendor and glory; i.e., enthroned as king, as son of God. In Mark 14, this is turned into the second person plural, “You (leaders of Jerusalem) will see the son of man seated at God’s right hand, and coming on the heavenly clouds.”
When will they see this? They didn’t live to see Jesus coming back down from heaven to earth. Mark knew that already, and if such was the point of the saying Mark probably would have changed it so that he wouldn’t be putting something patently falsifiable into Jesus’ mouth.
Maybe what they see is one piece of the evidence that Jesus has been carried on the clouds into the presence of the Father and enthroned at God’s right hand.
Perhaps N.T. Wright is correct, then. Perhaps the destruction of Jerusalem is proof positive of the enthronement of the Messiah–a Messiah who prophesied the temple’s destruction, the son who would be killed only to have the Father destroy the vineyard workers, a king whose death was attended by the sun being darkened.
But in case you’re wondering: No. N. T. Wright isn’t the first person to suggest that Mark 13 is about the destruction of Jerusalem. The first-century interpreter of Mark whom we refer to as “Luke” was way ahead of him.
Remember that “abomination of desolation” thing that Mark draws his readers’ attention to (let the reader understand)? Here’s how Luke renders that verse: “When you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then know that its desolation has drawn near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains…” Perhaps that’s a good bit of perspective as we step into tomorrow’s post.
If we run with Mark 13 as an extended prophetic description of the destruction of the Temple and/or Jerusalem, what does that get us?