Chapter 13 is the most difficult section of Mark’s Gospel, using apocalyptic, symbolic language that usually points to some ensuing catastrophe.
Mark uses this literary form to describe the temple’s coming destruction, the persecution of believers that will follow, and the presence of what he calls a great tribulation. Mark’s Gospel was written about the year 70 CE, the very time the Jerusalem temple was destroyed by the Romans.
1) The coming Son of Man. Today’s Gospel presents Jesus’ final discourse following his prediction of the destruction of the temple. The tone moves sharply toward the positive. In the midst of all this consternation wherein the sun, moon, and stars will cease to provide light and the heavens will be shaken, the Son of Man will come in the clouds. This Son of Man imagery is taken from Daniel 7:13, where it is not exactly clear to whom or what it refers. Here in Mark’s Gospel, it is very clear that “the Son of Man“ refers to the coming of Jesus in power and glory. This triumphal event should give the believers confidence and urge them on to greater vigilance.
2) Respond with patient endurance. The proclamation of the triumphal coming of the Son of Man is intended by Mark to calm some of the eschatological fears brought on by a destroyed temple and Roman persecutions. All of these things are simply signs of the coming of a new season that will usher in a new age known as the kingdom of God. Jesus’ disciples must learn to read the signs of the time. Fig trees sprouting leaves point to the coming of summer. So the coming of the Son of Man points to ultimate victory and the advent of a new age.
3) “When will all this happen?" There is a strong sense of urgency running throughout this text. Something monumental is about to happen. Everyone wants to know precisely when this great event will happen. And that is the one thing we are not told. Only God knows when this will happen, and the exact time has not yet been disclosed. The best approach is to make sure one is prepared, no matter when the final event takes place. Enter each day as if it will be the last one