Fully human, indeed

Reading the Gospel of Mark is like diving into a mountain lake. It’s refreshingly cool, and spare, and has an authority that can’t be denied. Mark also relates two apparently mutually contradictory ideas that have been used against Christians throughout the ages. The first is Jesus’ prediction that the end times are nigh (Mark 13:30)

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Now Jesus had made some other prophesies, not least including His increasing awareness that He had been sent by the Father as the perfect atonement for our sins.

When Jesus’ prophesies concerning His sacrifice on our behalf were fulfilled (actually, of course, Jesus was only retelling God’s prophesies handed down through the Old Testament prophets and psalmists), his followers naturally expected His imminent return. Well, the Holy Spirit descended on His church at Pentecost, the apostles went abroad to fulfill Matthew 28:19, and life, without the end times, went on.

How could Jesus not have known what He was saying? Was He not God incarnate? Well, yes. But something got in the way of what should have been God’s otherwise crystal clear vision: Jesus was fully human. Jesus was a man; He probably got headaches from worrying about His family; after all, as the eldest son, and when Joseph passed on, He had quite the burden to look after Mom and the siblings. We can only imagine how the divine-human sides found some semblance of balance in Jesus. What we must accept is that His humanity resulted in, let’s say it politely, a less-than perfect prophesy of the end times.

Before we get too critical, however, Jesus also told us, within a very few words, that even He could not really see the end. In the same chapter, Mark 13, Jesus tells us that

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Only the Father. Not the Son; leastways not while He was incarnate. Reminding us, yet again, of our limitations as merely human. Which he shared, in the ultimate act of solidarity. He knows now, of course, as part of the Trinity. So far though, wild-eyed prohetic claims to the contrary, He isn’t talking — just telling us to be patient, and to expect Him at any moment.

Oh, and just in case we were worried, He reminds us that even though He hasn’t returned, He never really left. Matthew 28:20: And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

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