Lectionary Year B
December 1, 2002
Step V: Distillation
A. Summary of Salient Features
(JFC) This passage's theological center rests on the portrait of "the Son of Man
coming in clouds with great power and glory." Evidently, the "it" in verse 29 is the coming. This "coming" seems to be the central focal action this passage describes. Other major concerns here include what else He does, like, sending angels, teaching that His coming is near, that His Words will never pass away and His calls to stay alert, keep watch and remain awake. Also, of main concern is the angels' gathering the scattered elect. These particulars leave as secondary the parables, the ignorance of the timing of the coming and the things that will pass away.
B. Smoother Translation
(JFC) 24 But in those days with that trouble/distress/suffering, (see/note)
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon not will give its light,
25 and the stars will fall from the heavens,
and the power of the heavens shall be confused/shaken up/stirred up.
26 And then they shall see the Son of Man being brought in many clouds and glory. 27 And then He shall send angels and shall gather His elect from the four directions of the boundaries of earth and as far as the boundary of heaven.
28 But from the parable of the fig tree learn this; when already the branch of it puts out leaves and the leaves bloom, you know that the time is near; 29 so also you, when you should/might see these (things) it is known (present, middle or passive, indicative or imperative = know) that it is near, at the gates (even).
30 Truly I am saying to you that not at all should pass away this generation until which these all (things) might happen/take place. 31 then the heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My Word shall pass away.
32 Yet concerning that day and even the very hour nothing is it known, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.
33 Take heed/look/see/watch, be/stay alert/be watchful; for not do you know when the time is. 34 It's like a man going away from home and he leaves his house and he gives his servants the authority/ability/right every work of his and to the doorkeeper he commands in order that he should/might keep watch. 35 Keep watch/stay alert/awake then, for not do you know when the lord of the house returns, either evening or midnight or 3 AM or in the early morning, 36 neither coming suddenly he would find you sleeping. 37 But what to you I say to all I say, "Keep watch/alert/awake."
C. Hermeneutical Bridge
(JFC) Okay, after all the reading, re: Eschatology, Parousia and Apocalyptic literature
and texts, when discipline ourselves to remember that this lesson comes on the first Sunday of Advent, is it too much an oversimplification to zero in on the faith this pericope generates and needs to apply its truths to contemporary attempts to live faithfully in response to and with God's Word here? If so, perhaps that faith is greater than the unknowing of the time of the Son of Man's coming. Will it suffice to interpret this passage for what it discounts and for what it expects for us hearing and/or reading it? If we cannot know, can we at least or at best or at most, believe/trust? It's like when I resigned my last pastorate to go on disability (due to multiple sclerosis) I told the Session I didn't know what God had for me to do (since I could still work at that time, 1995, up to 30 or 40 hours weekly, not nearly enough for a pastorate, of course, at least for a Presbyterian = this one, a workaholic), but I did believe I could do something somewhere and that I had rather believe than know any day.
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