Today I happen to be reading from the New Revised Stardard Version published by the American Bible Society. The sub-heads in chapter 13 convey the message: destruction (of the Temple), persecution (of the disciples). The Desolating Sacrilege. So, it's an upbeat kind of text.
This chapter suggests, even more strongly than some of the material we've already discussed, that Jesus did indeed think that he was living in an end time. The emphasis on watchfulness has an urgency to it that goes beyond the sort of "live a good life so you are ready to meet your maker" sermonizing that this chapter sometimes inspires. And if Jesus did think he was living in an end time, it opens up an avenue for some interesting speculation about what Jesus knew and didn't know, about the interplay between his human and divine natures in shaping his awareness of the world. To what extent, in his moment to moment mental processes was he the omniscient God, and to what extent was he confined the limitations of time and place?
There is something about this chapter that I find perversely appealing. It undercuts the sort of "Jesus is my buddy, and if I hang with him, things will work out all right for me," sort of spirituality that is flourishing in the United States right now, especially among the disciples of prosperity theologians. What is on offer here is neither comfort, nor reassurance, but rescue from the brink of catastrophe.
As someone who thinks that the phrase "personal savior" sounds a bit too much like "personal trainer"--and therefore seems to relegate the salvation of the world to a sector of the service economy)--I take an odd pleasure when God becomes too frightening for us to cuddle up with him.
This perhaps says more about me than about the deeper meanings of this passage, but there it is.