Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Cross as an Apocalyptic Event

A growing number of scholars have noted that in the Gospels, especially Matthew and Mark, the cross is described as a kind of apocalyptic event.[1] We see this in the way the events of the passion narrative appear to parallel motifs in the apocalyptic discourse (Matt 24//Mark 13).

In the apocalyptic discourse tells the disciples to "watch" (13:5, 23, 33, 35, 37) because no one knows the when the "hour" of the judgment will come (13:32). He warns them not to let the master find them sleeping (13:36). He warns that the disciples will be betrayed by their family members (13:12-13) and handed over to Jewish and Roman authorities (13:9-13). He warns that the temple will be destroyed (Mark 13:2). He speaks of things such as “darkness” covering the land (Mark 13:24; Mark 15:33) and earthquakes (Mark 13:8).

When you read the Passion narrative--the account of Jesus’ suffering and death in the Gospels--alongside this apocalyptic sermon it is clear that Jesus’ own death is being described as a sort of apocalyptic event.

Jesus goes out to a garden to pray, telling the disciples to "watch" with him (cf. (Mark 14:34, 37-38)--though he finds them sleeping. He explains that in fact his “hour” is at hand (13:41).

Judas comes and arrests him—as Jesus warns the disciples they would be betrayed by family and handed over to authorities, Jesus is betrayed by one of the twelve (14:10, 20, 43) and handed over to Jewish and Roman authorities (14:10-11, 18, 21,41-42; 15:1, 10, 15).

Once he is crucified, darkness covers the land (Mark 15:33), there is an earthquake (Matthew 27:51), and the veil in the temple is torn, symbolizing its destruction (15:38). Matthew even tells us that some of the dead were raised (Matthew 27:52).

The cross then is then truly described as a kind of cosmic / apocalyptic event.

[1] See, e.g., R. H. Lightfoot, The Gospel Message of St. Mark (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), 48-59; Dale C. Allison, The End of the Ages Has Come: Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (London: T & T Clark, 1987), 36-38; John T. Carrol and Joel B. Green, The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson 1995), 36-7.


Sister Mary Agnes said...

Wow, I love those parallels. Here is another thought: In Matt 24:30 Jesus said ". . . then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory . . ."

I always thought of the "sign" that Jesus is speaking of here as the sign of the cross, but does the text lend itself to that interpretation? If it does, it is another connection between the cross and Apocalyptic events.

Anonymous said...

Here is a thought that I have, how about these parallels are just coincidences and that there are double meanings to some of the scriptures. Why couldn't there be similiar chraracteristics between the day of the cross and the "day of judgement"/apocolypse? Wow I cant spell these words lol

Bible Verse Reflections and Commentary said...

What also comes to mind is when
Jesus says if someone strikes you on the cheek,offer the other side and if someone asks you to walk one mile with them walk two.

Jesus got struck on the face and later walked with the Cross quite a distance - it would be nice to think it was a 2 mile walk - or at least double the normal distance for those being crucified