And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
Chapters and verses, it’s sometimes helpful to remember, were not part of Mark’s original design. So if this verse, 9:1, seems like the end of the previous scene rather than the beginning of a new one, that’s because it is.
And what a verse! Jesus promises that some of those standing there – presumably those who believe, who take up their cross and follow, and who are willing to lose their life to find it – will see the kingdom of God come in power.
I wonder what those listening thought when they heard this? Did they think this was a promise of eternal, or at least greatly extended, life? I doubt it. More likely, they heard Jesus’ words as a promise that within their lifetime they would see Israel freed from Roman occupation and restored as an independent kingdom.
So were they disappointed when that didn’t happen? Indeed, were their hopes crushed when the Romans were not thrown out but rather destroyed the Temple?
Keep in mind that Mark is most likely writing at just about this time, perhaps just after the Romans have invaded and established their cruel rule through destruction. In this light, perhaps Mark is re-orienting his hears to imagine a different time, place, and way in which God’s kingdom came in power. Indeed, in the next verses Jesus will take his disciples up the mountain and they will see Moses and Elijah confer with their teacher and hear God tell them to listen to him. And on the way down, Jesus will again talk about the cross…and they will again misunderstand.
Mark, I think, is telling his readers – then and now – that God comes in power where we least expect God to be. In the weakness and vulnerability of the cross. And this last verse, placed just before Jesus makes a pivotal turn toward Jerusalem and his destiny, invites his people to realize that they, too, can see God’s kingdom come in power if they will keep their eyes fastened on the cross.
What do you think? Will they do it?
Prayer: Dear God, train us to look for you in the suffering of the cross, in our suffering, and in the suffering, vulnerability, and need of those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.