This is a strange reading; not only because ‘this generation will not pass away’ until people will see the ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ but also because it is littered with unusual words.
Already in verse 25 both the ‘distress’ and the ‘confused’ of the nations (NRSV) are in Greek words that only come once in the whole New Testament. The noun that is translated as distress comes from a verb that literally means ‘to hold (tight) together’.
Therefore it is used metaphorically for distress, affliction, oppression, detention. Confused could also mean ‘perplexed’ as the Greek indicates that there is no way out or through. I think of ‘throngs of nations in despair’ because there is no way out. Images of Syrian and other refugees battling the waves of the Mediterranean spring immediately to mind as do predictions of rising sea levels.
But rather than fear we are asked to lift our heads, rather than worry we should be alert and pray. Our redemption is near. Suddenly a text that is so strange, so incomprehensible, so ‘other’ seems to speak straight into our situation. Whatever is meant by ‘this generation’ and whether or not that is a ‘mistake’ becomes irrelevant as we live in expectation to see the power and great glory of the Son of Man.
29 November 2015
This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.