1. Why is this passage listed among difficult passages?
In each of these three parallel accounts, Jesus has just finished speaking about his coming in glory with his angels in power to reward his followers. The most natural interpretation of this sequence of verses would seem to be that Jesus expected his return to happen before all of his disciples were dead. Does that mean his second coming? How do we interpret this verse? What did Jesus mean?
2. How do we deal with the difficulties in this passage?
It is interesting to note that in all three gospels, this story is followed by the story of the transfiguration. While this cannot really be what is referred to, it was a vision of the Son of Man glorified as would happen permanently on Easter. After that vision, the three disciples were forbidden to speak about it until “the Son of Man should have risen from the dead.”
This may give us a hint to consider Jesus’ resurrection appearance as seeing “the kingdom of God come with power.”
“One final point: the coming of the kingdom of God is essentially the coming of God himself. In the Targum (the Arabic rendering of the Hebrew Bible used in synagogue services) the wording at the end of Isa 40:9 is changed from “Behold your God!” to “The kingdom of your God is revealed.” The documentary evidence for this rendering is much later than the New Testament period, but it reflects rabbinical usage when the God of Israel overruled the course of events so as to bring his people home from exile, it might be said that his sovereign power (his “kingdom”) was manifested, but what the prophet said was more direct: “Behold your God!” In the course of events which led to Israel’s return from exile, God himself was to be seen. So again, when the new deliverance was fully accomplished by the death and triumph of Jesus, the sovereign power of God was manifested – God himself came with power.”
(from Hard Sayings of the Bible, Copyright © 1996 by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
3. What are the key truths or inspirational messages of this passage?
Jesus was obviously seeking to reassure his listeners of the truth of the certainty of the prophecies he was making and give a sense of immediacy to them. His Easter resurrection then becomes for us the sign that he referred to that would be given to that generation (Matt. 16:4 the sign of Jonah). It confirms that Jesus was speaking truthfully not only in that one verse but also guarantees his other words as well.
For us this means that we should take special note of the warning and included prophecy that immediately precedes the one we have already considered. This preceding verse is, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mk 8:38 NIV). His resurrection affirms these words too. So we are reminded to “watch and pray,” “work for the night is coming,” and “look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Lk 21:28 NKJV).