Mark 13:32–37 RSV
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
And so we come to the end of Jesus’ teaching about what it means to be prepared for the future. Let’s summarize.
Jesus speaks of two distinct outcomes. First, is the coming destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. He gives ample signs and even something of a time line relating to its occurrence: “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Mark 13:29–30).
Second, is the end of the age and the return of the Lord. Today’s text makes clear that there is no time line and there will be no signs or warnings.
“Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”
Because we cannot know, our remedy is to be prepared and the essence of being prepared does not mean storing up water and food. Being prepared means staying vigilant, alert, and expectant. It means cultivating a lifestyle of attentiveness to the presence of God in all things. It does not mean an anxiety-ridden fretting away of the present while looking ahead to the future. To be attentive is to live completely, wholeheartedly, and joyfully alive to the Father, abiding in the life of Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Watchfulness—living attentive to and alive in the presence of God’this is why we constantly pray and consistently fast and daily feast on the Word of God. We meet Jesus here.
Watchfulness—living attentive to and alive in the presence of God’this is why we meet regularly as the body of Christ around his table to remember and proclaim the Lord’s death and resurrection until he comes. We meet Jesus here.
Watchfulness—living attentive to and alive in the presence of God’this is why we band together with a few other believers to watch over one another in love, encouragement, and accountability. We meet Jesus here.
Watchfulness—living attentive to and alive in the presence of God’this is why we feed the hungry and clothe the naked and care for the sick and welcome the stranger and visit the imprisoned. We meet Jesus here.
These are not so many spiritual disciplines and good deeds we ought to be doing. This is not a lifestyle of religious duty. This is life. These are the divinely appointed ways and means to live and move and have our being in the presence of the God who made us and who remakes us because he loves us.
Do you see how far this way of life is from apocalyptic anxiety? This is the way of eschatological hope. Far from fear and sadness, this is all about hope and gladness. In the face of the worst day of our life, this is the faith that makes our soul well. It’s why Horatio Spafford wrote the song, “It Is Well with My Soul”: “And Lord, haste the day that my faith becomes sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul.”
Tomorrow we shift gears from last things to the ultimate thing, which is the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This holy calling of Jesus creates a most appropriate bridge from chapter 13 to chapter 14.
“And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Let’s take this holy calling with us and let’s go singing, “It is well. It is well with my soul.”
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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