A Prayer Prompted by Mark 13

Heavenly Father,

Jesus has clearly told us to watch and be ready for his return.

Your word repeatedly reminds us that he is coming soon. We do not want to neglect that major biblical point.

Help us to watch and be ready. Help us to be zealous for good works while we wait. Help us to be faithful to worship you, live for you and encourage one another till Jesus comes.

In Christ,

Amen.

No one knows – Mark 13:32-37

Jesus wants us all to be alert and ready for his coming.  In Mark 13:32-37 he says,

32 But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.

Jesus draws an analogy between the kind of constant awareness and expectation he wants from us and the doorkeeper to a house.  In this case the doorkeeper’s master has gone off on a journey and may come back at any time.  When Jesus compares this to his own return, he points out that he, our master, might come at any moment, even in the middle of the night.  No one knows when he will arrive.

I happen to be an advocate of the pretribulation rapture view of Christ’s coming, which, among other things, seems to make the most sense of this passage.  Though I know plenty of wonderful Christians who disagree, I do hope they at least see the importance of our constant preparedness and sense of expectation.  For example, one of my former professors, who holds different views on end-times prophecy from me, still says in his commentary on this passage, 

The reference to all four watches, including the second and third watches when people avoided travel, underlines the fact that Jesus’ return may happen when it is least expected, and emphasizes that Jesus’ followers are always “on duty”: they must always, constantly, be alert, prepared for Jesus’ sudden, unexpected return. 

Eckhard Schnabel, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary *

In a day when people are not overly enthusiastic about Bible prophecy, there is a constant danger to shift toward a lack of enthusiasm.  Let’s not forget that the New Testament emphasizes that Jesus is coming soon.  Let’s be like the faithful doorkeeper in Christ’s comparison who is ready to open the door at any time, even at an unexpected moment.  In other words, at any and every time, Jesus might realistically be expected. 

No one knows when Jesus will return.  This means we should always be ready.

 

* Eckhard Schnabel, 2017. Mark, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. (Downers Grove, IVP Academic), 339.

Mark 12 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

Jesus is in Jerusalem.  It is the final week running up to his crucifixion.  He will criticize spiritual showiness while encouraging us to practice complete love and commitment to God.

Mark 12.pdf

Mark 12.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 12

Heavenly Father,

We learn from Jesus in this chapter that our lives need to be totally committed to you. Help us to love you with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength.

Help us to love our neighbor as ourselves – to put the needs of others, even our enemies, on the same level as our own.

Help us to be good citizens, faithful taxpayers, loyal participants in the life of our earthly community.

But help us also to remember that we owe you so much more – that in fact we personally belong to you.

Help us never to desire a reputation for being more godly or more spiritual than we really are.

Jesus was an example of humility and we will do well if we continuously follow him in that – knowing that he is truly God and the author of our salvation.

In Christ’s name we pray,

Amen.

 

Spiritual VIPs – Mark 12:38-40

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Have you ever been in the presence of someone really, really important?  I remember one time attending a campaign event in New Hampshire in the run up to a presidential primary.  Several political big shots had crammed into a school cafeteria with all the requisite staff, press and random observers like me.  It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the moment.  So much power being wielded in the midst of a crowd interacting in tighter-than-usual personal space! The spectators and the stars were almost literally rubbing elbows.

We might assume all the candidates at that event had no aspirations outside the boundaries of selfless public service, but it probably wasn’t true.  Some people do crave the attention, the respect, the deference to their inherent importance, the awe from others which they see as their just due.

Jesus wasn’t like that, but rather lowered himself intentionally to our level.  When he saw the types that liked to be spiritual VIPs, he had nothing but harsh words. And he pointed out their hypocrisy.

They got attention merely by the way they dressed.  Some clothing automatically looks more spiritual and they wanted people to see them in it.  People saw them dressed in those long robes and reflexively gave them special greetings in the marketplaces.  It was a wholehearted, full-eye-contact “Oh hello, sir!” not just a halfhearted “Hi.”

When they took their place of religious duty, it was a place of honor.  If there was a feast, the host would be sure to seat them somewhere special, because of course he wanted everyone to see what kind of people came to his banquets – spiritual VIPs.

People like this can use their power to take advantage of others.  The grieving widow might someday want to sign over some of her estate.  Be sure to get into her good graces.  Why even wait that long?  Perhaps they would pull on her heartstrings now to lead her to give to their “charitable” cause.

Long prayers are often necessary, but there is no sense in the mind of this VIP to offer them only in private.  Prayers are best offered in pretense, for all to see and hear, sufficiently clogged with spiritual vocabulary and run-on sentences.  Who would ever believe that someone so pious could ever devour the house of a widow?

Many people will be condemned in the judgment, but these will receive greater condemnation.  If there is such a thing as a hotter place in hell, it is reserved for the phony, self-focused, hypocritically spiritual VIP.

Mark 11 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  When he exercises his messianic authority, however, that authority is immediately challenged.

Mark 11.pdf

Mark 11.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 11

Dear heavenly Father,

Your people have often fallen into times of deep hypocrisy and in this chapter we see Jesus confront a group of people who were in one of those times.

Help us to be especially sensitive to the ways that our lives do not line up with your desires for us.

Let us always remember that you get to set the agenda in our lives individually and in the church.

And help us not to forget the importance of prayer. We know it can be really effective when we truly believe and consistently bring our requests before you.

We also know that before prayer comes a heart of forgiveness. Help us to be those people that refuse to hold grudges and refuse to let unforgiveness cloud our relationship with you.

And we thank you for all the ways and the times that you have forgiven us.

In Christ,

Amen.