Christ’s Olivet Discourse is shorter in Mark than it was in Matthew. It is still the longest continuous passage of teaching by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.
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.
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.
Jesus warned us that many will be deceived by false signs and false Christs prior to his actual coming. Please protect us from every form of spiritual deception.
Help us not to fear as we continuously hear of wars and rumors of wars, political turmoil, famines, earthquakes, and increasing troubles of various kinds. We understand that these things must be, but they do not mean that the end is here, or even that it is near enough for us to see it.
On the other hand, help us to always be watchful, because our Lord is returning for us at a time that we do not know and will not expect.
He might even come today, so help us to always be ready.
In Christ’s name,
In this passage, part of Christ’s Olivet Discourse, Jesus makes a vital point for us. We must always be ready for his return.
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
I have personally and unscientifically observed two common and unfortunate responses to the thought that Jesus can come back at any moment.
One is to go completely overboard in end times enthusiasm. I remember years ago having to comfort a man whose wife had died. Grief is hard. His was made worse by the conviction that he and his wife, who were not young, were both going to live to see the rapture of the church. He has since died as well. No rapture.
The other unfortunate response, perhaps egged on by views like the one above, is to decide that Bible prophecy is so difficult, obscure or controversial that it’s not worth paying it any attention. This seems to be more common at present, but it directly contradicts Jesus’ point.
Whether one believes this passage from Matthew is talking about the rapture or not (I personally think it is, which I know is a minority view), Christ wants us to be ready. He wants us to stay awake (v.42), be ready (v.44) and to watch (Matt 25:13).
The fact that we cannot know when Jesus is coming is not a motivator to not care when he will return. I believe this tension and lack of clarity regarding his return is designed to keep us always watchful. Every generation of Christians has every reason to believe that Jesus can come during their lifetime, but we can never be sure that he will.
Therefore we must always be ready. Let’s repeat that.
44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!