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Gospel of Mark 13: 26-37 (NIV)
26 “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
32 “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Mark’s Gospel names the four disciples with Jesus as he spoke these words: Peter, James, John and Andrew. We might wonder at Jesus’ purpose in warning about these future events, a warning distinct from his earlier reference to the destruction of the Temple (though verse 30 probably references that event which was destined to occur in the lifetimes of several of his disciples).
I am convinced that every one of Jesus’ acts and all of the words he spoke were rich with purpose. His intention on all occasions, I believe, was not to provoke intellectual curiosity but to reveal God (the Father and himself and ultimately the Holy Spirit) to those whom he taught and to instruct them in the way they were to continue his ministry when he was no longer with them.
This being the case, reference to his own return “in clouds with great power and glory” was not so that they, or we, could debate the timing of this return. His own words confirmed that “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (verse 32). Jesus’ intention was to teach his disciples, and to teach us, to be ready to receive him when he does return.
Today we continuously hear of wars and rumours of wars, of earthquakes in various places and famines (Mark 13: 7-8). It has probably been that way for the past twenty centuries! We are told that we “do not know when that time will come” (verse 33b). To wonder at the imminence of his return is futile – even disobedient!
We are to “Be on guard!”, to “Be alert!” We are to keep watch. For those who have spent time at sea, for soldiers and for those charged with the security of others, “watch” is laden with meaning. We who follow Jesus as Lord and Saviour are to be ever watchful, conducting ourselves each day in anticipation that today may be the day of his return.
Do you do this joyfully?