When thunderclouds roll in and tornado warnings are issued, we stay on alert, watching the skies and the news so we are ready if the weather turns dangerous. Even everyday events cause us to be on alert—a mother listens for sounds from her newborn son’s room, a father waits at night for his teenage daughter to return from a movie, and a college student drinks cup after cup of coffee to stay alert as he studies through the night for a final exam. In today’s passage, Jesus warned his disciples to “be on guard” and to “stay awake.”
- What events or situations cause you to feel like you need to be on guard or to be alert?
READ THE WORD: MARK 13:14-37 (ESV)
14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
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.”
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
NOTE: The “abomination of desolation” is first mentioned in Daniel (9:27, 11:31, and 12:11) and, according to most scholars, refers to both the desecration of the temple altar by Antiochus Epiphanes (about 167 B.C.) and to events that will happen future to the writing of Mark, when the temple altar will again be defiled.
- Put the point of Jesus’ words in verses 14-23 in your own words. What’s going to happen, and what are we to do or not do?
- In the parable of the doorkeeper, who knows when the master of the house will return? What is the doorkeeper told to do in anticipation of the master’s return? What command is repeated four times in verses 33-37?
- Why does Jesus tell us to “stay awake”? What would it or does it look like for us to “fall asleep” at our post? As Christians, what is the job we need to stay alert to perform as we wait for Christ’s return?
- What is one thing you would do today if you really believed Christ’s return was imminent? What is one thing you can do today to be prepared for Christ’s return?
RESPOND TO GOD
It is easy to read these verses and be tempted to try to figure out when these events will take place. But Jesus made it clear that it is not for us to know the day and the hour when he will return; instead, we are to be ready for his return, whenever the day may be. While Jesus did not tell us when he is going to return, he did tell us what he is going to do when he returns. He will “gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (vs. 27). As believers, we can rest in this promise, and rather than trying to figure out when Jesus is coming, we can focus on being ready for his arrival.
- Pray that God would show you what you need to do today to be ready for his return.
- Pray for the people around you who are not ready for Christ’s return, and pray for opportunities to share the truth of God’s love with them.
- Thank the Father that he knows the hour and day when all these things will occur and that he remains in sovereign control of the universe.