Stay Awake | Mark 13:28-37

January 15, 2014

Topic: Encouragement

Book: Mark

Scripture: Mark 13:28-37

Introduction: A man by the name Harold Camping who was the president of the Family Radio Christian network claimed that the rapture and judgment day would take place on May 21, 2011. Further, he stated that the world would end five months later on October 21, 2011. His supporters claimed that more than 200 million (20 crores) people would be raptured on May 21, 2011. Some of his supporters believed Camping’s prophecy and used all their life savings to publicize the prophecy. His organization spent more than 700 crore rupees for an information campaign, which includes advertising through billboards.

As it is evident, his false prophecy failed as no one was raptured on May 21, 2011. Then, Camping said that May 21 had been a “spiritual” day of judgment and he went on to say that the physical rapture would occur on October 21, 2011, simultaneously with the destruction of the entire universe. Obviously, that didn’t happen as well. In fact, 5 days before his so-called prophecy would be fulfilled, on October 16, 2011, Camping admitted that he didn’t know when the end would come. In March 2012, he acknowledged that his attempt to set the date for Christ’s coming was “sinful.”

In human history, several people set the dates for Christ’s coming. But all those prophecies and predictions turned out to be false. In today’s text, Jesus says that instead of focusing on the date of his coming, we must focus on our spiritual lives so that we can be ready when he comes back. Would you take God’s Word and turn your Bibles with me to Matrk13:28-37?

I have entitled today’s sermon as: “Stay Awake!”

In the passage that we read today, we see that Jesus tells his disciples to stay awake as the destruction of the temple is imminent and the exact time of his coming is unknown.

1. The Lesson from the Fig Tree (Mark 13:28-31).

Scholars believe that Mark 13:28-31 refers to the fall of Jerusalem as mentioned in Mark 13:5-13 because of the use of the phrase, “these things.” If you remember, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple in Mark 13:1-2.

In Mark 13:4, his disciples ask: “Tell us, when will these things be?” Jesus says that the sufferings at the fall of Jerusalem are just the beginning: “These are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Mark 13:8). Since Jesus again speaks of “these things,” scholars believe that Jesus is referring to the destruction of the temple rather than the end of the age which he spoke about in Mark 13:14-27. Mark 13:24-27 talks about the end itself; whereas, Mark 13:29-30 talk about the signs of the end.

a. Jesus teaches a lesson from the fig tree (Mark 13:28-29).

The fig tree loses its leaves in winter and just before summer, the branch grows tender with buds. When Jesus spoke these words before the Passover, the branches were tender and the leaves were sprouting.

“These things” in verse 29 refers to the beginning of the birth pains mentioned in Mark 13:8, the events mentioned in Mark 13:5-13. The fig tree teaches that the destruction of the temple is at hand. In Mark 11:12-14, Jesus cursed the fig tree, which symbolized the destruction of the temple. Jesus’ contemporaries would witness the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

b. Jesus promises that his words will be fulfilled (Mark 13:30-31).

Some think that Jesus was mistaken when he said that “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:30). They say that Jesus never came back during his generation and thus his prophecy failed. However, as mentioned earlier, here Jesus is referring to the destruction of the temple and not to his second coming. In the Bible, a generation is about 40 years. Jesus spoke these words around 30 AD and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, eventually fulfilling his prophecy that his generation will not pass away without seeing the fulfilment of his words.

Verse 31 points back to Mark 13:24-25: 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.” In verse 31, Jesus claims what God alone can claim.

Psalm 102:25-27: 25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Isaiah 40:7-8: 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

This principle applies not just for the destruction of the temple; since Christ is faithful and powerful, his Word will be accomplished. We can trust Jesus’ words! We can stake our lives upon his words. He will never deceive us. He is totally trustworthy! One day, the heavens and the earthy will pass away, but his words will not pass away.

2. The Parable of the Doorkeeper (Mark 13:32-37).

Jesus emphasizes the need for watchfulness in this passage.

“Be on guard, keep awake” (Mark 13:33).

“Therefore stay awake” (Mark 13:35).

“Lest he come suddenly and find you asleep” (Mark 13:36).

“Stay awake” (Mark 13:37).

a. The exhortation to stay awake in light of the imminent return of Christ (Mark 13:32-33).

Verse 32 starts with the explicit adversative (expressing antithesis or opposition), “but,” which shows that Jesus is not talking about the destruction of the temple, but about the second coming of Christ. In Mark 13:4, the disciples wanted to know the signs of the second coming. But here, Jesus says that no one knows that day or that hour. As the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” many people want to know the exact date of Christ’s coming. We, humans, want to know everything. We want to know when we will get married and to whom we will get married, what kind of job we will get, etc. We have a strong desire to know our future. That’s why fortune tellers, numerologists, and astrologers make so much money. But we humans cannot know everything. God alone is omniscient!

Jesus says that no one, except the Father, knows the day of Christ’s second coming. That’s why we must stop setting the date for Christ’s coming. He said to his disciples, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). In verse 32, Jesus says that even the Son does not know the day or the hour of his coming. Some wrongly think that Jesus is not divine on the basis of this verse. However, Jesus says that he does not know the day or the hour because he deliberately laid aside the exercise of his divine attributes as he became a human. Now, Jesus is in his glorified state in heaven and he certainly knows when he will come.

Verse 33 says that we must be on guard and be awake as we do not know when the time for the coming of Christ will be. This is a command from Christ! Jesus says that we must be on guard and be awake because we tend to be unprepared. When the coming of Christ is delayed, we tend to become complacent. We must be awake.

b. The suddenness of Christ’s coming is illustrated (Mark 13:34).

In verse 34, Jesus tells the parable of the doorkeeper to illustrate the suddenness of his coming. The watchfulness of the doorkeeper is the main point of this parable. In Jesus’ time, slaves had different roles.

However, the doorkeeper’s job was a prominent one as he held the master’s key. Also, he had the responsibility to keep unwanted visitors from coming in, and he even checked the other slaves who left the house. During Jesus’ time, travelling at night was not as safe as the roads would be infested with robbers. So, people generally avoided travelling at night. If the master arrived at night, the doorkeeper could be caught off guard.

However, we must not be caught off guard. The doorkeeper had great privileges. But with great privilege comes great responsibility. We must be faithful to the work assigned to us. Are you coming to church regularly? Are you demonstrating your eagerness to worship the King of kings by coming on time to church? Are you working for the Lord or are you just warming your chair every Sunday? Even if you are serving God, are you serving God with the right attitude? Are you serving the Lord faithfully and passionately or are you grumbling while serving the Lord?

c. The exhortation to stay awake (Mark 13:35-37).

Like the doorkeeper, our job is to “stay awake” (v. 35). We must stay awake because we do not know when the master of the house will come. When Chandrababu Naidu was the Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh between 1994 to 2004, I remember that the newspapers would carry reports about how he went on surprise visits to government offices. In fact, as recently as October 14, 2017, Naidu tweeted that he went for a surprise visit to Vijayawada and “inspected places like bus stand, canals etc. Ordered the authority to maintain cleanliness.”

Well, our Master is coming back at an unexpected time. We must stay awake!

In verse 35, Mark refers to the four Roman watches of the night. We must be spiritually awake. In chapter 14, Jesus reproves his disciples five times for failing to watch (Mark 14: 34, 37, 38, 40, 41). Make sure that the Lord doesn’t find you sleeping when he comes back (v. 36). The exhortation to stay awake in verse 37 is not just for pastors or super-spiritual Christians. Rather, this is for “all” Christians!

James R. Edwards writes, “To everyone designates a wider audience than the Twelve. This is the word of Jesus to the Twelve, the word of Mark to his readers, and the word of the Spirit to believers in every age.” Are you preparing for Christ’s coming? We spend months planning a wedding, the birth of a baby, a career change, or the purchase of a home. Do you give the same importance for preparing for Christ’s return? The results of Christ’s coming will last for eternity. Don’t dare to postpone preparing for his coming because he will come suddenly and at a time you don’t expect. Keep reading the Word, keep praying, keep coming to church, keep living a holy life, keep witnessing, and keep serving the Lord.

Conclusion: Proposition: Stay awake as Christ’s coming will be sudden and unexpected.

We must eagerly wait for our blessed hope!

Titus 2:11-13: 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

We must live in constant readiness. We must live each moment in light of Christ’s coming. Our life itself must be a preparation to meet the King. Stay awake!