The Call to Stay Awake

What I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (v. 37).

- Mark 13:32–37

Mark’s account of the Olivet Discourse concludes in today’s passage with words of warning that our Lord’s hearers should stay awake and watch for the coming of Jesus (vv. 33–37). Before saying that, however, Jesus reveals His ignorance about the “day” or “hour” of His coming (v. 32).

First, let us consider what Jesus is talking about. In context of the Olivet Discourse and what we have said about its being a prediction of Christ’s judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70, it would seem that verse 32 refers to the time of the city’s destruction during the first century. Matthew’s parallel account may place the statement in the context of Christ’s final return to judge the living and the dead (Matt. 24:36–50), though that is uncertain. If that is the case in Matthew, that should not be surprising, for if Christ did not know the day or hour of Jerusalem’s fall, which happened only about forty years after He delivered the Olivet Discourse, it is not hard to imagine that He did not know when His final return would be. In any case, that Jesus could not identify the day or hour of the fall of Jerusalem does not contradict His statement that the people of the first century would see the city’s destruction (Mark 13:30). Though He knew the general time frame in which Jerusalem would be judged, He did not know the specific point at which it would happen.

Jesus’ admission of ignorance often causes great concern for readers, for how could God incarnate not know something? However, we remember that in the incarnation, the Son of God, without giving up any divine attributes, took on a true human nature with a truly human mind (John 1:1–14). A truly human mind is not omniscient. When our Savior admitted His ignorance pertaining to the timing of Jerusalem’s fall, He was manifesting to us His true humanity with all of the non-sinful limitations that it possesses.

Our Savior’s concluding words from the Olivet Discourse in Mark 13:33–37 reveal that the purpose of the sermon was not to encourage the disciples to try to set a date but rather to be ready for the events to come. Though we live some two thousand years after Jesus’ predictions came to pass, these words of warning apply to us today as well. For if the judgment on Jerusalem was a type of Christ’s final return to judge all creation, then it is even more important that we be watchful. We do not want to be caught unaware and unprepared for the Lord’s final advent.

Coram Deo

How do we prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ? The answer is relatively simple: we must make sure that we belong to Jesus as His redeemed people, as His disciples. If you are not a Christian, you will not be ready for the Lord’s return. Repent and trust Jesus alone this day. If you are a believer, seek to be a fruitful disciple that you might hear Christ’s words of commendation when He comes again.

Passages for Further Study

Ecclesiastes 9:11–12
Matthew 25:1–13
1 Thessalonians 5:1–11

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