Connections 12.03.2017: Wake Up!

Mark 13:24-37

In the Gospels, I identify much more with the disciples than with the people who are in awe of Jesus, scared of him, or threatened by him. The disciples, like me, are comfortable with Jesus. They feel secure enough in him to question his ideas, criticize his actions, and even fall asleep when he wants them to stay alert. I feel like I’ve known Jesus in some way all my life—from those early years in the church nursery, through children’s Sunday school and choir musicals, then on to the youth group. I’ve spent these past couple of decades as an adult learning more, questioning more, and wondering more about the man who walked the earth as God in the flesh.

Like the disciples, I am probably a little too comfortable with Jesus. Several times in the Gospels, he urges people to be alert, stay awake, and keep watch. Such words might cause fear, anxiety, uncertainty—and maybe that’s what Jesus intended to some extent.

We should certainly feel comfortable with Jesus, but we should never feel completely at ease in this world. Though Jesus ultimately came to overcome evil and save us, we aren’t yet spared from the effects of evil in our daily lives. We should strive to be alert, stay awake, and keep watch for the ways evil brings shadows into our relationships, our actions, and our spirits.

On the other hand, we should also be alert, stay awake, and keep watch for the ways the grace of God brings light into these areas. Just as we are to be watchful for the threats of evil, so also we are to be watchful for Jesus’ presence, guidance, and love. Wake up!

Discussion

1. Do you feel comfortable with Jesus? If so, how? If not, why?
2. What are the benefits of feeling comfortable with Jesus? What might be some negatives?
3. What goes through your mind when you read Jesus’ words about being alert, staying awake, and keeping watch? Why do you think this was such a common theme in his teachings?
4. Where do you see evil bringing shadows into the world? Where do you see grace bringing light?
5. How can you be more alert, stay more awake, and keep better watch for both evil and the work of Christ in your daily life?

Reference Shelf

Mark 13:28-37

The theme of the last section of the discourse is the urgency of readiness: “Keep awake, be alert, watch!” This urgency is expressed in temporal terms: “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” (13:30), which leads to a dilemma from which there is no escape because Jesus also declared that even he did not know the time when these things will come to pass. The end will come suddenly, but just as you know that summer is almost here when you see leaves on a fig tree, so when you see the signs of catastrophe (the “desolating sacrilege,” 13:14), you know that the end is near. Again, however, the fascinating dilemma should not distract us from the urgency of Jesus’ warning to be ready. Mark was writing at a time when the events that led to the destruction of Jerusalem were already unfolding. The warning, therefore, is to be ready. Jesus’ predictions for the future—the destruction of Jerusalem and then after that the coming of the Son of Man—were already in process of being fulfilled. The need for readiness is urgent: pray, make the most of opportunities to declare your faith, take care that you are not deceived, be steadfast, and prepare for whatever ordeal you may face. Although we live 2,000 years after this urgent warning, we will do well not to let either the chronological dilemma or the apocalyptic language divert our attention from Jesus’ urgent counsel to prepare spiritually for any crisis we may confront. If we are ready for anything today, we will be ready for tomorrow also.

The allusions to what the disciples would experience in the next few days, through the echo of Jesus’ exhortation to the disciples at Gethsemane to watch and pray, and the foreshadowing of the events of the Last Supper, Gethsemane, and the arrest and trial of Jesus through the naming of the four watches of the night (see the commentary on 13:35), provides an important hermeneutical bridge for this passage. Mark himself was making a transition from Jesus’ warning about readiness for the events of the distant future (the destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the Son of Man) to the events of the next few days. We may do the same, because the message is the same: “what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake” (13:37).

R. Alan Culpepper, Mark, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007) 474–75.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson. To purchase the volume quoted in today’s Reference Shelf, please click Here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

*