BE ON THE WATCH
Jesus said, “Learn the lesson the fig-tree offers you. As soon as its branches become tender, and it puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So must you too know, when you see these things happening, that the end is near at the doors. This is the truth I tell you–this generation will not pass away until these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away. But no man knows about that day and that hour, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, no one except the Father. Be watchful, be wakeful, be praying, for you do not know when the time is. It is like when a man goes abroad, and leaves his home, and puts his servants in charge, and orders the door-keeper to be on the watch. So then be watchful! For you do not know when the master of the house comes, late in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrow, or in the early day. Watch! in case he comes suddenly and finds you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all–be on the watch!”
There are three special things to note in this passage.
(i) It is sometimes held that when Jesus said that these things were to happen within this generation he was in error. But Jesus was right, for this sentence does not refer to the Second Coming. It could not when the next sentence says he does not know when that day will be. It refers to Jesus’ prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple and they were abundantly fulfilled.
(ii) Jesus says that he does not know the day or the hour when he will come again. There were things which even he left without questioning in the hand of God. There can be no greater warning and rebuke to those who work out dates and timetables as to when he will come again. Surely it is nothing less than blasphemy for us to enquire into that of which our Lord consented to be ignorant.
(iii) Jesus draws a practical conclusion. We are like men who know that their master will come, but who do not know when. We live in the shadow of eternity. That is no reason for fearful and hysterical expectation. But it means that day by day our work must be completed. It means that we must so live that it does not matter when he comes. It gives us the great task of making every day fit for him to see and being at any moment ready to meet him face to face. AH life becomes a preparation to meet the King.
We began by saying that this was a very difficult chapter, but that in the end it had permanent truth to tell us.
(i) It tells us that only the man of God can see into the secrets of history. Jesus saw the fate of Jerusalem although others were blind to it. A real statesman must be a man of God. To guide his country a man must be himself God-guided. Only the man who knows God can enter into something of the plan of God.
(ii) It tells us two things about the doctrine of the Second Coming.
(a) It tells us that it contains a fact we forget or disregard at our peril.
(b) It tells us that the imagery in which it is clothed is the imagery of Jesus’ own time, and that to speculate on it is useless, when Jesus himself was content not to know. The one thing of which we can be sure is that history is going somewhere; there is a consummation to come.
(iii) It tells us that of all things to forget God and to become immersed in earth is most foolish. The wise man is he who never forgets that he must be ready when the summons comes. If he lives in that memory, for him the end win not be terror, but eternal joy.
Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Back to: Barclay’s Commentary