The trouble with watching test match cricket is that there are just occasionally periods where not much seems to be happening - few runs being scored, few chances of a wicket being given to the fielding side. Your thoughts start to wander away from the game and onto the man in the crowd who's seeing how high he can build a tower of beer beakers without them falling over... then suddenly there's a roar. You turn your attention back to the field and realise the stumps are knocked backwards and the batsman is walking back to the pavilion. There's been a wicket, and you missed it!
Staying alert is difficult when not much seems to be happening. But in Mark 13 Jesus wants us to know that there is a day of judgment coming which will come unexpectedly, and we must not have fallen asleep by thinking it won't happen.
We saw this week Jesus first of all describing an event in history which has now happened - the destruction of the temple in AD70 (13:1-30). Historical accounts of this event from outside the Bible fit remarkably well with the horrors of what Jesus predicted would happen, virtually unparalleled in human history in terms of its awfulness (the historian Josephus, for example, records that they ran out of wood on which to crucify people).
What's so shocking is that Jesus then in v31-37 speaks of another day of judgment which, unlike this one, is not going to be obviously signposted. Its as if what happened to Israel is a small scale example of what God's judgment on the whole world will be like. Horrendous. Appalling. Yet, as we've seen in chapter 12, fully deserved.
The fact that the destruction of the temple really happened in history should make us sit up and take notice. Jesus isn't bluffing. And so we must pay attention to his warning and stay awake - that is to say, stay Christian. Whatever the cost, whatever the trial (13:9), despite false teaching (13:6) or false predictions of the end (13:21). Stay Christian.
Don't think the end isn't coming. AD70 proves it. 'The one who endures to the end will be saved' (13:13).
Questions for application
- How real is the thought that God will one day judge the earth to you?
- What things distract you from this reality?
- How does this passage motivate us to stay awake (stay Christian)?