27th March 2020

Jesus is Our Watch Word

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Mark 13:35-37 (NIVUK)

In this dramatic chapter of Mark, there is so much going on. Starting with Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the second temple, which was fulfilled in 70AD, not long after Mark is thought to have written his gospel, and finishing with descriptions of no less an event than the second coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Much has been written about each of these passages and I don’t wish to comment further in this study. Instead, I want to focus on the last three verses quoted above, arguably the most important section of the whole chapter, signified by Mark’s use of the word ‘therefore’ at the beginning of the paragraph – “Therefore, keep watch”. In other words, because of everything Mark has just said (prophecy fulfilled in the near and distant futures; the persecution of the elect; the preaching of the gospel worldwide; the betrayal of brothers and sisters and family; the distress of the final days and the Son of Man returning in power and glory) be on your guard, stay alert and don’t be asleep when the owner of the house (Jesus) returns.

Next, Jesus names four watches, or times, when he might return. Evening, midnight, at the cock’s crow or dawn. Nowadays, we tend to think of these warnings as directed at us, but Jesus was first of all talking to the disciples – and within days, it is the disciples who fail him. At evening at the Passover meal, Jesus reveals that one of them will betray him. At midnight in the garden of Gethsemane, he asks Peter, James, and John to stay awake, watch and pray, yet returns to find them sleeping. At the cock’s crow, Peter realises he has denied Jesus three times. And at dawn, Jesus is tried, his disciples have fled and he is left utterly alone.

We tend to associate this passage with fear and judgment. Yet how did Jesus judge his disciples for their disloyalty? Only with love, by dying for them and for all of us on the cross. This warning in Mark 13 is not designed to cause us to worry or panic – our salvation does not depend on it, that is securely in God’s hands. Jesus doesn’t want us to be distracted from the job at hand – to remain faithful and to be about his Father’s business: preaching the gospel and making disciples.

Almighty God, help us in these troublesome times not to worry or panic or to be fixated on prophetic speculations, but to be faithful to your son and to focus on the mission you have given us to do until he returns. In Jesus’ name.

Study by Peter Mill

About the Author:
Peter Mill is an Elder and the Missions Developer of the National Ministry Team of Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. He and his wife, Jackie, are Pastoral Workers for Grace Communion International in Scotland and Ireland.

Local Congregation:
GCI, Edinburgh
Gilmerton New Church
Ravenscroft Street
EH17 8QJ

Meeting time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Peter Mill
Email: edinburgh@gracecom.church

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