Markby Robert M. Solomon
The disciples asked Jesus two questions. He answered their second question at length, describing the signs that would precede the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (v. 2). This destruction would take place in AD 70. While answering the disciples' question Jesus also described more distant events in the future, prior to His return. There would be great social, spiritual, and natural disturbances and instability. The entire description was unsettling and deeply disturbing.
But Jesus did not answer the disciples' first question about timing-when everything would happen. Instead He stated that only the Father knew when the end will take place. The angels did not know, and neither did the Son of God (v. 32). His purpose for putting it this way was to warn everyone to ″Be on guard! Be alert!″ (v .33). There was no place for spiritual complacency.
Jesus told another parable to help them understand. The owner of a house went away but did not say when he would be back. He left his servants with various responsibilities, ″each with his assigned task″ (v. 34). One servant was placed at the door; his specific task was to look out for his master's return, a task he would not be able to perform if he fell asleep and stopped keeping watch. Jesus warned everyone that He would return again to earth suddenly, and the only way people could be prepared for His coming as Judge and King (see Matthew 25:13) was to stay spiritually awake and alert (vv. 35-37).
While some today try to predict where we are in the prophetic programme for the future, trying to connect the prophecies of Jesus with current events, many others do not bother with Jesus' warning. For both these groups, Jesus had something to say: don't be presumptuous; nobody knows, except the Father, when the final end will come (vv. 32-34). It may come suddenly (vv. 35-37). The best thing to do is to remain vigilant and ″keep watch″ (v. 34; cf. vv. 5, 9, 34).
We can be sure that everything will happen just as Jesus prophesied. ″Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away″ (v. 31). The words of Jesus must be taken seriously, in faith and obedience.
What do you think would happen if the exact date of the return of Jesus is known? How would it affect the quality of discipleship among Christians?
Many Christians do not take seriously the truth that Jesus will return suddenly and unexpectedly. What does His command to ″keep watch″ mean for you personally? What ″assigned task″ (Mark 13:34) do you have?