Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:20

3. Prophecies concerning the kingdom of Israel,13:1-37

v] Be prepared for the coming day


In this, the concluding section of the little apocalypse, Mark gathers together a group of Jesus' sayings, and a short illustrative parable on the subject of watchfulness.


Keep watch to your faith; be prepared as the day of the Lord's "coming" draws near.


i] Context: See 13:1-13.


ii] Structure: Watch!:

Saying #1, v32:

No one knows the day or hour.

Saying #2, v33:

The need for unceasing vigilance.

A parable on watchfulness, v34-36:

Saying #3, v37;



iii] Interpretation:

Concerning the hJmeraV ekeinhV, "that day", the day of judgment, the "coming" of the Son of Man, no one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels. Yet, what "coming" is in mind?

Wright argues that in this passage Jesus is still addressing the destruction of the temple, this against most commentators who argue that Jesus is speaking about the end of all things, of the final "abomination", of judgment. In fact, most commentators take a futuristic view of some, if not all, of the proceeding verses. France argues that v1-31 are focused on the destruction of the temple, and only in v32-37 does Jesus look beyond his immediate circumstance to the parousia. Indeed, Jesus may have lifted his eyes beyond the immediate circumstance of the temple's destruction, given the "dramatic shift in perspective from signs to no signs, from knowing to not knowing", Boring.

Yet, as already argued in these notes, what Jesus says of the circumstances facing the apostles, applies also to believers today, ie. prophecy is multi-layered. From the perspective of the prophet, the prophecy applies to the present, but it also applies to the future. "The destruction of the temple serves as a mysterious paradigm of the parousia", Edwards.


The sayings all address the issue of watchfulness. A believer is to "be on guard; be alert." Yet, the preacher faces a problem explaining what Jesus means by being watchful, by being prepared, by being alert, and this because the text gives us no real clues as to what it means to "keep awake." So, what is Jesus telling his disciples to do?

Many commentators argue that Jesus is calling for "faithful service", active watchfulness, rather than passive waiting, eg., "in Mark's view particularly, (it concerns) the responsibility of the world-wide promulgation of the gospel", Anderson. Yet, if we adopt the faithfulness line we end up with a justification and / or sanctification by works scenario. An important principle of Biblical interpretation is that we interpret scripture with scripture. Adopting this approach, a watchfulness that leads to salvation surely has to be a watching to our faith, given that salvation is by grace through faith.

Watchfulness, preparedness, must necessarily be a reliance on the one and only means of salvation, namely the grace of God through faith in Christ. In simple terms, we must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must proceed in the Christian life by the same means we started, by faith in the faithfulness of Christ.

It is worth noting that one of the easiest ways for a believer to get into sleeping is to start thinking that their faithful behaviour secures their standing in the sight of God and / or progresses their Christian life. cf, Gal.3:1-5. We all need to be awake to this heresy.


iv] Synoptics:

Matt.24:36-44, Lk.21:34-36. The first verse is not found in Luke, but exactly aligns with Matthew. Both Matthew and Luke run their own race on the subject of watchfulness. Luke has already used a version of v33-37 at 12:35-40, probably from a separate source, and obviously doesn't want to repeat himself. The general consensus is that Luke himself crafts a general word on watchfulness in line with extant tradition. Matthew, on the other hand, has likely assembled material on the theme of watchfulness from the tradition available to him.

Some alignment between the three gospels is evident:

v33. Matt.24:42, Lk.21:34;

v34. Matt.25:14, 30, Lk.19:12;

v35. Matt.24:42, 50;

v36. Matt.25:5.

It seems likely that we have in this passage another series of stitched independent sayings of Jesus, assembled by Mark, or even possibly under apostolic guidance during the period of oral transmission. The sayings, and parabolic sayings, are bound together by the common theme of watchfulness in light of the coming day of judgment. The stitching links may just be stylistic, but possibly serve to aid oral transmission: v32, know; v33, know / watch; v34, watch / door; v35-36, doorkeeper / watch; v37, watch.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Watch!.

Text - 13:32

Being prepared for the coming day, v32-37: i] In this first saying, Jesus makes the point that no one, neither prophets nor angels, not even Jesus himself, knows ekeinhV, "that", particular day or hour, v32. Given the context, the singular demonstrative pronoun, "that" most likely refers to the destruction of Jerusalem / the temple which was the focus of the disciples' question in v4, cf., "know that it is near", v29. Of course, the parousia is also in view. See "Interpretation" above.

Concern has been expressed over Jesus not knowing the exact date of the temple's destruction, but it is best explained "as a necessary part of [Jesus] participation in the limitations of human existence", Marcus.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the subject matter / paragraph marker, so Decker - here used as a stitching device and unlikely to be adversative. Best left untranslated.

peri "about" - about, concerning. The preposition here expresses reference / respect. Jesus may well be saying that the destruction of the temple / Jerusalem will be in the lifetime of "this generation", but his point is that the exact "day or hour" is no known, cf. v30. "As for the day or hour", Cassirer.

hJmeraV ekeinhV "that day" - that day [or the hour]. This is an Old Testament technical term often used for a day of divine judgment. In this setting, it refers to the destruction of the temple / Jerusalem, and by implication, the parousia. The addition of the "hour" emphasises the New Testament theme of the unexpected and sudden coming of the Son of man.

oiden (oida) perf. "knows" - [no one] knows. The clarity of "no one knows" should put an end to predictive speculation, although there are still many believers who enjoy this fruitless pastime. Given that not even "the Son" knows the date, we are best to leave it as an unknown.

oude ... oude "not even" - neither [the angels in heaven know], nor [the son knows]. Coordinative construction. This is the only time the shortened title "the Son" is used in Mark. Marcus suggests that it has "a subordinationist ring." Some commentators regard this phrase as an addition to the text.

ei mh "but" - except [the father]. Introducing an exceptive clause, expressing a contrast by designating an exception.


ii] In the next saying Jesus makes the point that "the disciples' ignorance of the date of the Parousia is not an excuse for being unprepared, but a reason (gar) for unceasing vigilance", Cranfield.

agrupneite (agrupnew) pres. imp. "be alert!" - [beware] be wakeful, alert, vigilant As opposed to sleepy. The question is, of course, in what sense is the believer to be alert, on the lookout, "on guard", "vigilant", prepared - prepared for an unexpected and sudden return of Christ. As noted above, keeping watch to our faith is the likely answer, but there are numerous other suggestions, usually in the terms of faithfulness. "Keep your eyes open, keep on the alert", Phillips.

gar "-" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the disciples should be alert; "for you do not know when the crucial moment will come", Barclay.

pote adv. "when" - [you do not know] when [the time is]. Temporal adverb serving to introduce a temporal indirect question. "You don't know the timetable", Peterson.


iii] A short teaching parable on watchfulness, v34-35. The parable illustrates vigilance, watchfulness, being alert, v33. Being on guard, being alert, watching, is not just describing expectant waiting, but rather standing ready and prepared for the master's return. The master leaves his house in the care of his servants. Each has their assigned task which is to be faithfully executed. The door-keeper is to keep watch, waiting to open the door at the master's return. The master can return at any time, so there is no possibility for safe-slacking. He can return at any time during the four watches of the night. If he comes unexpectedly, don't be found sleeping. So, the point of the parable is "watch" - be prepared for the Master's return. See "Interpretation" above for the content of watchfulness.

This teaching unit may have been constructed from different sources, so Nineham, but is best read as a unified whole. The unit teaches that the future belongs to God such that "every present moment is transformed and renewed in the light of that future since it becomes the very moment in which God may surprise men by his coming", Anderson.

The syntax of v34: The main verb does not appear until well into the sentence; "a man ........ commanded." In between we have:

iAn adjective which limits "man", "a man away on a trip";

iA clause made up of two adjectival participles limiting "a man on a trip", "who had left his house and gave responsibility for it to his slaves ..... commanded";

iA clause in apposition to the previous clause, but without a verb, lit. "the authority to each his work" = "having given authority to each slave to administer his work / business."

Finally, we come to the main clause, "a man ....... commanded the door-keeper ...." The sentence concludes with a dependent statement (iJna + subj.) expressing what the man commanded the door-keeper to do, namely, "that he keep watch" = "keep watch."


wJV "it is like" - as, like. Comparative. Serving to introduce a simile / parable. "As / like" = "the coming of the Son [of Man] is like the situation where ....."

anqrwpoV (oV) "a man" - a man. Serving as the subject of a rather complex sentence, although making a simple point.

afeiV (afihmi) aor. part. "going away" - having left [the house of him on a journey]. The participle, as with "having given", is adjectival, attributive. He commissions his slaves to look after his affairs; "having left his property and given its management to his servants", Weymouth.

toiV douloiV (oV) dat. "servants" - [and having given authority] to the slaves, servants [of him]. Dative of indirect object.

eJkastw/ adj. "each" - [and having given the work of him] to each [of him]. Dative of indirect object. This third clause stands in apposition to the second; "[And having given] to each one his special duty", Weymouth.

tw/ qurwrw/ (oV) "the one at the door" - [and he commanded] to the door-keeper, porter. Dative of indirect object. A particular slave with a special job. This person guarded the entrance of the courtyard to a wealthy home or combined homes.

iJna + subj. "to [keep watch]" - that [he should keep watch, be alert]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the "man" commands "the one at the door" to do. The doorkeeper is to keep watch. "Commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch", NRSV.


This next sentence covers v35 and 36. The link between the verses is not always preserved, as with NIV. Verse 36 begins with the negative mh, a iJna mh + subj. construction, a negated purpose clause, "lest", as ESV, but not "lest he comes suddenly", but "lest he find (euJrh/, subj.) you asleep." The participle elqwn is then obviously adverbial, probably temporal, "when he comes suddenly." "Therefore, keep watch ........... lest he find you sleeping when he comes suddenly."

oun "therefore" - therefore. Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.

grhgoreite pres. imp. act. "keep watch" - you be alert, watch. Like the guard we must keep watch (for the coming of a thief or the return of the master. Note the echoes of a number of end-time parables in this illustration), cf., v37. Be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. Regarding watchfulness as keeping watch to your faith.

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why we need to "keep watch", because we do not know the hour or the day when .......

pote "when" - [you do not know] when. Introducing a temporal indirect question.

thV oikiaV (a) gen. "[the owner] of the house" - [the lord] of the house [comes]. The genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "the master over / who lords it over the house."

h] "whether" - either [late in the day] or [midnight] or [crowing] or [early]. A disjunctive correlative construction. Used 4 times so "either .... or .... or ..... or ....." Here identifying the four Roman watches of the night.


elqwn (erxomai) aor. act. part. "if he comes" - [lest] having come. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, "when he comes, ...", rather than conditional, as NIV.

exaifnhV adv. "suddenly" - suddenly, immediately. Modal adverb. Note again the stress on a sudden return.

mh .... euJrh (euJriskw) aor. sub. act. "do not let him find" - he finds [you]. Probably not a subjunctive of prohibition, as NIV, but expressing a doubtful assertion / negated purpose clause, usually expressed by iJna mh, "lest"; see v35 above.

kaqeudontaV (kaqeudw) part. "sleeping" - sleeping. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "you" standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object "you". There is vigilance / watching, or sleeping - a being prepared, or unprepared. "He finds you asleep", Moffatt.


iv] A final saying sums up the theme of watchfulness, v37. Cranfield suggests it sums up the whole discourse from v5 onward. As already noted, "being alert" is best understood as maintaining faith in Christ and this because Christ's coming (best understood as a coming in judgment) will consume all who are without faith. Other suggestions have been offered, eg. Marcus suggests an attitude of eschatological vigilance which keeps an eye on the signs of the time. He also suggests an eye to "the eschatological drama of Jesus life, which is about to unfold in the gripping conclusion of the gospel." Edwards suggests a constant readiness in obedience, "Christian are to be about their masters work" - legalism is alive and well! Hurtado runs the line that believers are to be "on the job", whatever that means!

o} "what" - [and] what [i say]. Nominative subject.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - to you. Dative of indirect object, "watch" being the direct object.

pasin dat. adj. "to everyone" - [i say] to all, everyone [keep awake, be alert, watch out, take heed, be vigilant]. Dative of indirect object. "What I say to you [apostles]" is widened to "everyone", all disciples in all ages. "Stay at your post. Keep watch", Peterson.


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