Many of us, when we know we are going to the dentist in a few days, suddenly start brushing and flossing our neglected teeth and gums, hoping that we will somehow trick the dentist into thinking that we have been faithfully taking care of them. But the dentist can always spot the mouth that has been neglected. As one dentist said, “Be true to your teeth, and they’ll never be false to you.”
Many people take the same approach to the return of Christ. We go through our lives thinking we have plenty of time and that we can deal with spiritual things later. Sadly, we often ignore the consequences until it is too late. One day we will all stand before God to give an account of our lives. We should live each day in light of that reality. Since Jesus will return at any moment, we need to be ready and prepared to meet him.
In Mark 13, Jesus answers his disciples’ questions about the second coming. His reply is both prophetic and pastoral. Rather than helping the disciples set dates, however, Jesus encourages them to stand firm. After warning his disciples not to be distracted by false saviors and false signs (5-8) and not to be discouraged by persecution (9-13), he tells them to watch for the abomination of desolation (14-23) and the return of the Son of Man (24-27). Jesus closes his teaching with two parables that emphasize we need to be ready for his return because it could happen at any time. (28-37).
In the parable of the fig tree (28-32), Jesus explains that he could return at any time. He challenges the disciples that if they can anticipate the change of seasons based on the activity of nature, they should also be able to anticipate the return of Jesus based on the signs already visible.
We can take great comfort in knowing that while life is uncertain, Jesus’ words are very certain. Life can go sideways. People fail. Plans fail. But Jesus never fails. His promises about life and his return can be trusted.
Only God knows when Jesus will return. At the appropriate time, God the Father will signal the trumpeter to sound the call. Jesus will return in power and glory to bring justice, deal with evil, and gather his own to himself.
While the parable of the fig tree teaches that Jesus can return at any time, the parable of the doorkeeper (33-37) emphasizes that since we don’t know when he will return, we need to be ready to meet him when he comes back.
Jesus compares himself to a man who goes away on a long journey and leaves his servants with work to be done. While we wait for his return, we need to be busy doing the work he has assigned to us. We cannot afford to go to sleep on the job.
The sad fact is that many people have fallen asleep today. Like the townspeople in the story of the boy who cried, “Wolf!” we have heard so many predictions as to when Christ will return that we no longer pay attention. We are caught up in social media, playing games, pursuing retirement, criticizing politicians, busyness of life, watching sports, collecting possessions, feeding addictions, and focusing on family that we no longer have time or interest to pursue spiritual things. We have forgotten that Christ called us to follow him and to make disciples.
The time is later than we think. Since Jesus will return at any moment, we need to be ready and prepared to meet him.
Are you ready? Are you alert? Do you know him as your savior? Are you busy serving Jesus? Do you look forward to his coming?
As you think about the return of Jesus, keep in mind three facts: (1) Each one of us must be watchful, vigilant, and alert; (2) We will be held accountable for how we live our lives; and (3) There will be both joy and judgment when Christ returns.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 14, 2016. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.