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Jones' Commentary on the Book of MarkJones on Mark

Mark 13

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Verses 1-37

Chapter 19. The Last Things

"And as He went out of the Temple, one of His disciples saith unto Him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives over against the Temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows. But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let him that readeth understand), then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: and let him that is on the house-top not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take anything out of his house: and let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom He hath chosen, He hath shortened the days. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, He is there; believe him not: for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light. And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: so ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, That this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." Mark 13:1-37.

The Doom of the Temple.

It was as Jesus and His disciples were passing out of the Temple that the colloquy took place with which this chapter opens. "Teacher," said one of His disciples, "look what fine stones and buildings these are!" And Jesus replied, "Do you see these great buildings? Not a single stone will be left here upon another which shall not be thrown down." That solemn word must have sounded like the stroke of doom in the ears of the disciples. For they were Jews, and to them as to every Jew the Temple was the holiest place on earth. I can quite imagine that all conversation was silenced by that tragic word. It was in an awed quietness they crossed the Kidron, and set their faces towards that steep path across the Mount of Olives which was to lead them to their evening's rest in Bethany.

At the top of the ascent Jesus paused and sat down to rest, with the Temple whose destruction He had just predicted full in His view. What His thoughts were as He gazed at it in its glory who shall tell? But taking advantage of the few moments of rest, four of His disciples came to Him to ask questions about the solemn prediction He had uttered a few minutes before. Peter and James and John and Andrew approach Him. Doubtless they acted on this particular occasion as representatives of the Twelve. There may have been something so rapt and exalted and awe-inspiring about the very appearance of Jesus that no individual disciple durst ask Him any question.

The Questions of the Four.

Four of them therefore approached our Lord together, and those four the four chiefest and most influential of the Twelve Apostles. They came to Him privately ( i.e. apart from the rest of the Twelve) and asked Him, "Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished?" It was the prophesied destruction of the Temple they had in mind, and they wanted to know two things when that destruction would take place, and what warning would be given them when that destruction was near.

And the Questions they might have put.

There were other and better questions they might have asked, says Dr Glover. They might, for instance, have asked, "Why? Why must all these things be?" They might have asked their Lord to unfold to them the sin which necessitated so stern a judgment. They might have asked Him humbly what it was in the conduct of their nation that had provoked so awful a doom. Or they might have put yet another question "How can this doom be averted?" and that perhaps would have been the best question of all. I should have thought better of the disciples if, in face of this stern and solemn word, they had felt sufficient concern for their nation to make them ask their Lord if there were no way of arresting and averting judgment. Abraham entreated the Lord for corrupt and pagan Sodom; could not these disciples have entreated Him for their own countrymen and for Jerusalem their Holy City? But curiosity, or personal concern, was apparently the dominant feeling in their minds, and the only question they asked was about the date and the sign. It was in answer to that question that, according to Mark's account, our Lord uttered the great eschatological discourse which occupies the rest of the chapter.

The Double Catastrophe.

I designedly refrain from discussing the critical questions raised by this chapter. Our aim is mainly devotional and personal; the critical difficulties in no way impair the solemn message of these words to ourselves. Looking broadly at this discourse of our Lord we can see that there are two horizons in it the one near, the other far. There are two "ends" in it the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world. The first "end" dated for that generation; the other "not yet." And though the disciples interpreted all these sayings as if they referred to one "end" only; they yet reported them so faithfully that we with our clearer insight can distinguish between them. Judgments may vary about single verses, but roughly speaking Mark 13:3-8, Mark 13:14-23, Mark 13:28-31 seem to refer to the fall of Jerusalem; the rest of the chapter refers to the end of the world. But in speaking about the counsel Jesus gives to His disciples, in view of the coming judgment, whether I gather my lessons from the verses that refer to the nearer or the remoter coming makes no difference as far as their spiritual validity is concerned.

Preparation for Judgment.

"When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished," asked the disciples. And Jesus in answering them, instead of fixing the date, said, "Take heed that no man lead you astray." At first it sounds irrelevant. As a matter of fact there is a profound lesson in it. It is as if Christ said, "Date-fixing is not your concern. That is in God's hands. Your business is to take heed to yourselves, to do your own duty faithfully and well." The best way, then, of preparing for the Lord's coming is to work day by day with two hands earnestly as unto the Lord and not unto men. We have not got over our curiosity about dates even yet. Some people pore over the pages of the prophet Daniel and puzzle their brains about the number of the beasts in Revelation thinking that from these passages they may discover the date when the Lord will come back. It is a futile task. The day and the hour God has kept within His own authority.

By"Carrying On."

But, if you really want to prepare for the Lord's coming, I can tell you how to do it: "Take heed to yourselves." Attend faithfully to your own duty and task. You remember the old and familiar story about the American legislature. They were in the midst of a debate when a deep and appalling darkness spread over the sky, until one member could not see another's face. In that darkness as of night strong men were seized with panic. They cried that the day of judgment was come. They wanted to adjourn the sitting and to betake themselves to prayer. Then one man got up and said, "Whether it be the day of judgment I know not: but one thing I do know, that it is the will of God that we should save our country. Mr Speaker, I move that candles be brought in, and that we proceed with the business." Surely he was right. "How would a man rather be found than just doing the work which his Lord had committed to him?" Was it not John Wesley, who, when asked how he would spend the day if he knew it was his last, replied that he would just go through with the programme of preaching and visiting and travelling arranged for him and then quietly lay himself down to rest at night? That is the best way to prepare for the judgment. Leave your star-gazing and your date-fixing. Take heed to yourselves. Do your appointed task faithfully.

"O happy servant he,

In such a posture found!

He shall his Lord with rapture see,

And be with honour crowned."

By Steadfastness.

And that we may be found in that "happy posture," bravely and faithfully doing our appointed task, there are two qualities we shall need. One is Stedfastness. "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." The endurance here spoken of is not, as the commentaters tell us, the passive virtue of patience, in our sense of bearing things without murmur or resistance; but the manlier and more positive grace of perseverance or stedfastness. Joseph us, Dr Salmond says, uses this word to describe the indomitable constancy of the heroes of the Maccabean struggle. It is a positive and energetic grace. It is courage that cannot be broken. And we shall want that grace if we are to be prepared for the coming of Christ. For the Christian life is not an easy life. Look at the troubles that were in front of these disciples. They were to be delivered up to councils, and beaten in synagogues and set before kings. Their nearest and dearest would rise up against them and plot their death. They would have to face the hatred and contempt of a world. To be faithful to Christ these first disciples needed an unflinching and steadfast courage. And though the forms in which the hatred of the world expresses itself have changed the Christian life remains a hard life, a difficult life, an arduous life. Whoso would live it needs the high gift of courage. For it is not enough to have loved Christ once and served Him once! It is not enough to have made a beginning! It is not what we were years ago, but what we are at the moment of Christ's coming that matters. Men who started well like Judas and Demas ended their career amongst the castaways. If we are to be ready for the "Coming" we want stedfast courage. Courage, not only to begin, but that finer courage that spite of all difficulties bears up and presses on; for it is he who endureth to the end who shall be saved.

By Watchfulness.

Secondly, we need the grace of watchfulness. "Watch, therefore," says Christ, for "ye know not when the Lord of the house cometh." And He ends the discourse by repeating the warning, "What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch." "The price of liberty," said Burke in a notable and familiar sentence, "is eternal vigilance." It is the price of salvation as well. We must be eternally alert, watchful, vigilant. For we may fail in our Christian life not simply through cowardice but also through presumption. We may flatter ourselves that all is well with us and so let down our guard that at the very time when we were saying peace and safety sudden destruction may come upon us. That was the trouble with the disciples in the garden not cowardice but presumption. Instead of watching they slept, and so their enemies got them unawares. You remember where John Bunyan leaves Presumption in a bottom chained by the heels. Over-confidence may result in the Lord when He comes finding us sleeping. So that if on the one hand we need to pray to be delivered from weakness and fear, on the other hand we need to pray this further prayer, "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me" (Psalms 19:13). Over-confidence may be as fatal as cowardice. "What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch."

This is a chapter about the Lord's Return. The disciples were most anxious about the date of it. Jesus was most anxious that they should be ready to welcome Him whenever He did come. And that is what really matters that whenever the Lord comes we should be ready to receive Him.

Are we Ready?

I believe in what is technically known as the Second Coming of Christ. I believe that He will come back again to take His power and to reign. But I never trouble myself to ask when that coming will take place. There is another coming that may be nearer far. For Christ comes to the individual soul in death. And when that day and hour may be we cannot tell. But I do not know that this matters. The question is, are we ready to meet Him whenever He comes? Are we watching for Him? Are we stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Are we bravely, faithfully doing our task? If so, all's well. We shall be amongst those who love His appearing. Suppose the message reached us, "Behold, I come quickly," what would our answer be? Happy the man who can say back, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Bibliographical Information
Jones, J.D. "Commentary on Mark 13". Jones' Commentary on the Book of Mark.