“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Mark 13: 28-37
Jesus’s message seems a little mixed here. First He says that all of the terrible suffering will happen in the listeners’ lifetime, but then He says that no one knows when it will happen, not even Him. However, according to some scholars, the word “generation” could also be translated to nation or people, i.e. the Jews. With that in mind, these two ideas now go very well together. Jesus is essentially saying, “I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but there will still be Jews around to see it.”
And this idea, that God could come at any time, is so important! We cannot wait until the last minute to change our lives, because the last minute could be too late. Just like in the previous passage when Jesus said not even to stop in your house to get your belongings before you flee, there is just as much urgency to repent. We are commanded to be ready at all times!
Keep awake, Jesus says. He goes into a lot more detail about that in Matthew with the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids and the parable of the Talents. But in Mark the “or else” is more implied. What happens if God catches you sleeping? What happens if you wait until it’s too late to give your life to Jesus? God doesn’t save you.
Which, to me, brings to mind the urgency of discipleship. What if I wait until it’s too late to talk to someone about God? I don’t want them left behind because of my shortcomings. So suddenly this becomes not just an issue for me, but for all of the people around me. I have the potential, through not discipling, of risking my own eternal happiness as well as that of others! That’s a lot of responsibility… But it’s also a big reason for me to feel more motivated to share the gospel NOW.