Mark 13:34
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.
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(34) For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey.—The italics indicate, as usual, that the words are not found in the Greek. Their absence, seeming, as they do, essential to the meaning of the sentence, is singular. A possible explanation is, that we have an imperfect fragmentary report, as from a note taken at the time, of that which appears, in a developed form, as the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

And commanded the porter to watch.—This feature is unique in our Lord’s parables, and, as such, seems to call for a special interpretation. The “servants” we accept at once as the disciples, and we understand generally what was the authority and the work assigned to them. But who was specifically the “gate-keeper” or “porter”? The answer appears to be found in the promise of the keys of the kingdom that had been made to St. Peter (Matthew 16:19). It was his work to open the door of that kingdom wide, to be ready for his Lord’s coming in any of those manifold senses which experience would unfold to him. We may accordingly venture to trace in St. Mark’s record, here as elsewhere, the influence of the Apostle. That word “the porter” was, he felt, meant for him, and this he remembered when much that had been recorded by others had faded from his recollection. If we adopt this application of the word here, it throws light on the somewhat difficult reference to the “porter” of the sheep-fold in John 10:3.



Mark 13:34

Church order is not directly touched on in the Gospels, but the principles which underlie all Church order are distinctly laid down. The whole community of Christian people is a family or household, being brethren because possessors of a new life through Christ. In that household there is one ‘Master,’ and all its members are ‘servants.’ That name suggests the purpose for which they exist; the meaning of all their offices, dignities, etc.

I. The authority with which the servants are invested.

We hear a great deal about the authority of the Church in these days, as a determiner of truth and as a prescriber of Christian action. It means generally official authority, the power of guidance and definition of the Church’s action, etc., which some people think is lodged in the hands of preachers, pastors, priests, either individually or collectively. There is nothing of that sort meant here. Whatever this authority is, it belongs to the whole body of the servants, not to individuals among them. It is the prerogative of the whole ecclesia, not of some handful of them. ‘This honour,’ whatever it be, ‘have all the saints.’

Explain by reference to ‘the kings of the earth exercise lordship over them’; ‘the greatest shall be your servant.’ It is then but another name for capacity for service, power to bless, etc.

And this idea is still further borne out if we go back to the parable of our text. A man leaves his house in charge of his servants. To them is committed the responsibility for his goods. His honour and interests are in their hands. They have control over his possessions. This is the analogy which our Lord suggests as presenting a vivid likeness to our position in the world.

Christ has committed the care of His kingdom, the glory of His name, the growth of His cause in the world to His Church, and has endowed it with all ‘talents,’ i.e. gifts needful for that work. Or, to put it in other words, they are His representatives in the world. They have to defend His honour. His name is scandalised or glorified by their actions. They have to see to His interests. They are charged with the carrying out of His mind and purposes.

The foundation of all is laid. Henceforth building on it is all, and that is to be done by men. Human lips and Christian effort-not without the divine Spirit in the word-are to be the means.

It is as when some commander plans his battle, and from an eminence overlooks the current of the fight, and marks the plunging legions as they struggle through the smoke. He holds all the tremendous machinery in his hands. The plan and the glory are his, but the execution of the plan lies with the troops.

In a still more true sense all the glory of the Christian conquest of the world is His, but still the instruments are ourselves. The whole counsel of God is on our side. We ‘go not a warfare at our own charges.’ Note the perfect consistency of this with all that we hold of the necessity of divine influence, etc.

His servants are intrusted with all His ‘goods.’ They have authority over the gifts which He has given them, i.e. Christian men are stewards of Christ’s riches for others.

They have access to the free use of them all for themselves.

Thus the ‘authority’ is all derived. It is all given for the sake of others. It is all capacity for service. Hence-

II. The authority with which the servants are invested binds every one of them to hard work for Christ.

‘To every man his work’

{1} Gifts involve duties. That is the first great thought. To have received binds us to impart. ‘Freely ye have received, freely give.’

All selfish possession of the gifts which Christ bestows is grave sin.

The price at which they were procured, that miracle and mystery of self-sacrifice, is the great pattern as well as the great motive for our service.

The purpose for which we have received them is plainly set forth: in the existence of the solidarity in which we are all bound; in the definite utterances of Scripture.

The need for their exercise is only too palpable in the condition of things around us.

{2} In this multitude of servants every one has his own task.

The universality of the great gift leads to a corresponding universality of obligation. All Christians have their gifts. Each of us has his special work marked out for him by character, relationships, circumstances, natural tastes, etc.

How solemn a divine call there is in these individual peculiarities which we so often think of as unimportant accidents, or regard mainly in their bearing on our own ease and comfort! How reverently we should regard the diversities which are thus revelations of God’s will concerning our tasks! How earnestly we should seek to know what it is that we are fitted for! The importance of all protests against priestly assumption lies here, that they strengthen the force with which we proclaim that every man has his ‘work.’

Ponder the variety of characters and gifts which Christ gives and desires His servants to use, and the indispensable need for them all. The ideal Church is the ‘body’ of Christ, in which each member has its place and function.

Our fault in this matter.

{3} The duties are to be done in the spirit of hard toil.

The servant has ‘his work’ allotted him, and the word implies that the work calls for effort. The race is not to be run without dust and sweat. Our Christian service is not to be regarded as a ‘bye-product’ or parergon. It is, so to speak, a vocation, not an avocation. It deserves and demands all the energy that we can put forth, continuity and constancy, plan and system. Nothing is to be done for God, any more than for ourselves, without toil. ‘In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread and give it to others.’

III, To do this work, watchfulness is needed.

The division of tasks between ‘servant’ and ‘porter’ is only part of the drapery of the parable. To show that watchfulness belongs to all, see the two following verses.

What is this watchfulness? Not constant fidgety curiosity about the coming of the Lord; not hunting after apocalyptic dates. The modern impression seems to be that such study is ‘watchfulness.’ Christ says that the time of His coming is hidden {see previous verses}. Ignorance of that is the very reason why we are to watch. Watchfulness, then, is just a profound and constant feeling of the transiency of this present. The mind is to be kept detached from it; the eye and heart are to be going out to things ‘unseen and eternal’; we are to be familiarising ourselves with the thought that the world is passing away.

This watchfulness is an indispensable part of our ‘work.’ The true Christian thought of the transiency of the world sets us to work the more vigorously in it, and increases, not diminishes, our sense of the importance of time and of earthly things, and braces us to our tasks by the thought of the brevity of opportunity, as well as by guarding us against tastes and habits which eat all earnestness out of the soul.

Thus ‘working and watching,’ happy will be the servant whom his Lord will find ‘so doing,’ i.e. at work, not idly looking for Him. Our common duties are the best preparation for our Lord’s coming.

13:28-37 We have the application of this prophetic sermon. As to the destruction of Jerusalem, expect it to come very shortly. As to the end of the world, do not inquire when it will come, for of that day and that hour knoweth no man. Christ, as God, could not be ignorant of anything; but the Divine wisdom which dwelt in our Saviour, communicated itself to his human soul according to the Divine pleasure. As to both, our duty is to watch and pray. Our Lord Jesus, when he ascended on high, left something for all his servants to do. We ought to be always upon our watch, in expectation of his return. This applies to Christ's coming to us at our death, as well as to the general judgment. We know not whether our Master will come in the days of youth, or middle age, or old age; but, as soon as we are born, we begin to die, and therefore we must expect death. Our great care must be, that, whenever our Lord comes, he may not find us secure, indulging in ease and sloth, mindless of our work and duty. He says to all, Watch, that you may be found in peace, without spot, and blameless.Who left his house - The word "house" often means family. Our Saviour here represents himself as going away, leaving his household the church, assigning to the apostles and all his servants their duty, and leaving it uncertain when he would return. Since his return was a matter of vast consequence, and as the affairs of his kingdom were entrusted to them, just as the affairs of a house are to servants when the master is absent, so it was of vast importance that they should be faithful at their post, that they should defend the house from danger, and be ready for his return.

The porter - The doorkeeper. To the janitor or doorkeeper was entrusted particularly the care of the house, whose duty it was to attend faithfully on those who came and those who left the house.

34. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, &c.—The idea thus far is similar to that in the opening part of the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14, 15).

and commanded the porter—the gatekeeper.

to watch—pointing to the official duty of the ministers of religion to give warning of approaching danger to the people.

Ver. 34-37. In the Greek, those words, For the Son of man is, are not, but those, or some such like, are necessarily to be understood to make up the sense. The watching here again twice called for is the same with that before mentioned. The sense of these verses is the same as before; the uncertainty of the time when Christ cometh to judgment should oblige all men to be diligent and industrious to keep themselves from sinning, that they may be ready at what time soever he cometh. He mentions only the four parts of the night, having spoken of sin under the notion of sleeping, and holiness under the notion of watching.

For the son of man is as a man taking a far journey,.... Or this case of the son of man's coming to take vengeance on the Jewish nation, is like a man that takes a journey into a far country. This puts me in mind of a question asked (m) by the Jews:

"what , "a far journey" from Modiim, and without.''

from Modiim, according to the Gemara (n), and commentators (o) on this passage, was a place fifteen miles from Jerusalem; so that, according to them, fifteen miles were reckoned a far journey (p).

Who left his house; and his goods in it, to the care and management of others during his absence:

and gave authority to his servants; to govern his house, and exercise power one over another, according to their different stations;

and to every man his work; which he was to do, while he was gone, and to give him an account of when he returned:

and commanded the porter to watch; his house, and take care that it was not broke open by thieves, and plundered of the substance that was in it. So Christ, when he ascended on high, went to heaven, the land afar off; left his house, his church, particularly in Judea, and at Jerusalem, to the care of his apostles, and gave authority to govern it, according to the laws, rules, and directions prescribed by him; and assigned every man his particular work, for which he gave him proper gifts and abilities; and ordered the porter to be on his watch, not Peter only, but all the apostles and ministers, whose business it is to watch over themselves, and the souls of men committed to their care.

(m) Misn. Pesachim, c. 9. sect. 2.((n) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 93. 2.((o) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. ib. (p) Maimon. Hilch. Korban Pesach. c. 5. sect. 9.

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.
Mark 13:34. Enforcement of the exhortation to watch by a brief parable. At this point each of the synoptical evangelists goes his own way. In Mt. Jesus presses home the lesson by historical and prophetical pictures of the surprises brought by unexpected crises; in Lk. by general statements; in Mk. y a comparison which seems to be the germ of the parable in Matthew 25:14-23.—ἄνθρωπος ἀπόδημος (here only), a travelling man, cf. ἄνθ. ἔμπορος, a merchant man, in Matthew 13:45.—ἀφεὶς, τοὺς: these participles specify the circumstances under which the command to the porter, the main point, was given; it was when the master was leaving, and when he gave to all his servants his parting instructions.—τὴν ἐξουσίαν, his (the master’s) authority, distributed among the servants when he could no longer exercise it himself.—τὸ ἔργον α., to each one his work, in apposition with ἐξουσίαν. In the master’s absence each man became his own master; put upon his honour, the seat of the ἐξουσία, and prescribing careful performance of the ἔργον entrusted to each.—καὶ τ. θυρωρῷ, also, among the rest, and very specially, to the porter (he gave instructions). The καὶ here is emphatic, as if it had been καὶ δὴ καὶ.—ἵνα γρηγορῇ, that he should watch: note that in this parable the function of watching becomes the business of one—the porter. Each servant has his appropriate task; the porter’s is to watch. Yet in the moral sphere watching is the common duty of all, the temper in which all are to discharge their functions. All have to be porters, waiting at the gate, ready to open it to the returning master. Hence the closing exhortation in Mark 13:37. What I say to you, the four disciples (Mark 13:3), I say to all: watch. This had to be added, because it was not said or suggested by the parable; a defect which makes it doubtful whether we have here a logion of Jesus in authentic form, and which may account for its omission by Lk.

34. For the Son of man is] These words do not occur in the original.

taking a far journey] Literally, one who is absent from his people, who goes on foreign travel. “Which gon fer in pilgrimage,” Wyclif. The verb formed from it occurs in chap. Mark 12:1, “A certain man planted a vineyard … and went into a far country.” Even so our Lord left His Church, gave authority to His servants the Apostles, and to those who should come after them, and to every man his work, and is now waiting for the consummation of all things.

[34. Ὡς ἄνθρωπος) D. Hauber has ably proved that this passage is parallel, not to Matthew 25:14, but to Matthew 24:45.—Harm., p. 484].—τὴν ἐξουσίαν, authority) This He gave to His servants conjointly, as is evident from the antithesis, and to every man) καὶ ἑκάστῳ. The authority so assigned was a great authority: Matthew 21:33.—καὶ) also [even].—τῷ θυρωρῷ, to the porter) [He gave charge], inasmuch as the porter is one who keeps watch even for others, and whose duty it is to rouse them up.

Mark 13:34A man taking a far journey (ἄνθρωπος ἀπόδημος)

The A. V. is incorrect, since the idea is not that of a man about to go, as Matthew 25:14; but of one already gone. So Wyc., gone far in pilgrimage; and Tynd., which is gone into a strange country. The two words form one notion - a man abroad. Rev., sojourning in another country.

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