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!
Things Temporal and Things Eternal.
I. First, our Lord declares to us, "Heaven and earth shall pass away." By heaven and earth are meant this state of things of which we have experience; this earth as it is an habitation for human beings; the sun as it is a light to us, the moon and the stars as in any way connected with man. We know that we ourselves shall all die; nay, we know also by past experience that nations many times die; and, so far as it is a death to perish utterly from the knowledge of future ages, so there are many generations of the whole human race which in this sense are to us dead. But our Lord's words go further than this; they tell us that there will be an absolute end of all worldly things whatever, that all the human race shall come to an end.
II. But yet I quite allow that this portion of the text without the other might, and I think would, have very little practical effect. For granting that heaven and earth shall pass away, and that our highest earthly labours are bestowed therefore on that which is perishable, yet still if this perishable is all that we know of, it becomes after all of very great and paramount importance to us; it may be but a poor thing to live, but live we must by the very necessity of our nature, and we must love this life, if we know of nothing better. And therefore simple declarations of the perishableness of earthly things are really of no effect whatever. No man heeds them, or can heed them, for our nature repels them. It is, however, altogether different when we take in the second part of the text, and are told that Christ's words shall not pass away. For if there be anything in the world eternal, then that which is perishable, even though it may last for many years, or many ages, must become infinitely insignificant in comparison. If some of our works must pass away utterly and some abide for ever, the glory and value of the first becomes as nothing by reason of the greater glory of the second. We have a work that is never to perish, a suffering yielding a multiplied harvest of blessing, if we firmly believe that there are things which shall not pass away.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 185.
References: Mark 13:31.—A. Blomfield, Sermons in Town and Country, p. 16; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 193.
Mark 13:33I. This word watching is a remarkable word; remarkable because the idea is not so obvious as might appear at first sight. We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch. To watch for what? for that great event, Christ's coming. Do you know the feeling in matters of this life, of expecting a friend, expecting him to come, and he delays? To watch for Christ is a feeling such as this; as far as feelings of this world are fit to shadow out those of another. He watches for Christ who has a sensitive, eager, apprehensive mind; who is awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in seeking and honouring Him; who looks out for Him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if he found that He was coming at once.
II. This then it is to watch; to be detached from what is present and to live in what is unseen, and to live in the thought of Christ as He came once, and as He will come again; to desire His second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of His first. And this it is in which we shall find that men in general are wanting. What is meant by watching, and how it is a duty, they have no definite idea; and thus it accidentally happens that watching is a suitable test of a Christian, in that it is that particular property of faith and love, which, essential as it is, men of this world do not even profess; that particular property, which is the life or energy of faith and love, the way in which faith and love, if genuine, show themselves.
III. Christ warns His disciples of the danger of having their minds drawn off from the thought of Him, by whatever cause; He warns them against all excitements, all allurements of the world; He warns them by the instance of the rich man whose soul was required, of the servant who ate and drank, and of the foolish virgins. When He comes, they will one and all want time; then head will be confused, then eye will swim, then tongue falter, then limbs totter, as men who are suddenly awakened. Year passes after year silently, Christ's coming is ever nearer than it was, and, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven. Every act of obedience is an approach, an approach to Him who is not far off, though He seems so, but close behind this visible screen of things which hides Him from us. He is behind the material framework; earth and sky are but a veil between Him and us; and the day will come when He will rend that veil and show Himself to us. And then, according as we have waited for Him, will He recompense us.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iv., p. 319.
References: Mark 13:33-37.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 116; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 138.
I. The work of the servants. And here we observe: (1) That work is the common duty of all in Christ's house. (2) This work of Christ's house is varied to different individuals. (3) Each individual has means for ascertaining his own work.
II. The watch of the porter. The porter must stand at the door of every heart while that heart pursues its work.
III. The bearing of these two duties on each other. If watching were absent work would be: (1) blind and without a purpose; (2) discouraging and tedious; (3) formal and dead. Without work, watching would be: (1) solitary; (2) subject to many temptations; (3) unready for Christ.
J. Ker, Sermons, p. 139.
Christ appointed to His Servants an Authority, a Work, and a Watch.
I. Look first at the Church's authority. The more we serve, and the lowlier the place we take, the more is the authority given. For, what is authority? Not position, not office, but a certain moral power, the power of truth, the power of the affections, the power of virtue over vice, the power of the true over the false, the power of faith over sight, the essential power of the great Head delegated to all His members, which is ultimately to command the universe? It is your authority to feel as a man who, having found true peace with God, goes about with the ennobling consciousness that He is in the possession of an invaluable treasure. It is your authority, though a poor miserable sinner, to wear the badge, and carry the name, and act under the signet of the King of kings. It is your authority, therefore, to go to every man, to every single man under heaven, in the consciousness that you have received a Divine instruction to this effect, and tell that man of the glorious things of the Gospel of Christ.
II. Every man's work is special. The authority was general, the work is specific, for He says, "He gave authority to His servants, and to every man his work." It was very kind of our good Master to give us work to do during His absence. For nothing beguiles the time more. Therefore work. The warrant of your election is, that you work. Woe to the man who thinks to eat his Master's bread and does not work. Woe to the man who would feed upon the promises without the service.
III. In the household of faith, as every man has his ability to work strengthened because he leans upon authority, so every man has his work sweetened by looking at it through the windows of hope, for every workman is a watcher too. There are two ways of watching. There is a watching against a thing we fear, and there is a watching for a thing we love. Most persons when they are told to watch, think chiefly of what they are to watch against; but I conceive it was far more in our Saviour's mind to bid us to be full of what we are to watch for. For, if we watch against sin, is it not for this very reason, because we are watching for Christ? "I keep the door, that no man may come in; because I am keeping it open that there may be room for Him when He comes."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 129.
The Lord's Second Coming.
I. A community of monks was established on the shores of the Bosphorus, during the fourth century, called "the sleepless ones." They numbered three hundred, and were divided into six choirs, who sang alternately day and night; without ceasing, their songs of praise arose to that Divine Redeemer who will one day come to be our Judge. Thus with unflagging diligence they looked out for the return of the Bridegroom. Without following the example of those old monks in their giving up worldly business, and their mistaken notion that they were any better because they wore miserable clothes and denied themselves comfortable food and lodging—without following their example in these respects, yet if we are the wise and enlightened generation that we claim to be, we shall give heed to the voice of warning now sounding in the services of Advent, reminding us emphatically that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
II. The image employed in the text, which represents Him as a traveller who has gone into a far country, is one so much in harmony with our human sympathies, that it brings Him very close to our hearts. Jesus has left His people for a season, just as a man leaves his home, to sojourn in a distant land; a man whose letters are devoured with eagerness by the dear ones who are impatiently awaiting his return. The Lord Jesus, for whose coming we are waiting, bids us watch. He only is watching for the Saviour who is zealous in seeking and honouring Him; who daily thinks of his Lord as He came once in great humility, and as He will come again with power and glory.
J. N. Norton, Old Paths, p. 24.
Reference: Mark 13:34-37.—R. M. McCheyne, Additional Remains, p. 243.
Mark 13:35-36What does the word Watchfulness mean, as used in the Holy Scriptures? It means, being on the look-out, living in expectation of Jesus Christ, doing His work, attending to His charge, occupying ourselves so as to improve the talents, one or more, He has entrusted to us, trying to do the best with our Lord's money that He may receive His own with interest. In short, watchfulness means leading that sort of life which, were it to be broken off tomorrow, would turn to our great gain.
I. Watchfulness implies that we are looking for Christ, living in expectation of His coming—living, that is, with the recollection of our mortality, as knowing that in any case our time on earth is short, that the day must soon be here when we shall die. The reluctance to think about death is a great stumbling-block to us all. It prevents our making any due preparation against it. They were wiser among the heathen of old, who in the midst of their banquets, used to have carried round the figure of one dead, with this inscription, "Eat and drink, for you will soon be as this."
II. Consider what will be the life of the watchful Christian—of him who is indeed waiting for his Lord. It will be a life of sobriety, a life of active service, a life of patient continuance in well-doing, a life whose end and aim is to be approved by the Master when He cometh. In the parables of the Talents and of the Pounds we have the warning of a soul lost, not for committing gross sins, but simply for inactivity—for keeping its powers laid up, hiding from use its Lord's money; and surely that is a warning that must come home to many of us. For who of us has laboured as he might for God's glory and his fellow-creature's good? Who of us, Were he summoned today, could produce a life of which the greater part of its energies had been turned to work the Lord's work? Are we not rather chargeable, in our conscience, with the offence of having wasted our Lord's goods, of having squandered on ourselves, or on mere pleasure, those powers, that wealth, that influence, which were put into our hand to be administered for far higher and nobler ends? Let us watch and pray, that His coming may not take us by surprise. Then we shall be glad and not sorry when the time of our watching is at an end. He will make us full of joy with the light of His countenance.
R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons in Country Churches, p. 107.
References: Mark 13:35.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 169. Mark 13:35-37.—D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 243.
Mark 13:37The exhortation to watch implies that there is danger, and if our Lord says to all, "Watch," all must be exposed to it. And danger there is; nay, dangers manifold there are on all sides of us.
I. The interests at stake are unspeakably great. Let any opportunity slip, and there is so much lost for eternity. Let all your opportunities slip, and heaven itself is lost. You may seek to enter in, but shall not be able—you shall find the gate shut.
II. We are ever in danger of surprisal. Opportunities of promoting our own spiritual progress, the good of others and God's glory, often present themselves unexpectedly, and just as unexpectedly pass away; and therefore we must watch. Very frequently, too, temptation presents itself at an unexpected time, and in an unexpected form, and we must watch. Satan meets men when they least expect him, and we ought to watch.
III. Satan ever comes in disguise, and ever adopts that disguise which seems least apt to excite suspicion. He comes to the flock of Christ in sheep's clothing; sometimes in the clothing of a shepherd; yea, at times he seems transformed into an angel of light. We must watch. That is the condition of our safety. For here we as spiritual beings are in constant danger, and can be preserved only as the birds of the air are preserved, by constant watchfulness.
IV. If you keep in view the one great object our Lord commands us to be looking for, you will be watchful in all things. It is His coming again. He comes to judge the world, and He comes to reckon with each individual. Your Master has gone into a far country. Your eye for the present sees Him not; but you have each a charge given by Him. Each of you has his appointed work. You are to watch for His coming, and at any hour He may come.
W. Nicholson, Redeeming the Time, p. 55.
References: Mark 13:6.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 8; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 280; vol. v., p. 237; J. M. Neale, Sermons for Children, p. 79. Mark 13—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 418. Mark 14:1-11.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 295. Mark 14:1-72.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 156.
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 housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing 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 cockcrowing, or in the morning:
Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.