Mark 13:28-37 Stay Awake!

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[e]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Stay Awake

Does Jesus command that we make charts and try and plot the exact portents of the end times?  What does Jesus tell us to do?  He tells us to be watchful and to stay awake.  In the many years since his death we have seen much persecution of the church.  Christians today suffer in various locations around the world.  Earthquakes and wars still happen.  All these things will happen and they are things that Jesus foretells, but he does not command that we tally them or order them in order to be wise to the exact moment that Jesus returns.  In keeping the time of Jesus’ return a mystery, God the Father gives us reason to live as though any day could be our last.  This parallels the Book of Ecclesiastes’ focus on death.  If we live with the constant awareness of our own mortality we are more likely to seize the day.  If we live with a constant awareness that Jesus could return, we will seize the day.  However, just like the superfit jogger running along the road never expects their life to be snuffed out by the speeding motorist, so a generation that thinks of 2,000 years as a long time will be caught unaware when Jesus comes on the clouds of heaven.

Our lives do not last forever and the world will not continue forever.  There are multiple reasons to live life awake.

Many of my students become sleepy in class around October and November is often a wash.  They do not seize their opportunities to study and focus on this moment in their lives.  Instead the semester seems long to them and for some of them do not grasp the import of their opportunity (others are dog tired from having to work 30 hours a week as well as study full-time) and the value of the education their parents are paying for.  I feel sympathy because I was such a student and I look at how I focused on my social life in college and missed the opportunities that were at my fingertips.  The question to ask is, “What is God’s vision for my life?”  not the life of the future, but the life of now.  Many Christians live a life of deferred giving.  They will give their all to Jesus at some future point.  However, they fall asleep and some of them die in their sleep.  Whatever God has placed before you to do now, do with all your heart as a love-gift to God.  Present each day to God with its priorities ordered and its time rightly assigned.  In such a way of living, we find our own constant renewal.  More importantly, the Kingdom of God is built through an ever-present awareness, not an ever-present drowsiness.


God, keep me awake.  I feel sometimes like there is something wrong with my system that sends me to sleep.  However, I can never tell for sure because I get distracted and my life is always disordered to some degree.  You lavish your grace upon me as I rearrange my day around my children, but I take your grace for granted as I do not stay aware of your presence.  As I walk in your Spirit, he guides me in ways that I do not see when I sleepwalk. 


  1. What commands does Jesus give in this passage?
  2. What commands do people give themselves after reading this passage?
  3. Why did a persecuted church need to hear this message in their suffering?
  4. What sends Christians to sleep today?
  5. How can Christians stay awake?  When are you most ‘awake’?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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4 Responses to Mark 13:28-37 Stay Awake!

  1. Jesus commands us to be on our guard, be alert, and keep watch. I think the persecuted church needed to hear this because the needed to be encouraged! It would of be very difficult to be a Christian back then and always looking over one shoulder every day. Not only that, many Christians were killed for the faith. They could have been easily discouraged and be asking the question, how much more? I believe that when Christians get comfortable and are addicted to something or they are not able to deal with sin in their lives is when Christians can go to sleep. They begin to rely more on self because life is easy, or they neglect the Word of God and talking to God. Christians can stay awake by being in the Word daily, having a routine, being on time and attentive during Church, following through with their yes or no, using discernment for things that come into their life, and have accountability.
    I find myself most awake when my life is following a routine and in the Word daily. Writing out priorities help a lot, especially when they are written in most important to least important. These priorities should change for every season of life you enter.

  2. kevin w. says:

    Jesus tells us to be prepared for his return, to be wary and stay alert. The persecuted church would have been greatly encouraged, I think, to know that all the trials and pains were part of the plan. These things did not blind side Jesus and He is still in control. It would serve as encouragement that there is an end–Jesus comes back in the end.
    I think Christians often lose their focus on Christ and their faithfulness to Him; they miss the big picture of life. Because of this they live with their faith as an addition to their busy lives. In many places (like America) things are relatively good and we therefore do not feel the pains of life which should remind us of Christ and our need for Him.
    I am most awake when I remember the big picture–that I am alive in Christ, God loves me and has forgiven me, I will live forever with Him, etc. These promises about my true identity, future, and purpose in life help keep me awake day by day. I think all believers can stay more awake by remembering the promises and big picture and maintaining the vital relationship with Christ.

  3. Eric Wildermuth says:

    Jesus commands his disciples to remain on their guard, to keep looking. To anticipate His return, watching and waiting for Him to come from the clouds. Similar in the way that prodigal son’s father was watching for him from far off–although the circumstances of Jesus’ return are much different.
    I personally default to some sort of hyperactive mind thinking about how I can spend every single second doing something that is worth doing eternally, and then become exhausted by the idealistic thoughts. Hyperactive in a negative sense–so that I will not feel ashamed at His return, rather than focusing on the good that I can do with the time that I do have on earth, through Christ.
    The church needed to know that there is an end to all of their suffering, there is purpose, even though they were not in, as we are oft to expect in our day, happy-go-lucky circumstances.
    For the privileged church in America, it seems that it is very easy to feel like we are helping without really helping anyone. For example, sharing causes on facebook, but not praying for those same causes fervently; buying a pair of TOMS and feeling better about buying expensive shoes and the like. While these endeavors may not necessarily hurt or negatively impact anyone, they are not exactly fulfilling the Great Commission, thus lulling the church to sleep.
    I am most awake to this when near death or trials involving life-changing accidents to someone. When I see someone’s life dramatically changed, I tend to think of eternal matter much more quickly; they shift the focus from myself to eternity and the fragility of life–needing to make the most of the time we have. This is especially true for discipleship and evangelism.

  4. Christina Zezulak says:

    Jesus commands that we (1) Be on guard! (2) Be alert! (3) Keep watch! I think that a lot of people use this passage and focus on “that day or hour no one knows” and applies it to them as a reason to not worry or wait, since that time is unknown. We tend to neglect the obvious commands in the passage. Although I agree with Mr. Worrall that our focus needs to be on staying awake rather than making charts about the exact aspects of the end times… I also believe that God does want us to diligently study His Word, even in these areas, and that there are lots to uncover about these times. Of course, we will not find an exact date or time… but learning the most about what the Bible teaches is very important.
    A persecuted church needed to hear this message in their suffering because they need to know that the Lord Jesus was returning. He would not abandon them. Their suffering was not in vain. I think that Christians often get distracted with the daily worries of life, which makes them fall asleep when watching for the Lord. Some may even feel like it is taking too long for Jesus to return and does not bother to keep alert anymore. Christians need to remind themselves that the Lord’s can return anytime daily, even hourly. We need to continue in reading the Word and prayer, but also setting our focus on Him above all else. I’m having a hard time pinpointing when I am most ‘awake’. Some days are better than others, depending on the circumstances, but that should not be. May the Lord make me aware of His presence in every moment of my life.

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