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God’s Word for You

Mark 13:35-37 Watch!

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 25, 2023

35 “Therefore keep watch, for you do not know when the master of the house will return—in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn—36 if he comes all of a sudden, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you I say to everyone: Watch!”

Our Lord does not mean that it is unwise to sleep. The spiritually immature can be frightened by his words, “Do not let him catch you sleeping,” but he isn’t talking about being asleep at night. He means sleeping spiritually, being unaware that God’s wrath is real, or that God’s punishment is inevitable. No, a Christian wants his soul to be right with God; to know that he is forgiven for the sins that have troubled him. The Christian must be able to sit on the edge of his bed and pray, “If I should die before I wake, I know that, Lord, my soul you’ll take. Amen.” Then he can draw his feet up into the bed, close his eyes and rest peacefully under the ever-watchful eyes of God’s holy angels and of God himself.

So what kind of watching does our Lord warn us to do? We must watch our lives, confessing our sins and living to obey his commands. We could easily write out the Ten Commandments as our list of ways to watch, but if we confine ourselves here to the two tables of the law, it will set a pattern of watchfulness that will be enough.

First: To love God above all things, including myself. This watchfulness begins in the pages of the Bible, not in watching the sky or the horizon. But let’s think of a watchman assigned to keep an eye out for the approach of danger. How will he know what is dangerous if he does not know what the horizon already looks like? Won’t he be afraid of every traveler, every worker in the fields, and of his master’s own horse coming up the road? He must know the layout of the countryside before he even begins to imagine that he could recognize that something is new, or unusual, or dangerous on its way. And so it is with our love of God. How will I know that I am loving God above myself if I don’t know what God has commanded, and if I’ve been putting my own opinion first above everything God says in his holy Scriptures? Just yesterday I was ministering to a man who is dying of cancer, who is well over sixty years old, who had never heard the Ten Commandments, never really knew anything about Jesus, didn’t know about salvation, but is terrified of going to hell. The people closest to him can’t help him, because they don’t know these things, either. This is the destruction of a whole family, a whole extended family, by parents who many decades ago decided that it was enough that they had gone to church as children, but they weren’t going to let their own kids have access to the word of God or hear the messages of Christmas, Holy Week, Easter, or any of the other fifty Sundays of the year. That poor man wept as I recited the commandments to him, and he wept again when I told him about the forgiveness we have from Jesus. This is the true work of being watchful, of sharing and teaching the word of God. Of putting him above everything else in our lives.

Second: Watching also means loving the people of the world in the way that I love myself and the way that I want to be loved. I would not hurt myself, mangle myself, offend myself, mislead myself, lie to myself, steal from myself, and so on. Therefore I will not do those things to anyone else. The world can laugh at such an attitude, but this is God’s holy will.

Jesus’ warnings about being watchful tell us that we should be watchful of our lives and our faith all the time. It is dangerous and provokes God to anger when people slip into becoming “Christmas and Easter” Christians, who have no time for God except when all the stores and restaurants are closed, TV is boring, hunting and fishing are bad, and all their friends are in church, too. Does a man only eat two meals a year? How can being fed with God’s word only twice a year be healthy or satisfying in the least?

It is equally dangerous to be a “one hour a week” Christian. Just as a man cannot live on two meals a year, he can hardly thrive on one meal in a week. But a man who takes up all his sinful attitudes and his foul mouth and his abusive habits the moment he leaves church is not a man who takes God’s word to heart. He does not clutch at Christ with all his strength.

So, we watch. We are aware that the Lord will come any moment, any day, any year. We watch our lives and our doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16). We bring our sins before the Lord in repentance and thrill to the news of his forgiveness over and over again. We consider his ways, his commandments, and his whole message, and we take it all to heart. We strive to be day-by-day Christians, hour-by-hour Christians; moment-by-moment Christians.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). Our Lord will come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead. And his kingdom will have no end.

I plan to return to Mark’s final chapters this coming Lent in order to match our daily readings and devotions with the road to the cross and then to the empty tomb on Easter.

In the mean time, starting tomorrow we will begin a study of the Song of Solomon on the weekends and of the historical book First Chronicles on weekdays. God bless your continuing study of his holy word.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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