The Way We Wait: A Call to Waiting with Vigilance - Mark 13:32-37

Back to Message Archive


There are few topics that elicit as much interest, discussion and debate in Christians circles as the study of the end times. There are some who are very zealous about understanding and sharing their views on what the Bible says about the end of the age. At the same time there are many good and faithful Christians who aren’t as passionate about trying to understand all the ins and outs of end time theology.

As we come to the conclusion of Mark 13 – a passage in which Jesus has a lot to say about things to come – there’s a question that should be asked and that’s relevant both for those who enjoy the study of things to come and for those who shy away from it. For all of us, we should want to know: How does God want us to respond to what He’s told us about things to come? What’s most important to Christ when it comes to our understanding of the end times?

In Mark 13 we’ve seen that Jesus isn’t simply speaking prophetically, He’s also speaking pastorally. His primary aim is that His followers would be encouraged and equipped to live well as we wait for His return.

A Note about Timing (13:32)

  • Context – The chapter and this conversation began when Jesus announced the coming destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem which for His disciples signaled the end of the age. Understandably, they had questions, and the balance of Mark 13 is Jesus explaining things to come both for them and for us.
  • A clarification and a warning – While Jesus has a lot to say about the end of the age, the signs of the end of the age and also of His glorious return, He now notes that no one can know the exact time or the hour of His coming. This is an important point of clarification and also a warning for anyone who would presume to know.
  • The certainty of His coming and the One who knows – While Jesus makes it clear that no person or angel and not even He (in His humanity) knows the time of His return, God the Father knows. The timing is unknown to us, but it’s known to God and this should serve as a reminder that all things are under His good and sovereign control.

The Right Way to Wait (13:33) 

  • While we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do know that He’s coming again. And in these verses we see that Jesus is concerned with the way we live and the way we wait. This is a theme that runs throughout Mark 13 (13:5, 9, 23, 33).
  • A call for wakefulness – As we wait Jesus calls us, not to idleness but to faithfulness and steadfastness. We must live in a way that acknowledges His soon return. 
  • Reasons for wakefulness 
  • We must stay awake for the sake of our own salvation (Luke 21:34–36; Romans 13:11-14; 2 Peter 3:11-12)
  • We must stay awake for the sake of our commission (for the sake of the world) (Acts 1:6-8; Mark 13:10)

A Related Parable – Understanding the Way to Wait (13:34)

  • Jesus emphasizes and illustrates His command with a short parable. The man going on a journey represents Jesus who is about to return to the Father. As He goes, He gives His servants instructions. We each have work to do and are called to vigilance as we wait expectantly for His return. 

Explanation of the Parable – The Urgency and Importance of the Way we Wait (13:35-36)

  • The Christian life can be hard and the temptation is to idleness or complacency. The parable Jesus shares encourages us to wakefulness with the reminder that the Master is returning and we should desire to be found faithful.

The Proper Response Repeated – Wait with Vigilance (13:37)

  • Mark 13 and the teaching of Jesus is deep and can give even the most seasoned Christians things to think about and ponder concerning the things to come and the return of Christ. And yet Jesus leaves no doubt about His primary desire: He wants His people to live in steadfastness and faithfulness both for the sake of our own souls and for the sake of those who need to hear the Good News of the Gospel.