Don’t Fall Asleep

Don’t Fall Asleep: Mark 13:32-37
Pastor John Nicholas
Sunday April 4, 2021

Mark 13:28-31 (NASB)

28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near.

29 So you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.


32 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

This is Jesus’ conclusion of his exposition of the end times.  His final statements.  His telling of all there is to tell concerning this particular time.  Keep that in mind, his final statements are his conclusion of what is important to know.

Here is the treatise.  The hour and the day are not known by any but the Father.  He is the one who knows.  Notice how he builds the level of knowledge.  Starts with the angels, then the Son, then the Father who does know.  Man is not included in this knowledge.  Nor is the incarnate Christ.  Jesus has willingly set aside certain aspects of His divinity in this role and this is one of those aspects.  This is important.  Many people make too much of an issue out of this sentence when speaking of Christ.  Yet it is clear that number 1, based on Mark’s gospel, that Jesus is God.  And number 2, based on Mark’s gospel, that this statement does nothing to change that.


33 “Watch out, stay alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.

Jesus speaks in a double imperative here.  The emphasis is clear for those that will be alive when the end comes.  That they must watch out and be alert.  This is what it will look like at the end.  Because the time is unknown.  Because they are not to fall asleep.  They are not to fail in the watch.  They are to stay alert.  Why?  Because the time is unknown.  This can’t be said enough. This is also a warning to those sitting there.

Now let’s bring this back to the previous.  He has said, in these two verses, that because the time is unknown that they must stay alert, to watch.  What is the reasoning?   Would they be more or less alert if they knew the time of the second coming?  Less alert.  People would have the tendency to nod off, to not pay attention if they knew.

Think about Hebrew 2:1.  The warning that those who are saved must pay attention.  That they too must stay alert.  That there is danger in drifting away.  Letting it slide by.  That these things are so important that one must watch and stay alert.  The double imperative.

Hebrews 2:1 (NASB)

Pay Attention

1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.

And that double imperative should focus us.  Should draw us in to the importance of what Christ’s words are here.

They and we don’t know when the time is.  It would be like looking at a clock with no with only the minute hand.  It goes around and around but we don’t know when.

This is Jesus’ warning here.  Because this is the situation they must be alert and watching.


34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert.

Jesus uses an illustration to make His point.  Common things that the disciples would understand.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  He uses the idea of a landowner, the master of property, who owns slaves to draw the picture.  This master leaves on a journey, but the household still needs to run.  The fields still need to be planted and harvested.  The grapes need to be gathered. The olives need to be pressed.  Things don’t just stop because he is leaving.

Since he has the estate, and we can assume this because of the characters involved, he gives them orders.  Not just the daily orders but specific.  You know what you are supposed to do.  You know your daily tasks.  You know the chores that are to be completed.   Since I will not be here I am giving you the authority to do those things.  Everything that needs to be done to keep my house in order you have the authority to do.  This is their responsibility.  The authority has been passed down to them while he is away.  They now have the power to do what the master has bid.

A quick aside about slavery in ancient times – Roman slavery; since we are in a Roman controlled region.  This is not to be mistaken for a person that has hired a housekeeper and they are paid a wage to perform a task.  These slaves are owned.  They have no rights of their own.  They are treated as pure property that the master can do what they want with them.  The system was fraught with abuse.  That does not mean that all slave owners were abusive, but that the system had no balances.  When we say slave, in this context, it is a person that has no freedom or liberty of their own.  They can only do what the master orders.  And if what the master orders is not done then they are punished.  Which can even mean death.

Therefore, slaves had no rights or authority of their own.  The only thing that they could do was A. that which was ordered by the masters and B. that which was allowed by the master.

It should be noted that with the Exodus of Israel that slavery was allowed under the Mosaic covenant but it was not the same as those nations around them.  It softened slavery in comparison.  For example, no Hebrew could become a permanent slave to another Hebrew.  Gentile slaves could work their way into authoritative positions and had certain legal rights.  The whole of the biblical litigation was to mitigate slavery and to reduce it to hired service (Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary).

Now in this case the orders have been given.  They have the authority in so far as they are able to do their work.  That is their call to obedience.  And then there is the doorkeeper, also a slave, whose duty as assigned was to be alert.  To be watchful.

This is an illustration that those who were there, the four, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, would understand.  They had witnessed this many times.  The owner is gone and the slaves have work to do.  This is the opposite of while the cats away the mice will play.  That would make no sense to them.  This is deadly serious.

The sense then is one in which the house is to be in order in anticipation of the owner’s return.  That all the work should be completed as the master ordered.  There should be no variation.  The orders were clear and there will be no excuses to fail to complete them.


35 Therefore, stay alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—

The slaves are set to their work and the doorkeeper is watching, waiting for the master’s return.  These are good slaves.  They do what they are told.  They don’t want to fall under the master’s anger.  Jesus warns the disciples – be on the alert.  Now shifting from the slaves to the end times motif.  Like the slaves and the doorkeeper these end time followers of Christ are to exercise the authority in the work that they have been given because they are to alert to the time of the master’s return.  Their master, Christ, has given them work to do and the authority to do that work and to keep watch.

Why?  Because the master will return and he can come at any time.  Jesus is using the Roman idea of the hours of the watch.  This was the 12 hours from 6pm until 6am, divided in 3 hour intervals.  These are clearly seen in the breakdown of time that Jesus has given.  It is important to note that although Jesus is referencing the return at any time he has specifically drawn the reference to the hours of the night watch.

Why has he done this?  What is he trying to pass on to the disciples?  Think about the hours of the night.  The dark, no lights for them in this age.  Nothing but their own vigilance to keep them awake.  They had nothing to distract them in their watch.  No iPhone, no TV, no satellite radio.  Hour after hour staring into the night waiting for the master’s return.  Making sure all the work was done.

Watching and waiting.  During the time that one was most easily distracted. When the eyelids get heavy.  Nodding off.  Yet this is the time that Jesus is drawing upon.  Telling them that it will be easy to be distracted.  To be spiritually distracted.  That the time slips away.  That the alertness that they gave at the beginning of their belief may disappear if they are not wary.

And he used another imperative to drive the point home.  You must do this.  You must not sleep in your duty.  You must not be lounging on the chair leaning against the wall.  You must not hope that when you nod off you will catch yourself and wake up.

You must take active responsibility in being alert and watchful.  This is something you must do.  You can’t be lazy.


36 so that he does not come suddenly and find you asleep.

He gives them the why?  Because the master may arrive suddenly and find you sleeping.  He may arrive suddenly and find the work was not completed.  He may arrive suddenly and find that you were not watchful over his things.  That others had entered and stolen his property and destroyed his crops.  That the authority that he gave you was misplaced.  That you were not a worthy slave.

Listen to the parable of Luke 12:35-47.

Luke 12:35-47 (NASB)

Be in Readiness

35 “Be prepared, and keep your lamps lit.

36 You are also to be like people who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door for him when he comes and knocks.

37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will prepare himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and he will come up and serve them.

38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

40 You too, be ready; because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not think He will.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are You telling this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”

42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?

43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

44 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

45 But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will take a long time to come,’ and he begins to beat the other slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;

46 then the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect, and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accordance with his will, will receive many blows,

What a warning. And the disciples are familiar with this parable in light of what Jesus is telling them now.  There is an implicit warning of the results of not keeping watch.  Jesus is not mincing his words or being cute in the application.  He is being very straight forward.

Listen to the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30.

Matthew 25:14-30 (NASB)

Parable of the Talents

14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.

15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.

16 The one who had received the five talents immediately went and did business with them, and earned five more talents.

17 In the same way the one who had received the two talents earned two more.

18 But he who received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them.

20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have earned five more talents.’

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’

22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have earned two more talents.’

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’

24 “Now the one who had received the one talent also came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.

25 And I was afraid, so I went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you still have what is yours.’

26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You worthless, lazy slave! Did you know that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter seed?

27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.

28 Therefore: take the talent away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.

30 And throw the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Think about what Jesus has said in this parable.  How the slaves were given talents according to their ability.  How they were given authority according to their ability.  And one of the keys is that they knew their master.  The first two invested and gave the master a return on the investment.  But the last.  He hid the talent even knowing the kind of person that the master was.


37 What I say to you I say to all: ‘Stay alert!’”

And as if it were not clear enough before Jesus is telling them that they must be alert for the fourth time.  They must keep alert.  They must keep their hands fixed to the plowing and looking ahead.  They must not fall asleep.  So much is at stake for them.

In just a few short days they will be given their marching orders.  To go forth and make disciples.

Pre-conclusion for the end time church

Matthew 25:1-13 (NASB) – the parable of the virgins

Parable of Ten Virgins

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.

2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.

3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take extra oil with them; 4 but the prudent ones took oil in flasks with their lamps.

5 Now while the groom was delaying, they all became drowsy and began to sleep.

6 But at midnight there finally was a shout: ‘Behold, the groom! Come out to meet him.’

7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.

8 But the foolish virgins said to the prudent ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

9 However, the prudent ones answered, ‘No, there most certainly would not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’

10 But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the groom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.

11 Yet later, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’

12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 Be on the alert then, because you do not know the day nor the hour.

Think about this one.  The parable to be ready.  Don’t be like the foolish virgins whose lamps were empty when the bridegroom returned.

This is the church, the church is to be ready when the bridegroom, Christ, returns.  We have been given authority.  We have been told to spread the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth.  We have been told to make disciples.

For those alive now

In mere days, the things that Jesus has told them, both now and before, will come to the test.

Where we are at on their time frame must have tested them to a degree which we cannot understand

They had celebrated the Passover with Him

They had taken the bread

And they had drank from the cup

And they had heard Jesus words about a new covenant

Could they understand that one of their own would betray Him?

But did they really understand that the Son must suffer and die?

Were they alert?

Were they truly ready for what was to come?

Did they understand that He would become a curse?

Did they realize in mere hours the He would bear the stripes for their (and our) iniquity

Did they truly believe that He must be pierced through for their transgressions?

Could they face the brutality of the cross

To see Him hanging as one cursed upon a tree

Away from His father’s house

Outside the city

In the place of sinners

The sinless one

Did they understand at that time

All of their thoughts of Him being destroyed with each of the sounds of the nails being pounded through His flesh and bones

The loss for them must have been stunning/shocking

The fact that He was not tossed with the other bodies into the ghenna, the dump

Then their today

On the dawn of that morning

The morning of exclamation of God’s great work of redemption

Going to the tomb

Peering in

The body gone

Why are they looking for the living amongst the dead?

All the things that He taught happening according to the scripture

Could it be true

How could we not believe based on the witness that is left to us?

How could we not believe knowing that the words of God are true?

How could we not believe in seeing the prophecies full-filled in Christ?

Will we be embarrassed when he comes?

Will we have done the work we have been give?

Will we have listened to the warnings?

Will our hand be on the plow looking ahead?

Were we truly saved or do we desire our sin more than Christ?

As believers then look at Romans 13:11-13

Romans 13:11-14 (NASB)

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed. 

12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let’s rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 

13 Let’s behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and debauchery, not in strife and jealousy.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

We live at the ready

We live being alert

We live putting sin in our lives to death

We live looking for His return

Knowing that He is coming again

Knowing that this world is passing away

Knowing that He has secured eternity for us

Knowing the love that was shown by God in enacting the new covenant

When we know the truth then we remember with reverence the bread and the cup

We remember how it was given before the blood was spilled

That the blood-stained cross would be the signature of the new covenant

And that the empty tomb would be its consummation.

1 Corinthians 14:21 (NASB)

21 In the Law it is written: “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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