Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” Mark 13:5-6
Mark 13 is sometimes called the “little apocalypse”; it contains in one chapter much of what is considered to be Jesus’ final teaching on the end of the age. Without going into too much commentary, much of it is pointing to the Jewish war and final destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, 36 years or so after Jesus spoke these words. There are, contained therein, also statements shrouded in the 1st century imagery that Jesus and His disciples would have known. But if we are looking at this enigmatic chapter in the hope of finding clues about the end of history, we are going to be disappointed and will miss the essential point.
Four times Jesus says “watch out” meaning to be on your guard, and twice He commands listeners “to stay awake.” Why? Because He knew what they were facing (what we are facing). Jesus gives very clear instructions as to how to remain faithful followers whilst the world around was falling apart and challenging their faith. This teaching remains dynamically relevant to us in our century, as the world, in even greater complexity, continues to fall apart and undermine our faith:
- Do not be deceived
- Do not be anxious
- Do not be distracted
Often, we are victims of deception and are bombarded with information, making it hard to discern the truth. News disturbs us: we are constantly aware of events that impact us, mostly indirectly, but about which we suffer an undercurrent of anxiety. We are so easily distracted by the urgent, the immediate, the demanding and, dare I say it, the unnecessary.
So how do we “watch out”? Prayer – constant conversation with and paying attention to the Father; absorbing His words through Scripture: simply paying attention every day would create in us the sort of discipleship that Jesus is demanding of us in Chapter 13: staying focused on Jesus and, through the Holy Spirit, upon the heart of the Father. This would help us rise above deception, anxiety and distraction to live in the present of the Kingdom.
“Seek first the Kingdom of God” – dear Father may this be my theme tune today and for every day of my life – in the power of Your Spirit and the beautiful name of Jesus.
Let us watch out by:
- Thanking God for giving us warnings for He alone knows everything ahead of us;
- Asking God to help us identify what is and what is not from Him.