Be on the alert! – Vs 33, 35, 37
This is one incredible chapter. If you've got a red-letter edition Bible, then your page probably contains very little black ink. Because this chapter is almost all the words of Jesus from beginning to end. He is sitting opposite the eastern walls of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, probably in one of His favorite spots, the Garden of Gethsemane. Back in January of 2008, I had the privilege to go to Israel and sit in that very garden, surrounded by ancient, gnarled olive trees that have been in that spot since the days of Jesus. Across the Kidron valley you can still see the walls of Jerusalem. What's missing is the Temple. In its place sits the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim mosque. But the scene is still breathtaking for any believer. And here sat Jesus with His disciples, enjoying the shade of the olive trees. The disciples want to continue a conversation Jesus had begun as they passed by the temple on their way out of the city. They had commented on the beautiful stones and buildings that made up the magnificent Temple Complex.
Rather than comment on the beauty of the buildings, Jesus surprises them by saying, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down." This had to have come as a shock to the disciples. After all, this was the Temple, the dwelling place of God Himself, and Jesus is saying that it is going to be destroyed. It must have left the disciples dumbstruck, because it is not until they sit down to rest on the hillside across the valley that they are able to continue the conversation. They want to know when this is going to happen and what the signs will be that it is going to take place. Jesus then goes into a rather lengthy monologue regarding the future. He tells them about events that are going to be fulfilled in the not-to-distant future and those that will not take place until the end of the Tribulation, just prior to His second coming. The Temple would be destroyed in A.D. 70 and we saw the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy when we stood at the base of the Temple mount and saw gigantic stones lying on the ground, the remains of the once-glorious Temple.
But as bad as the news about the Temple had to be for these men, the more devastating news had to do with them. Jesus tells them they are going to be delivered over to the courts, flogged in the synagogues, stand trial before governors and kings, be arrested, imprisoned, and hated. Now that had to make their day! So he tells them to "be on their guard" (Vs 9), to "take heed, keep on the alert," (Vs 33), to "be on the alert," (Vs 35), and to warn others to "be on the alert!! (Vs 37). These guys had no idea when any of these things was going to happen. And neither do we. Oh, we know that some of these things have already been fulfilled, but there is much that Jesus discusses that has yet to happen. And even as bad as things may appear to be right now, many of these things could be a long way off. And some of these things will only happen at the end of the Tribulation period, and we will have been long gone due to the rapture of the church at the beginning of the tribulation. So what are we supposed to take away from this? The same thing the disciples did. Be on the alert.
We are to remain in readiness. We are to be prepared for anything and everything. Paul tells us, "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled" (1 Thessalonians 5:6). He encourages us to "… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18). He reminds us to "be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong" (! Corinthians 16:13).
We've got to be ready. We've got to remain diligent and mindful of what is going on around us. Just like the disciples of Jesus' day. We are on a mission. We are soldiers in the army of God, and we must remain battle-ready at all times. Paul warned Timothy, "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:4). Are you ready? Are you on the alert? Or are you tangled up in the affairs of life? Let's constantly remind each other what Jesus said, "What I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'" (Vs 37).
Father, I want to be ready. I don't want to fall asleep on my post. I don't want to get distracted by the things of this world and lose sight of the war that you are waging all around me. You are at work, and I want to be ready to be used by You for whatever role You might have for me. So help me heed the call of Jesus to "Take heed, keep on the alert!" Amen