Mark 13:34
It is like a man going on a journey who left his house, put each servant in charge of his own task, and instructed the doorkeeper to keep watch.
Authority and WorkAlexander MaclarenMark 13:34
To Every Man His WorkA. Rowland Mark 13:34
WatchingR. Green Mark 13:1-37
Indefinable TruthE. Johnson Mark 13:32-37
Preparation for Christ's ComingJ.J. Given Mark 13:32-37
The Element of Uncertainty in the Christian RevelationA.F. Muir Mark 13:32-37
Christian WatchfulnessExpository OutlinesMark 13:34-36
Christ's Second ComingJ. Vaughan, M. A.Mark 13:34-36
Christ's Service DelightfulBiblical TreasuryMark 13:34-36
Our Absent LordMark 13:34-36
The Discipline of WorkThoreau.Mark 13:34-36
The Master ComethH. Bonar, D. D.Mark 13:34-36
Wakeful WorkR. Glover.Mark 13:34-36
Watching for the MasterJ. Vaughan, M. A.Mark 13:34-36
Work and WatchingJohn Ker, D. D.Mark 13:34-36
Work for GodJ. Vaughan, M. A.Mark 13:34-36
The circumstances under which these words were uttered imparted to them peculiar solemnity. Our Lord had left the temple for the last time, and in the waning light was walking home to Bethany, when he sat himself down to gaze with lingering love on Jerusalem. The evening sun was still glorifying her palaces; but the light was fading, darkness was coming; and he talked with his disciples of darker shadows about to fall, which would leave her bereft of the light of God. But he looked beyond that - to the time when he would return from the "far country," and, gathering his servants around him, would give each one recompense according as his work should be. During his absence he has given "to every man his work." This clause suggests several thoughts concerning Christian service.

I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. It is appointed for "every man" who is in the Lord's household. God works in us in order that we may will and do of his good pleasure. He gives us love to others, and understanding of his Word, an experience of his faithfulness, mental and spiritual faculties, in order to fit us for serving him. Science teaches us that natural agents are so closely related that they are mutually convertible. Motion passes into heat, heat into electricity, electricity into magnetism, magnetism into animal force, and so on in an endless circle. In the sphere of nature God arouses no force which does not arouse another; and though the primal energy passes on into many manifestations, it does not return to him void. So is it in the spiritual realm. He excites in your heart love to Christ, and that arouses thought about him, speech concerning him, activity for him; and these go forth like advancing waves of influence into the lives of others, and none can foresee the end. The Church is not meant to be like the phantom ship of which the poet sings, manned by a dead crew; but is likened to a living "household," in which all the servants are eager, watchful, and diligent; for their Lord has,given "to every man his work." (Show the variety of capacities distributed amongst the old and young, the rich and poor, and the diverse forms of Christian service to which these point.)


1. Earnestness. Too often this is fitful. It passes from us uselessly when in contact with the worldly, just as electricity passes off when insulation has been neglected. We want insulation of spiritual force. A modern Christian, surrounded by symbols of idolatry, would not always have "his spirit stirred" within him as Paul did at Athens. The present age is enlightened rather than enthusiastic; self-complacent rather than self-sacrificing.

2. Love to Christ and love to souls is the true inspiration of successful Christian service. It is gained at the foot of the cross.

"A life of self-renouncing love
Is a life of liberty."

3. Constancy. Such as Paul had, who, amid temptations to indolence, and amid persecutions which might have made him falter, pressed forward steadfastly. "This thing I do" was the motto of his life. Is it ours?

4. Watchfulness. A special exhortation to this lies in the passage before us. Let us watch

(1) for opportunities of service,

(2) for results of work, and

(3) for the coming of the Lord.


1. There is blessing to be found in doing it. On the inactive mind and irresolute will doubts will gather, as limpets do on a motionless rock. Powers fairly exercised, whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual, develop by use.

2. There is blessing awaiting us when we have done it. It was not without reason that our Lord spoke (ver. 28) of the signs of his coming as being like the indications that "summer is nigh." His advent will be to his people not a winter, but a summer, from which gloom and death will be banished, and in which there will be fruit-gathering after toil, and manifestation of beauty and glory arising from the discipline of the past. That summer the faithful! The world is ripening for it. Our work is preparing for it. Then shall the faithful reap fruit unto life eternal. - A.R.

And to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
Expository Outlines.
I. A CERTAIN EVENT REFERRED TO. That He should go away was necessary.

1. It was impossible that His state of humiliation should be continued.

2. The work He had to do in heaven required His presence there.

3. His removal was necessary in order that the Holy Spirit might be bestowed.


1. What He left in charge of His servants was His house. The church is frequently set forth under this designation.

2. Those whom He left behind were invested with the powers necessary for the transaction of affairs during His absence.

3. While peculiar authority was granted to some, none of the servants were permitted to remain idle.


1. To no subject is our attention more frequently directed than that of watchfulness.

2. The consideration by which it is enforced. It is the uncertainty as to when the master of the house might return; whether at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning.

3. Whatever limits may belong to other obligations, this is universal in its claims. "And what I say unto you, I say unto all, watch."

(Expository Outlines.)

I. THE CHURCH'S AUTHORITY. "He gave authority to His servants." The more we serve the more authority is given. For, what is authority? Not position, not office; but a certain moral power: the power of truth, the power of affections, the power of virtue over vice, the power of faith over sight. There are degrees of authority in the Church. There is authority which belongs to the Church collectively, essential for her wholesome discipline. But we have to do only with what is personal to ourselves, it is your authority to go to every single man under heaven and tell the glorious things of the gospel. It is your authority to go to the throne of God Himself.

II. THE WORK. Authority is never given in the Church of Christ for any other end but work. The work is specific, "to every man his work." Each Christian should pray till he finds out the work God has assigned him in this present life. There is work active and passive in the Master's house; the childlike reception of the grace of God, to evangelise mankind.

III. WATCHING. There are two ways of watching. There is a watching against a thing we fear; and or a thing we love. Watch for the second advent, and you will be vigilant against sloth and sin. Will you not keep every trespasser out of the Master's house, when you feel that that Master Himself stands almost at the door? He is worth watching for.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

In all, therefore, you do, brethren, and in all you suffer, you are to be in the spirit of a man who, expecting a dear friend, has taken his stand at the gate, to meet him when he arrives, — a porter. Oh, it is such a pleasant thing to watch, — pleasant to go up on the high door of prophecy, and turn the telescope of inspiration down the road where He will come: pleasant, in every trouble to feel, — in a moment He may come, and cut this trouble very short: pleasant, in every fear, however deep, to think Christ's coming may be nearer than we might fear: pleasant, to feel, — when the world knocks at your door, to say, "I am keeping place for Jesus, and I cannot let you in:" pleasant, in some work to have conscience say, "I think my dear Master would like to find me here:" pleasant when all is happy, to double the happiness with the thought, "And He, too, will soon be here:" and pleasant to wake up every morning and think, "What can I do today to prepare the way for my Saviour."

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)








1. Watch against thieves and robbers.

2. Watch for the Master.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

The parable in Mark 13:34-36 cannot be discharged of its meaning by a reference to the ordinary risks of human mortality. Its theme is not man's dying, but Christ's coming.


1. It is not fair to look upon Jesus as a mere absentee lord of the soil. For. He made this world; He has suffered wonderfully to save souls; and He owns what He has purchased.

2. It must be remembered that He went away for a most gracious purpose. He would send the Comforter (John 16:7). He has gone to prepare a "place" for those whom He died to redeem (John 14:2, 3).

3. It is better to urge His coming back with eagerness of prayer. There is fitness in the passionate words of Richard Baxter: "Haste, O my Saviour, the time of Thy return: send forth Thy angels, let the last trumpet sound! Delay not, lest the living give up hope. Oh, hasten that great resurrection day when the seed Thou sowedst corruptible shall come forth incorruptible, and the graves that retain but dust shall return their glorious ones, Thy destined bride!"


1. There is a work to be wrought on ourselves. Our bodies are to be exercised and skilled for service (Romans 12:1). Our minds are to be developed and embellished for God's praise. One of our Lord's parables spoken on this very occasion has actually added to our language the new word "talents," as signifying intellectual gifts (Matthew 25:15). Our souls are to be sanctified wholly (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

2. There is also a work to be wrought upon others and for others. The poor are to be succoured, the weak to be strengthened, the ignorant to be taught, the sorrowful to be comforted.

3. There is another work to be wrought for God's glory. "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." Our whole life is to be consecrated to this, even down to the particulars of eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31).


1. He predicted His second advent (John 14:28). The language Jesus used in this remembered declaration is not at all figurative; it all goes together as a statement of fact. He said, literally, He would send the Comforter, and the Holy Spirit came in person on the Day of Pentecost. And just as literally did He say He would Himself return at the appointed time.

2. He asseverated the certainty and solemnity of His own promise, as if He foresaw some would deny or doubt it (ver. 31). This was endorsing the covenant engagement by a new oath; "because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself."

3. He left behind Him vivid descriptions of the momentous day on which He should arrive (vers. 24-26). In these, however, He does little more than repeat the vigorous language of the Old Testament prophet (Daniel 7:9-14).

4. He even sent back word from heaven by an angel (Acts 1:11). It should be "this same Jesus" who should come back, and He should come "in like manner" as they had seen Him depart.


1. Jesus asserted that He did not know it Himself (ver. 32). The disciples once asked Him about this (Matthew 24:3). He told them that God the Father had kept this one secret in His own solemn reserve (Acts 1:6, 7).

2. But our Saviour declares that His coming might be expected at any moment, morning or midnight, evening or cock crowing (ver. 35). It would assuredly be sudden. The figure is employed more than once in the Scriptures of "a thief in the night" (2 Peter 3:10). Peter in his Epistle only quotes our Lord's own language (Luke 12:39, 40).

3. Moreover, Christ told His disciples that there would be tokens of the nearness of this great day, by which it might be recognized when it should be close at hand (vers. 28, 29). These signs would be as clearly discerned as shoots on fig trees in the opening summer. He mentioned some of them explicitly (Luke 21:25-28). We may admit that "wars and rumours of wars," earthquakes, famines, falling stars, and pestilences (Matthew 24:6-8), together with "great signs in heaven and earth," are alarming disclosures; but will any one doubt that such phenomena are conspicuous at least? (Luke 17:24).

4. So Jesus insisted that men were bound to be wise in noting these signs, and be ready (Luke 12:54-56).


1. The instinctive tendency of the human heart is to procrastinate in the performance of religious work.

2. Time glides mysteriously on with no reference to daring delay. The grave, like the horseleach's daughter, cries "Give" (Proverbs 30:15, 16), and damnation slumbereth not (2 Peter 2:3), but men sleep clear up to the edge of divine judgment. They did in Noah's time, and in Lot's, when a less catastrophe was at hand; and so it will be when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 18:26-30).

3. Christians ought to hold in memory the repeated admonitions they have received. Walter Scott wrote on his dial plate the two Greek words which mean "the night cometh," so that he might keep eternity in mind whenever he saw the hours of time flitting by. Evidently the Apostle Paul feels that he has the right to press peculiarly pertinent and solemn appeals upon those who had enjoyed the advantage of such long instruction (1 Thessalonians 5:1-7).

4. There is no second chance offered after the first is lost. When Christ comes, foolish virgins will have no time to run for oil to pour into their lightless lamps. A forfeited life cannot be allowed any opportunity for retrieval. Where the tree falls, north or south, there it must lie, whether the full fruit has been ripened upon its branches or not (Ecclesiastes 11:3).


1. Christ's coming would seem to be the highest anticipation for true believers. When He appears, saints will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4). This is the "blessed hope" of the Church along the ages (Titus 2:13).

2. It might clear an inquirer's experience to think of this coming of Jesus. Does one love to "watch" for Him? In the autobiography of Frances Ridley Havergal we are told of the years during which she sought sadly for peace at the cross. At last one of her teachers put this question to her: "Why cannot you trust yourself to your Saviour at once? Supposing that now, at this moment, Christ were to come in the clouds of heaven, and take up His redeemed, could you not trust Him? Would not His call, His promise, be enough for you? Could you not commit your soul to Him, to your Saviour, Jesus?" This lifted the cloud; she tells the story herself: "Then came a flash of hope across me, which made me feel literally breathless. I remember how my heart beat. 'I could surely,' was my response; and I left her suddenly and ran away upstairs to think it out. I flung myself on my knees in my room, and strove to realize the sudden hope. I was very happy at last. I could commit my soul to Jesus. I did not, and need not, fear His coming. I could trust Him with my all for eternity. It was so utterly new to have any bright thoughts about religion that I could hardly believe it could be so, that I had really gained such a step. Then and there, I committed my soul to the Saviour, I do not mean to say without any trembling or fear, but I did — and earth and heaven seemed bright from that moment — I did trust the Lord Jesus."

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The sentence which must have seemed to Adam a curse, "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread," has been turned by God into a blessing. The elements of Adam's doom are the materials of human happiness. Heaven is made out of the ruins of the fall. What a world this would be without work! What a weariness! What a hot bed of every bad passion! What a torment!

I. EVERY LIVING CREATURE HAS ITS OWN PROPER WORK. It matches with each man's natural endowment and his spiritual attainment. It is what suits him: neither too little nor too much. Enough to engage, and occupy, and draw out all his powers; and yet not so much as to injure or distress them. Take pains to ascertain whether the work you are engaged in is really yours — the work God would have you to do. To settle that satisfactorily, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

1. There must be the vocation of the heart — conscience and spiritual conviction telling you, after prayer and thought, that you are called to it.

2. The vocation of circumstances — your position and means being suited, and your education and habit of mind accommodated to it.

3. The vocation of the Church — the advice and judgment of pious friends who are in a position to offer an unprejudiced opinion on the subject. If these three things unite, you may be sure that, though you are directed to it by human agencies, the work is really allotted to you by God.

II. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE ONLY FOR DOING THE WORK, NOT FOR THE RESULTS. The work is yours, but the issue is God's. Leave that to Him. Do you work with faith — for faith is confidence, and confidence is calmness, and calmness is power, and power is success, and success is God's glory.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Unless we work, we shall not keep spiritually awake and lively: unless we are awake, we shall not work. The last thing that would please a master would be the idle curiosity which would make the servants neglect their work to stand outside the door gazing to catch a glimpse of his return. What the Master desires is wakeful work. He desires —


1. Work of mercy.

2. Work of uprightness.

3. Work of struggling against evil within us.

4. Work of witnessing for Christ.

5. Work of helping others in various ways.

6. Work of comforting the sad, of supporting the weak.

7. Work of reclaiming the erring.

8. Work of saving the lost.

II. HE WANTS THIS TO BE DONE WAKEFULLY; in that fresh and earnest way which men take

(1)when their faculties are on the alert;

(2)when they are on the watch for opportunities of doing good, and against seductions to neglect it;

(3)when they are wakeful enough to see a living Saviour, and feel His inspiration;

(4)when they watch lest they lose the things they have wrought;

(5)when they are awake to the immense needs and the awful dangers of their fellow men;

(6)when they are awake to the littleness of time and the greatness of eternity— the nearness and sufficiency of the Spirit's help, and the certainty and value of the Saviour's reward. When there is this working and this watching mutually aiding each other, then the desire of the Master is fulfilled, and whenever He appears we are

(R. Glover.)


1. Work is the common duty of all in Christ's house. The calm stars are in ceaseless motion, and every leaf is a world, with its busy inhabitants and the sap coursing through its veins as the life blood through our own. It would be strange then if the Christian Church, which was intended to be the beating heart to all this world's activity, were exempted from a law so universal. Such a thing would be against our highest nature. Work is not only a duty, but a blessing. Every right deed is a step upward. Instead of praying that God would grant us less work, our request should be that he would give us a greater heart and growing strength to meet all its claims.

2. This work is varied to different individuals. In one respect there is something common in the work of all, as there is a common salvation — to believe in Christ and to grow in grace; but even here there may be a variety in the form. There is a different colour of beauty in different stones that are all of them precious. One man may be burnishing to the sparkle of the diamond, while another is deepening to the glow of the ruby; and each is equally useful and necessary. The cornerstone and the cope stone have both their due place in the palace house of Christ. To see how this may be, is to perceive that an end can be put to all jealousies and heart burnings, and may help us even now to take our position calmly and unenviously, working in our department, assured that our labour will be found to contribute to the full proportion of the whole.

3. Each individual has means for ascertaining his own work. Not a special revelation, or an irresistible impression. Still Christ does guide men into their sphere of work by the finger of His providence and by the enlightenment of His Word in the hand of His Spirit. If it be thought it would be simpler and more satisfactory to have our place directly pointed out to us, let us remember the trouble and care necessary to ascertain it are part of our training.There are these rules to guide us.

1. Our aptitudes.

2. Our opportunities.

3. The opinion of our fellow men when fairly expressed.

II. THE WATCH OF THE PORTER. The porter is that one of the servants whose station is at the door to look out for those who approach, and open to them if they have right to enter. It would be wrong, however, to suppose that the body of the servants are exempted from watching, while one takes the duty for them (ver. 37). In saying the workmen are many and the watchman one, our Lord indicated that, while the mode of labour in the house may vary, the duty of watchfulness is common to all who are in it. The porter must stand at the door of every heart, while that heart pursues its work. What, then, is this watching? It is to do all our work with the thought of Christ's eye measuring it, as of a friend who is ever present to our soul, gone from us in outward form, sure to return, and meanwhile near in spirit; to subject our plans and acts to His approval, asking ourselves at every step how this would please Him, shrinking from what would cloud His face, rejoicing with great joy in all that would meet His smile. This is a more difficult task than to have our hands busy with the work of the house. But, if attended to, it will bring its proportionate benefit.

1. It will keep us wakeful.

2. It will preserve purity.

3. It will maintain the soul in calmness.

4. It will rise increasingly to the fervour of prayer — that prayer which is the strength of the soul and the life of all work.


1. Work cannot be rightly performed without watching; for then it would be

(1)blind and without a purpose;

(2)discouraging and tedious;

(3)formal and dead.

2. Watching will not suffice without work; or it would be


(2)subject to many temptations, such as empty speculations, vanity, pride;

(3)unready for Christ.The solitary watcher can have no works of faith nor labours of love to present, no saved souls to offer for the Redeemer's crown, and no crown of righteousness to receive from Him. He is saved, but alone, as on a board or a broken piece of the ship; not as they who have many voices of blessing around, and many welcomes before, and to whom an entrance is ministered abundantly into the kingdom of heaven. Happy is the man who can combine these two duties in perfect harmony — who has Stephen's life of labour and Stephen's vision in the end. In every soul there should be the sisters of Bethany, active effort and quiet thought, and both agreeing in mutual love and help.

(John Ker, D. D.)

Consider what an amount of drudgery must be performed — how much humdrum and prosaic labour goes to any work of the least value. There are so many layers of mere white lime in every shell to that inner one so beautifully tinted. Let not the shellfish think to build his house of that alone; and pray what are its tints to him? Is it not his smooth close-fitting shirt merely, whose tints are not to him, being in the dark, but only when he is gone or dead, and his shell is heaved up to light, a wreck upon the beach, do they appear. With him, too, it is a song of the shirt — "Work — work — work!" And the work is not merely a policy in the gross sense, but, in the higher sense, a discipline. If it is surely the means to the highest end we know, can any work be humble or disgusting? Will it not rather be elevating, as a ladder, the means by which we are translated?


Biblical Treasury.
A beautiful incident in reference to Mr. Townsend is mentioned in the life of John Campbell. "Finding him on Tuesday morning, shortly before his last illness, leaning on the balustrade of the staircase that led to the committee room of the Tract Society, and scarcely able to breathe, I remarked, 'Mr. Townsend, is this you? Why should you come in this state of body to our meetings? You have now attended them for a long time, and you should leave the work to younger men.' The reply of Mr. Townsend was worthy of his character. Looking at his friend with a countenance brightened and elevated by the thoughts that were struggling for utterance, his words were: 'Oh! Johnny, Johnny, man, it is hard to give up working in the service of such a Master!'"

(Biblical Treasury.)

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