Mark 13: Words of Warning, Words of Love

This chapter is the hardest to understand in all of Mark’s gospel–possibly in the whole New Testament.


Scholars disagree on its interpretation. The two sources I consulted, Kent Hughes commentary on Mark and Tim Chester’s Good Book guide to Mark 9-16 gave differing views on the return of Christ. Tim Keller in King’s Cross skipped this chapter completely.

But these words are meant for Jesus’ followers. Ordinary people like Peter, Andrew, James, John, you, me. If we didn’t need them, he wouldn’t have spoken them and had them recorded for us. Jesus wants to address our expectations, warn us of real danger, and give us hope. That’s why it’s important not to skip over the parts of our Bible that are hard or confusing.

Let’s study together expecting to understand more that we did before. Let’s heed the warnings and hold the promises close to our hearts. Let’s draw near to our Savior’s heart as he looked at Jerusalem one last time before heading to the cross.

He wants us to be ready. We don’t know when we’ll need these words, but we will. Good news takes many forms.

Day 1: Context — Review Mark 11-12. Read Mark 13:1-4

  1. What had happened during the preceding days starting with the entrance to Jerusalem?
  2. What conversation occurred as Jesus left the temple for the last time? How did his take on the Temple differ from the disciples’?
  3. What two questions is Jesus answering in the rest of this chapter? See Mark 13:4.
  4. What would you say is on Jesus’ heart as he faces the cross and the empty tomb?

Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 13 as a telescopic view of the future, unfolding in stages.

  1. Read the chapter looking for time markers — when, but, first, after, day, hour. What stages can you divide the prophecy into based on that?
  2. Which stage is not about the temple being destroyed? Which stage is about the temple’s destruction?
  3. What is the lesson of the fig tree? How is this a conclusion about what he’s said so far in answer to their question in 13:4?
  4. How does the final section of the chapter, 13:32-37 differ from the rest of the chapter?

Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 13 as the Good Shepherd’s words to his sheep.

  1. What does he warn?
  2. What does he want them to count on?
  3. What does he tel them not to worry about? Why?
  4. What does he instruct them to believe or to do?
  5. How certain are his words?

Day 4: Application — Read Mark 13 as a personal word from your Savior to you today.

  1. How does his perfect knowledge and control encourage you in light of today’s troubles in our world and your personal world? Pray your fears and believe his sovereign goodness.
  2. How does this chapter increase your expectation of Christ’s return? Pray your hopes and seek the alertness he describes.
  3. How does this chapter sober your view of your friends and family who are outside of Christ? Pray for them with the zeal that God has stirred in you.

Life gets busy this time of year as we wrap up school. Life with preschool children is always busy. Life as a single woman with lots on her plate never stops.

Jesus spoke to ordinary, busy people like us. Don’t worry if busyness keeps you from answering every question I’ve written. But do read this chapter and ask God to speak what he wants you to hear in your busy life this week.

Words of warning are always words of love.

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