Several years ago, at the Academy of Country Music Awards, Tim McGraw won song of the year for “Live Like You Were Dying.” The song is about a man who discovers he is dying of cancer. His friend asks him, “How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news? / Man, what’d you do?” The man replies:
I went sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying
And he said someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying.
In other words, knowing that his remaining time on earth was short, the man lived life to the full.
Mark 13.1–37 records Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. New Testament scholars disagree as to whether the prophecy refers to the destruction of Jerusalem that actually occurred in A.D. 70 or to its destruction at some time in our future. Either way, Jesus offers his disciples a preview of the difficult future that lay ahead of them.
That future includes “false Christs” and “false prophets” (vv. 5, 6, 21, 22). It includes “wars and rumors of war” (vv. 7, 8a). Earthquakes, famines, and other natural disasters will multiply (vv. 8b, 24, 25). Christians will be persecuted for their faith (vv. 9–13). And false religion will take prominence over true faith (v. 14). Jesus litany of “signs” is unremittingly negative, full of danger and death.
How should we live? As Christians, we should live life to the full. And while that may include riding a bull named Fu Manchu—life is fun, after all—it also involves seriously pursuing our relationship with God.
The most important thing Jesus tells us to do is “Watch!” Jesus tells a parable about a homeowner who goes on a trip and leaves his servants in charge, but without telling them when he will return. “Therefore keep watch,” Jesus says, “because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (vv. 35–37). Life is short. Death comes quickly. Are we ready to stand in God’s presence?
The Apostles’ Creed tells us that Jesus will “come again to judge the living and the dead.” Jesus himself says the same thing in verses 26 and 27: “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” Are we ready?
As Christians, we should not fear the future. Christ’s second coming is a great and happy event after all. No, we should not fear; but we should prepare.