Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.
“Cockcrow is Mark’s tell,” Hiortdahl says. “Sooner than anyone is ready for it, Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, denied (cockcrow), crucified and raised. The arrival of the kingdom—in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ is sudden and surprising” (“Ready or not … Christ is coming,” Living Lutheran, December 2017, 27).
There is great foreshadowing in this verse. We know that Peter denied Jesus at cockcrow. In essence, he was not ready for the salvation of Christ to come. He was caught off guard and spoke against his Lord when pressed. But the realization hit him immediately, Matthew 26:75 records:
And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Which begs the question: Will we be ready when Christ returns? We know it is coming, but as the Bible says again and again, we do not know when. I find it interesting that in some translations of Mark 13:35, it says “at 3 o’clock on the morning” instead of “at cockcrow.” Most people would probably consider 3 a.m. the most unexpected time of day for something startling to happen, when most of us are fast asleep.
But the reality is that any time of the day or night is a possibility for when Christ could return. There are many times in life when I think “Now would be a good time for Christ to come back.” But it is not up to me. It is up to God and we are called to respond immediately whenever it happens. I am reminded of the words of the apostle John’s vision in Revelation:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Our immediate response to Christ when he comes is to praise and worship him for his salvation. No fear, no worry, no tears, no pain—just joy.