Mark 13: 33 - Be awake and pray!
Mark 13:34 -- The doorkeeper should be vigilant
Mark 14:38 -- Be vigilant and pray!
Mark 13:34 -- In Jesus’ parable of the absent master, each servant is given a job to do as well as the authority to do it while the master is out of the country. The doorkeeper’s responsibility is to be vigilant (γρηγορή.
In Chapter 14, Jesus chastises Peter, James, and John for falling asleep in Gethsemane, and he orders them to be vigilant and pray. This command is similar to the one in Mark 13:33 -- Jesus’ followers are to be awake (not asleep) and pray. Reading Mark 13 and 14 in the Greek enabled me to spot this similarity.
The timeline of events looks like this -- shortly after explaining the duty of a doorkeeper in Mark 13:34, Jesus gave the three leaders a doorkeeper assignment. They were to watch Jesus’ back during this critical moment as his enemies prepared to arrest him. If they found themselves getting sleepy, they were supposed to pray to stay vigilant at their post. Jesus knew that sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and he identified prayer as the solution to that dilemma. Prayer would connect them to a power that would compensate for their human frailty.
Jesus gave them a task, illustrated it with a story that had a familiar example from everyday life, told them what to do if they found themselves unequal to the challenge, and demonstrated the technique. In spite of all this, they still failed.
The episode got me wondering what the doorkeeper task looks like today, how the responsibility can be shifted around so that an alert doorkeeper replaces a sleepy one, and how to react when the doorkeepers inevitably fail.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the doorkeeper role is obsolete because Christ isn’t absent. Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. He has already returned in the Resurrection and at Pentecost. Therefore, there’s no returning master to keep watch for and no need to guard the entrance while the master is away.
I am interested to hear from those who believe they have been called to fill a doorkeeper role within the church. Convince me that there’s still a distant master and that fallible human beings are capable of maintaining a vigil.