The temple’s fate
5 Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, 6 “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”
7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?”
8 Jesus said, “Watch out that you aren’t deceived. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ and ‘It’s time!’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.”
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky. 12 But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you because of your faith. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will provide you with an opportunity to testify. 14 Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance. 15 I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you. 17 Everyone will hate you because of my name. 18 Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. 19 By holding fast, you will gain your lives.
Thoughts on the passage:
Summer was a time of great hope for many of us in Minnesota. After years of doubts and despair we believed we had found the person we needed. “In Teddy We Trust” the signs could be seen at practices during training camp and Vikings began to believe that at last we had someone to lead us out of the wilderness. Then, on August 30th, Teddy went down with an injury and we thought the end was here, at least in terms of our hopes for a winning football team. Hope emerged again as the Vikings traded for a new quarterback and put together 5 straight impressive wins to start the season, the dream was alive again. Now, three straight losses later it feels again like it is the end of the world. Our stars are injured and even our great defense has failed us. The dream is dead.
For a portion of America right now it feels like the end of the world. The candidate they believed would solve the problems and challenges that face our nation lost. What is perhaps worse for them, the candidate that they think would deepen our problems won. “It is the end of the world as we know it” is a sentiment shared by many. The fact of the matter is, these last few words would be true regardless of who had won last week. It was clear long before Tuesday that no matter who won, for many in this country it would feel like the end of the world.
King Solomon built the first Temple of Jerusalem in 957 BCE. It was then razed several hundred years later when the Babylonians conquered Israel and captured and enslaved them. It was then rebuilt several years later and reminded not only a profound sign of God’s presence in their midst, but also as a rallying point for the people of Israel against their many oppressors. During the time of Jesus’ ministry, it was an important symbol of hope for the people. The destruction of the temple would have been a great blow to those who sought to faithfully follow God. (Historical side note, it was destroyed for just those reasons in 70 CE as part of an effort by Rome to crush a Jewish rebellion.)
When Jesus talked about the destruction of the Temple it was a shocking statement. In many ways it was not far from the rhetorical claims we are all too familiar with during an election. Claims are made by both sides of the terrible consequences that will happen if we let the other side win, unfettered spending, a destruction of values we hold dear, or the passage of laws that effect our livelihoods or lifestyles. Shock is a powerful motivating factor; we see it used today and we see Jesus using it as well. Know that the Temple will be destroyed several years later it is easy to see his claim as prophetic. Knowing that Jesus will die and be raised again it is easy to see the reference to the Temple as an allegory. What we need to remember is he was also using it rhetorically, to make a point.
Jesus wants us to not put our trust in impermeant things. Even things that are strong and powerful like a large building will eventually crumble. Even things that are sacred and majestic like the Temple will still be broken down. Nothing lasts forever. If we forget this, we cannot hear the second part of what Jesus is saying. If we believe that what we have will last forever, then we will never really be worried about the end of the world.
Vikings fans were reminded how quickly things can fall apart, twice this season in fact. For Democrats, the results of this election have also proven just how quickly hopes can be dashed. It is not hard to feel like it is the end of the world as we know it, after all, many Republicans felt the same things eight years ago. It is easy during these times of despair to look for the next savior to give us hope. When signs of the end are all around us we can look desperately for hope to come. It happens in churches too, turning to the next pastor or the next program to reverse years of decline and loss in membership. The problem is no pastor can fix a church, no quarterback and can save a football team forever, and no one, not even the President is going to bring about either the ending, or the saving of the world.
We should not put our trust in buildings or in people, but instead we need to trust in God. It might feel like the end of the world. It might even BE the end of the world, but no one is going to be able to save us except for God. When times are hard, when things look bleak, it is natural to grasp at straws looking for hope, or stand in the wreckage and feel despair. What we need to do through it all is trust in God. God was with the people when the Temple was first built. God was with the people in exile when the Temple was destroyed. With or without a building, God was there. The savior of Israel was not a king or prophet, but Christ, who is the savior of us all.
Maybe it is the end of the world, maybe we will “Make America Great Again”, and maybe the Vikings will remember how to win. The fact is that regardless of what happens, Christ is Lord and that is who I trust and follow. My faith is that when I am with God, God will be with me. No matter what happens, I am in saved by Christ.
Questions to Ponder:
How has God been with you in the dark times in your life?
What can you do to trust more in God?
Who is someone you know who needs to hear a message of hope in Christ today?
God, it is so easy to look around at the world and find reasons for despair. It is so easy to look around and place our hope in a savior to solve our problems. Help us to not lose sight of our real savior, Jesus Christ. Help us to trust in him and believe that in him we will be saved. Amen