“Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Last week a woman gave everything that she had, “two small copper coins,” to the temple. In light of this next chapter, she gave everything that she had to something that is doomed. She gave everything to something that will be demolished. “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Jesus is predicting the destruction of the temple; he sounds very much like the prophets Micah and Jeremiah, who also predicted the temple’s destruction. We do not know if Jesus meant this destruction in a literal or a figurative sense, although we know what happens in history. Both the temple in Jerusalem and its religious structure crumble in the year 70. The Roman conquerors expel the Jews and scatter them over the entire known world. It is the diaspora, the scattering, and it is every bit as cataclysmic as Jesus makes it sound. “All will be thrown down.”
The disciples ask when the temple will be destroyed; what signs can they look for ahead of time. We want so much to be prepared, to stock pile water and batteries, feed for our flocks, provisions for ourselves. Jesus does not respond directly. Instead, Jesus begins talking about the end of time, “end times,” the eschaton, the time of judgment and the Kingdom of God. Jesus talks about far more than the end of the temple. Before whatever is going to happen, there will be signs around us. False prophets will claim to be the Messiah; those false prophets will be skilled enough to “lead many astray.” There will be war … earthquakes … famine.
We remember that even the place in which Jesus shares this news of the eschaton has meaning. Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Andrew are on the Mount of Olives, a place associated with the end of an era. The disciples, who have been told who Jesus is, are now hearing about end times in just the place that would have the most meaning (the Mount of Olives). Remember that after this “end times” place and conversation, the disciples walk with Jesus into Jerusalem. We are walking with Jesus to Jerusalem and in just a few days, we, too, will walk away. We will abandon the one we know as Messiah, Lord.
Jesus’ description of end times, perhaps a description of what early Christians will face, is frightening. It is almost too much to read, to hear. Every stone will be thrown down? NOTHING will be left standing? Not one stone will be left standing.
In our “I want it now and I want it delivered” way of life, we want this doomsday to be over. Bring it on so that we can move on, start over….
“Not so fast,” says Jesus. First, we have to be destroyed. We have to turn our own lives upside down so that they can be built anew with and through our Savior. Leave no stone unturned. We are called to search ourselves and to think about what happens in ourselves in light of the fact of Jesus the Christ.
You see, our trust is misplaced when we rely on things made by human hands. No structure of earth is the place for our confidence or our faith. We are to look only to Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “When you hear of wars, do not be alarmed.” This must take place. … But the end is still to come. The kingdom is not yet here. Do not be alarmed; things will change. There will be war, talk of war… famine. Life is so very hard.
And then Jesus says, “This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” …
Did you hear it?
Do you hear the change? Jesus just moved us from destruction … to birth. In the midst of foretelling total destruction, we are told … of birth. That little sliver, hint, of hope is exactly what we have to hold onto. It is not usually we who tear ourselves apart, stone by stone. Life does. Illness does. The loss of jobs, health insurance, our uncertainties and fears – those things tear us down. It is at those times when we are most vulnerable to the words of false prophets. We’ve all heard them – buy this, do that, take a vacation, use a particular shampoo – those are some of the “silly” false prophets. Others are more difficult to discern: what is it that we believe, who is showing us, telling us, living in truth in our lives?
When our lives are totally destroyed, when we are torn apart, upended – look for Jesus. Turn not to false prophets, but for Truth. Do not let events of this earth, no matter how cataclysmic they are, deflect us from the good news of Jesus Christ. When we seem to have nothing else, we always have Jesus walking with us, holding us, yearning for a relationship with us. And when we have Jesus, we have everything. We will be rebuilt in a whole new way. Maybe stone by precious stone, not of “things” of the earth, but of the will of God. I can think of nothing more difficult nor more life-giving than being rebuilt in the temple who is Jesus. The temple that cannot be destroyed is telling us to live in Him, that there is birth ahead.
Birth does not come easily. There is a price to pay. Some things that we have relied on – “the status quo” – are gone. Jesus who walked with us, who we saw every day, is someone we now search for along our way. Where is Jesus in our lives? Are we walking together, or are we searching for him in those dusty corners of our lives? Have we walked away … again? What has happened to all those earthly temples that we have built? You know, the ones of pride, greed, lust, envy. Something eternally better is ready to take their place. We are called to undergo the discernment to find real truth. We are called to continue to walk with Jesus, when we see Him and when we do not. We are called to hold fast to that which is eternal. We have THE one true God to hang on to, no matter what.
Let’s choose to find the hope ahead; let’s look past destruction and on to new life.
C’mon! Let’s find Jesus!