It all started with an off hand remark…

Posted: 23 March, 2016 in My stuff
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End of World road signIntroduction

Today we come to one of the most difficult and therefore one of the most misunderstood passages of scripture. This passage has its parallels in Matthew and Mark’s Gospels. Interestingly enough, there is no corresponding passage in John’s Gospel, seeing that (depending on your interpretation) John lived through much of what is spoken about by Jesus.

It all started with an off hand remark.

The Temple in Jerusalem was both big and magnificent. Jesus had been teaching in the temple and his follower/friends were with him. In one of the quieter moments one of his friends mentioned the stonework and the decoration. Jesus simply replies, “You see this? Not one stone will be left upon another. It will all be torn down.”

For first century Jews the Temple was not only the centre of their religious life, it was also the centre of the world. For Jesus to say that it would all be torn down surely meant to them that the end of the world was coming. So they as ‘When?’ And “What will be the sign that it is about to happen?”

The end of the world was a bit of a hot topic then as it is today. Simply Google ‘sign of the end of the age’ and you’ll see all the crazies on the interweb telling you their version of what they are certain will happen, often with a slew of biblical references from some of the most difficult passages.

The ‘when’ question is not all that important to Jesus so it seems. Nor is the destruction of the temple for that matter. He is more concerned with the faith of his follower/friends and that their faith does not get destroyed. Jesus is more concerned about people than the buildings they meet in.

Much of the misunderstanding come from the fact that the follower/friends of Jesus had wrapped two events into one and could not separate them in their head. Surely the destruction of the temple would signal the end of the age! But Jesus is speaking of two distinct and separate events. One he speaks about with some clarity – the temple will be destroyed. The other he speaks about in only a few sentences in descriptive language that is not intended to be taken literally.

All the way through the passage he is concerned about how his followers bare up and encouraging them to keep faith even to the very end no matter what.

Relief on the Titus Arch in Rome showing the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD

Relief on the Titus Arch in Rome showing the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD

In 70AD Jerusalem was besieged by a massive Roman army. Many of the Jews inside the city celebrated, believing that this catastrophe would surely draw God to come to their miraculous rescue, destroying the Romans and ending their occupation of Israel, and ushering in the glorious Age To Come.

After the walls were breached every Jew in the city was either slaughtered or taken captive. A fire in the temple caused the gold plating to melt into the cracks between the stones of the temple. The commander ordered the temple dismantled so as the retrieve the gold from between the stones. Every stone was pulled apart. No two stones were left one on another.

The Christians in the city saw what was happening and left the city before it was too late. They escaped to Pella, a city in modern Jordan.

 

Luke’s Gospel, chapter 21 verses 1-

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

 

Reflection

Jesus follower/friends were caught up in speculative religion  – What will it be like?  When will it happen?  I wonder how much I get distracted by the what ifs and maybes from obscure passages of scripture.  Do I know what I believe and on what basis I believe it?  have I done my due diligence in looking into what I have been told and have accepted as ‘true faith’?

Am I prepared to unlearn what I have been told and always thought to be true?

Jesus is far more concerned about how his follower/friends live out their faith in the face of opposition and challenge – even when it comes from friends and family.  Am I prepared to match his concern with my commitment to life a life of faith, with honesty and integrity?

I have been surprised that Jesus is far more down to earth than I had noticed before.  Do I also need to be more down to earth in my faith?

Who will I have these conversations with?

 

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Comments
  1. […] / close friends of what is about to happen to him.. some words to get you thinking – see Brian Pember’s post. (he’s spoke last Saturday at […]

  2. Louise says:

    I have for a long time felt that faith during hard times, the times of big stuff happening is easier to turn to, than in the small moments of everyday.

    To be deeply, consciously, authentically, connected to Love in those moments when; the kids are screaming, the person cuts you off on the road, the difficult customer walks in the door, your co worker is giving you grief, your sibling is hitting all your emotional triggers, this is the real challenge of faith.

    It is in those moments that Love must step forward each. and. every. time. Its is those moments we must remember and stay connected to what we say we believe. It is those moments that we either show Gods face to the world or we step back into fear.

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