1 As Jesus left the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What awesome stones and buildings!”
2 Jesus responded, “Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”
3 Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”
5 Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many people will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ They will deceive many people. 7 When you hear of wars and reports of wars, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen, but this isn’t the end yet. 8 Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other, and there will be earthquakes and famines in all sorts of places. These things are just the beginning of the sufferings associated with the end.
9 “Watch out for yourselves. People will hand you over to the councils. You will be beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me so that you can testify before them. 10 First, the good news must be proclaimed to all the nations. 11 When they haul you in and hand you over, don’t worry ahead of time about what to answer or say. Instead, say whatever is given to you at that moment, for you aren’t doing the speaking but the Holy Spirit is. 12 Brothers and sisters will hand each other over to death. A father will turn in his children. Children will rise up against their parents and have them executed. 13 Everyone will hate you because of my name. But whoever stands firm until the end will be saved.
14 “When you see the disgusting and destructive thing standing where it shouldn’t be (the reader should understand this), then those in Judea must escape to the mountains. 15 Those on the roof shouldn’t come down or enter their houses to grab anything. 16 Those in the field shouldn’t come back to grab their clothes. 17 How terrible it will be at that time for women who are pregnant and for women who are nursing their children. 18 Pray that it doesn’t happen in winter. 19 In those days there will be great suffering such as the world has never before seen and will never again see. 20 If the Lord hadn’t shortened that time, no one would be rescued. But for the sake of the chosen ones, the ones whom God chose, he has cut short the time.
Herod the Great built the Temple complex in a futile attempt to win the Jewish people’s acceptance. It was the largest, most striking building for miles in any direction. (Click here to see a rendering of how the Temple may have appeared in Jesus' day.) Yet Jesus said none of it would last. That seemed impossible to the disciples. The only set of events they could imagine that would lead to the ruin of the great Temple would be the convulsive events when God made the earth new and purged all that was evil. With clearer insight, Jesus knew that if Israel’s leaders insisted on seeking political, military deliverance, they’d face a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Roman armies.
Lord Jesus, you taught your disciples what the apostle Paul learned: “The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Help me to build my life on the solid foundation of your eternal kingdom. Amen.
Many people were cruel to Jesus during the last week of His life on earth. He consistently responded with love and forgiveness towards the people who were hurting Him. As a family, share some of your favorite stories about Jesus. What words would you use to describe Jesus in those stories? Review the events of the Final Week together and explore Jesus’ responses in them. How would you describe Jesus in those times? What qualities does Jesus faithfully display throughout His life? Choose one or two characteristics of Jesus your family can develop. What steps will your family take to grow more Christ-like? Pray and ask God to help you become more like Jesus.
“When you hear of wars and reports of wars…nations and kingdoms will fight each other, and there will be earthquakes and famines…you will be beaten…brothers and sisters will hand each other over to death…a father will turn in his children…children will rise up against their parents and have them executed…in those days there will be great suffering such as the world has never before seen and will never see again…”
This is the Good News? Today’s reading doesn’t sound or feel like good news at first glance. Our eyes immediately leap to the words that bring us the most fear. When we read things like this in the Bible it can be terrifying. The hearers of Jesus’ words must have also felt fear and wondered what their own fates would entail.
Unfortunately, there is still so much to be frightened of in our world today.
Today, thousands are planning a march in Washington, D.C. to protest gun violence. This march was organized after a Florida school shooting that killed 17 teenagers. Yesterday I read about a pastor being held in a prison in Turkey because he has been sharing his faith with others. His trial is scheduled for April. If convicted, he will likely be sentenced to 35 years in prison. On last night’s news I heard about more shootings, rioting, bombings, and a mother prostituting her children in exchange for drugs and money. There were also stories about sexual misconduct allegations against our President and against a high profile Christian leader.
What is happening in our world? All of this can leave us feeling vulnerable and paralyzed with fear. It makes us want to throw our hands up in the air and ask if God cares about what is happening. And if he does, why isn’t he doing anything about it? How do we make sense of it all?
Looking back at today’s Scripture, when Jesus was having this discussion with his disciples, he was warning them of what was coming to prepare them. He didn’t want them caught off-guard, and notice that he didn't sugar-coat the dangers. These things were real and were going to happen.
However, we mustn’t miss what else the text tells us. Jesus explains that while terrifying things are going to happen, the Holy Spirit will be with them. He gives them practical advice and tells them where and how to make their escapes. He tells them to stand firm and they will be saved. Jesus encourages them by reminding them that this won't be the end.
One of my favorite quotes by the late theologian and author, Dallas Willard, is this: “The Kingdom of God is never in trouble.”
As alarming as world events are in either the first century or in our time, God’s Kingdom is never in trouble. God will continue to be God.
So, what does that mean to me? There are things I can do, and am responsible for doing, to promote God's peace and healing in a fragmented world. I’m supposed to engage and be the church. Sometimes that looks like a listening ear, a hug, speaking up, teaching, sharing a meal, picking up a hammer, cleaning up trash or a host of other expressions of love. We are all part of God’s redemptive plan to save the world. What a challenge and incredible honor to be a part of that. Being a part of what God is doing in the world empowers us to push back the darkness and the crippling fear associated with it.
Next Sunday we will celebrate Easter, a reminder of the reordering of things in the world. Jesus encouraged his disciples, in one of their own moments of fear, with these words we find in John’s gospel (16:33): “I have said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”
And that IS Good News!
One final thought: if you are struggling with fear, Pastor Adam Hamilton has a new book out titled Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times. You may find his book a helpful tool.
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