Mark 13:1-8 (NRSV)
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold
1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
I’m not sure what I place my stock in. Between college, work, church and relationships, life is moving so fast for me these days that to ask myself that question would only result in some shrug of the shoulders. I’m too busy looking to the next pillar, the next stone. When things are moving so fast that’s often all I can do. I know that Jesus should be that stock, that pillar and I believe at the end of my path I’ll find that unbreakable stone I end up bumping into will be him. In the meantime, I wind up in the position of the disciples:
“1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” “
Wow! Look at those stones! Look how impressive and alluring and inviting they are. Look how much we’ve achieved or could achieve with them! You see, I don’t look poorly upon the disciples for focusing on what was in front of them. They, like me, were limited to our human senses. How could you blame them for focusing on what was before their very eyes? Imagine how impressive the Temple and its surroundings would have been – a true testament to human endeavour. Yet Jesus reminds us that these stones aren’t around for the long run. They’ll all come along and grab your attention and tell you “This is it!”, and before you know there will be other stones built upon their broken fragments. Indeed, the Temple would come crashing down at the hands of Roman-backed forces. Rome too would one day see its end, great monuments like the Forum brought to the ground. The day to day things you’re clinging onto will never last forever.
Before you think I may become too morbid with this carry on, I’ll mediate that line of thought. Humans are humans; I don’t see myself suddenly giving up every ‘stone’ I hold onto tomorrow just because of this passage. But what we can take away from this is a reminder to slow down.
Imagine yourself coming out of the Temple, looking out at the impressive structures of your life; your accomplishments, your dreams, your great passions. Figure out how they got there in the first place – why did you take the time to build them or to focus on them. Now remember that they won’t be around forever and ever. For me this is not unsettling. I gain some perspective on my speed as I go whizzing past these stones to leave them behind, to focus on what I want to see built next rather than just building for the sake of it, as fast as I can. Finally, it allows me to remember that stone which will be around forever.
Dear Lord, help me to keep your foundation, your almighty stone in perspective. Help me to be more careful of what I put my energy into building. Remind me that the works of human hands are nothing compared to what you can create. Amen.
Alex McElwee is a Dublin born student attending University College Dublin for Arts and Humanities. His idea of an afternoon well spent is a hot day wearing lycra spandex on a bicycle before going home to read the works of Steinbeck or Hemingway. Come alongside him as he writes inexperienced things about Jesus and tries to build the Kingdom in the best way he can.