November 14th and 15th – Mark 13:1-13
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
During the days of Holy Week, Jesus confronts idolatry head on. If folks are making an idol of money, He'll turn the money changers tables over – He'll tell the Pharisees to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. If folks are making an idol of themselves, He'll point out their folly like He did with the Sadducees and their self-idoltary like He did with the scribes. And today, there's one more idol to confront, this one pointed out even by His own disciples. “As He came out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!'” Yep, one more idol to face today. The temple.
To refresh and make sure that we are all on the same page – what's the first commandment? Thou Shalt Have No other gods before Me. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That right there is your definition of what an idol is – it is anything that we fear, that we love, that we trust in more than God. And there Jesus is, He's been preaching and teaching, and one of the disciples looks at Him as says, “Man, isn't this temple great!” Love and trust God above all things. This was an idoltary of the temple – where that great gift from God that was meant to focus folks upon God and the coming Messiah ends up overshadowing Christ Jesus Himself. And this is why Jesus points out a truth about all our earthly idols – they will all fall. And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The temple wasn't the point – and it does not last forever. Its stones, its curtain, its holy places – they all were just meant to point to what Christ Jesus would do. The temple was not eternal. And it would fall. And it did – in 70 AD when the Romans stormed Jerusalem after putting down a rebellion, they destroyed the temple. They built giant fires next to the walls, and they superheated the rock, and the moisture in the rock began to boil. What happens then? Well, ever popped popcorn – the same thing. Utterly destroyed. Stones thrown down.
As we approach the end of the Church year, we are reminded that the things we see here in this life are temporary. Even things that are great and wondrous blessings of God – they are just temporary. This building – it's gorgeous – but it's not meant to be everlasting. Do you think people will be using these pews, sitting under these lights 500 years from now? Or even the building itself – Trinity's rebuilt the church once in her history already. (Eh, maybe the chancel carpet will still be around buy by in large things change) Such a wonderful blessing – but it's not going to last forever. This world is described by our Lord as where moth and rust destroy – here things fall apart. And not just buildings. Our relationships, our families. We acknowledge it – til death us do part. Our bodies – they fall apart. Our minds – they dull, they fade. All things here in this fallen world are ravaged by sin, given over to decay and decline, and indeed, they shall all fail.
Which is why Jesus here is trying to wrest the disciples' eyes off of their idol de jour, off of the temple and how pretty it is, and rather onto Himself. While in this world there is decay and decline and destruction, in Christ Jesus there is new life and rebirth and restoration. Because He goes to the cross and dies, sin is done for. Decay and death are destroyed. Does your body fall apart – Christ will raise it. Does your mind dim – Christ will enlighten it. Does the world come crashing down around you – behold, Christ shall give you a new heavens and a new earth. That's the point – that's why we look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.
Jesus continues on this theme, trashing all sorts of idols in the rest of our text. And as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished.” Jesus leaves the temple, and He sits down on the mount of Olives opposite the temple – sort of staring the temple down. And some of the disciples ask Him, when's this all going to happen, when is the bill to come due and all this destruction take place. Do you hear the fear, the worry? Indeed, is it not a fear and worry that we ourselves often fall into – fear of the end times? So Christ Jesus pulls the disciples eyes off of their fears and on to Himself. Listen.
“See that no one lead you astray. Many will come saying, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray.” Listen, there are going to be false prophets, false messiahs all over the place. We've had plenty of major cults like that, even in the past 50 years. We've had plenty of false social saviors. No – don't run to those idols. “And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.” And in the world there will be violence – but even this, do not fear it more than God. It's scary, but it doesn't supplant God – your worries about society – don't let them lead you astray either! “This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” This is the way it has to be – for the world is fallen, and it is shaking itself apart. Of course fallen men are going to war against fallen men. Of course leaders will lead nations on wicked courses – trust not in princes, they are but moral. Earth born they are and soon decay! This is just the way it is – do not let these things fill you with fear. They are typical.
But here's where it ramps up. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them.” It's going to get rough – especially for the Apostles. You doubt that – read the book of Acts? They are constantly kicked in the teeth. And why? “And the Gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” Because they will be proclaiming the Gospel of Christ Jesus – and the world will always kick and scream when it hears the Gospel. That's what the world does. But God will not let folks in this world just go quietly to death in sin and damnation – no, He will have His Gospel proclaimed, and He will see that the apostles are brought before the councils and synagogues and governors all so that His name will be proclaimed. He will place preachers in pulpits, He will place you in the lives of your friends and neighbors so that the Gospel of Christ Jesus, the forgiveness He has won with His death, the life He has declared, shown, and promised with His resurrection – this will be proclaimed.
And note, my dear friends – this isn't a finger waging moment. This isn't Jesus saying “You guys better work harder doing evangelism.” No – the Gospel is going to be preached. It's going to happen – God will see it happen. It must, because God wills it, and His will will be done. Even through the Apostles, even through us. But it's not about us and what we must be – it's what He will and must do. Listen – “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand [about] what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Not about you – it's about God working in you and through you. This is where I feel bad for the folks who think that they have to speak in tongues to prove that they have the Spirit. It's so much simpler than that. The Holy Spirit works with the Word. Simple as that. Even though I worked on this sermon – eh, it's really the Spirit who is working – who gives me words to say and who gives you ears to hear. I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel – so on and so forth. When the kids go off to Sunday school – the teachers will teach, but in reality the Holy Spirit will be teaching both teachers and students. This week, when you talk to your neighbors, your kids, your parents, your friends – and you declare what Christ Jesus has done, when you forgive them the sins they have sinned against you – that's really the Holy Spirit working in you and through you. And don't worry about it – Relax. It's not about you – it's about Christ Jesus and what He has done – and the Holy Spirit points it that direction.
Do you see why Jesus takes on idols? All these fears and loves and trusts that we have that are utterly misplaced and silly – and yet, there stands Christ Jesus. He is life, He is forgiveness, He is salvation. And He gives Himself to you freely. He even distributes it to others through you freely – and while I am talking about the Lord's Supper, I'm not just talking about the Lord's Supper – but rather whenever the Word is proclaimed and given. We in the Church are part of a wondrous reality, a profound mystery. God is at work for us and through us and in us – this is a wondrous truth. And yet, this fallen world will fight against it. “And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake.” It will get ugly. The dying idols of the world will not go quietly – they will kick and scream and do whatever to make you worship them, to make you fear, love, and trust them. So be it. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” They don't win. And take they your life, goods, fame, child, or wife, though these all be gone, they yet have nothing won. The Kingdom yours remaineth – because Christ Jesus is not like any of these fallen idols. The stones of the temple were torn down, and they are still torn down. Christ Jesus though – He says of Himself “tear down this temple and I will rebuild it in three days” - and He was right. He has been crucified, He has been raised – and you are forgiven, you are bound for more than just this fallen, dying world. You are a baptized child of God, an heir of life everlasting. Rejoice, rejoice believers, and let your lights appear – for you belong to Christ Jesus, and He does not fail. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen.