Daily Update #167

Today’s Readings – Revelation 14:14-19.    Psalm 96.     Luke 21:5-11. 

Jesus’ listeners must have been shaken by what He said in response to some admiring comments made about the beauty of the temple. It was “adorned with gifts for God” (Luke 21:5) but Jesus says that the temple will be destroyed. He responds to their questions about when this would happen by telling them starkly about the wars, destruction and persecution to come. King Herod the Great had demolished the second temple in 20 BC to make room for a much bigger and more beautiful one. This was not completed until 63AD. So the disciples were admiring this unfinished but already magnificent third temple. It has been said that the rebuilt temple area, which was twice as big as before, brought the city “to the zenith of its architectural beauty and Roman cultural expression. This became Jerusalem in the time of Jesus.” The Romano-Jewish historian Josephus described the temple as “being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold; the sun was no longer up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays.… Whatever was not overlaid with gold was purest white.”  Wow!Modern archeology has also confirmed the beauty of this sparking new temple. So for Jesus to claim that all this splendour was going to be wiped out was really shocking. No wonder the disciples asked “when will these things happen?” (Luke 21:7).

Jesus broadens out this discussion to reveal signs of the coming of these dire events. He warns that even worse will happen – wars between nations (v10), “earthquakes, famines and pestilences.. and fearful events and great signs from heaven (v11). Nonetheless, just when His listeners must have wished they had not got out of bed, Jesus tells them “do not be frightened” (v9). He warns that the three signs of the coming destruction would be the arrival of false prophets, political chaos and natural disasters. Matthew 24 has a fuller account of Jesus’ teaching than Luke 21. Both set out Jesus’ specific warnings about the future destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the age and Jesus’ ultimate return in glory. Sure enough, in 70 AD Jesus’ words were fulfilled when the Romans ruthlessly put down a Jewish rebellion, devastated Jerusalem and utterly destroyed the new temple. The Jews had followed false ‘Messiahs’ and Josephus reported that some 6,000 people, deluded by a false prophet, perished in the flames of the temple porticos. Jesus had already wept as He foresaw this tragedy and indicated that it would occur “because you (Jerusalem) did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you” – by rejecting Him (Luke 19:41-44).

Today’s reading focuses on the fact that the nation was only superficially honouring God. It was excessively proud of its magnificent buildings and shallow offerings. It had not recognised Jesus for who He was – the long-promised Messiah. I am sure that we can relate to this at a time when our human achievements, worldly wealth and pride are being threatened as a consequence of the pandemic. We too are a pretty faithless generation facing great uncertainty. In today’s by no means unprecedented time of human suffering, God still promises to save His world through His Son. This is the best possible time to trust in Jesus – there is no time like the present. Jesus wants us to:

* continue to follow Him each day. He is the world’s only way to be restored to God.

* watch out for those who might deceive us through their human ‘cleverness’.

* stay close to Him and obey His command “do not be frightened.” God is with us.

There is now an indestructible new temple in the form of the Church. St Paul wrote:

 “God’s household is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22).

Today’s Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus that you want the very best for your Church and for each member of your ‘household’. We remember today your instruction to the disciples at the temple, “do not be frightened.” This is hard for us to obey with so much fear, instability and suffering communicated to us each day. Please give us the strength to trust you throughout this lockdown and in all that is to follow. May we shine out with your love as we seek to help others who are really struggling for whatever reason. May we be like you to them. We hand over our lives now into your gentle care. Thank you that this is the safest and best place for us to be. Amen!