We are moving towards the end of the Christian calendar and next week is the final week of the Christian year .. we are not very good at coming to end of things are we?? There can be a deep sense of loss or sadness when things come to an end.
In our readings we have an insight into one of the great themes of Jesus mission and message which was not apparent from the start. As Jesus nears the end of his life and ministry he begins to talk about the tearing down and destruction that is a part of the human experience.
Having been a healer and a preacher of good news Jesus now turns his message to the matter of ending and destruction. Having been the one who kept the party going by turning water into wine and raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus now challenges the spirit of celebration and growth within the disciples hearts.
Look they say what magnificent buildings what wonderful architecture this cannot be allowed to ever fall down or disappear .. if we look around us how often might we feel this about our own wonderful churches?? But Jesus begins to declare another message to the world .. t is not a new message but it is one we are keen to have muted and muffled in our hearts and minds .. nothing of this world lasts forever!!
Don’t be so shallow as to think that this Temple and it’s surrounding buildings in their grandeur are anything more than temporary … everybody knows they will not be here forever .. however we seek to preserve or protect or cherish them we cannot win the war against decay. For there will be wars and earthquakes and famines all of which bring with them death and destruction .. but do not be alarmed Jesus says.
This message is of course not a new one .. in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes we are reminded that there is a season for everything including tearing down and throwing away. Death and decay are a feature if all life and if we stand in awe of anything we have done for too long we must be reminded that it will all pass … these buildings in which we sit will one day be nothing but rubble .. it is the nature of this world to tear things down.
And this is why Jesus message to us at this stage in his ministry is so important. Because Jesus himself knew he was approaching death. Jesus knew the Temple of his own body was about to be torn apart and come to an end. And his message is do not be alarmed … this is all part of this world … but take heart for I have overcome the world!!
For the first time we begin to understand Jesus message that it is through death to this world that we find eternal life. That we are not to fear decay and destruction and the tearing down seasons of this world because they lead to new and eternal life.
Jesus message is that tearing down never really means the end … destruction is not the strongest force in this world .. love is stronger still. So in the letter to the Hebrews we hear that in the message of Jesus we can overcome the fear of bringing things to an end. We do not like the Jewish High Priests need to rely on the endless sacrifices day after day trying to find an final answer to the matter of peace and freedom from fear. Jesus in his declaration that in dying we are reborn allows us to face decline and decay as real .. not trying endlessly to pretend we are mortal .. but rather embrace the message that in death there is resurrection hope.
None of these stones will remain set upon one another Jesus states looking at the Temple .. He says the same of our churches .. he says the same of our bodies, the living Temples of our souls .. all will be destroyed and torn down … but the purpose for which they were built will continue ..
worship will still take place when the Temple is destroyed .. communities will still gather when these buildings are gone .. our souls will still exist in the presence of God when our bodies have failed and broken ..
Jesus’ message is that there is a season of death and destruction to all things in this world .. but it is not a season of hopelessness and defeat but one of resurrection and new life of which we need not fear or be disturbed.
You these these stones Jesus says .. you see these bodies of skin and bone .. you see my body Jesus says .. destruction will come but fear not for they will rise again .. in a new way, in a joyous way, in an eternal way .. therefore when you think on the ending of things .. do not fear!