14 November 2010

Luke 21:5-19

"When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said 'As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down'" (vv. 5-6)


This is a difficult passage. The language is filled with fearful images of a dreadful future of both natural and human created disasters. It is set within Luke's passion narrative, of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ.

It helps to notice that Luke's vision of the future has a theological purpose as much as a predictive one. It is not so much that he is acting as a forecaster of what is to be, but offering an explanation as to why such disasters occur, and a challenge as to what we can do about them.

Two possible ways are offered:

  • On the one hand, there is the temple. It is beautiful and massive: its stones huge and immovable, its walls adorned by the gifts of grateful people. Such gifts are evidence of the faithfulness of God, and the grounding for a people's future hope. However, this temple will be destroyed. These certainties undermined. Hope itself will be replaced by despair. Even the testimony of the gift givers will be called into question. The things we rely on and take for granted (eg successful harvests, the rule of Rome, the ground itself will be no more).
  • On the other hand, there is a name: the name of Jesus who is the Christ (ie the chosen or anointed one). The name is not beautiful, massive or as yet adorned with the testimony of the years. However, it is the basis of hope in the future. Indeed, it is the rejection of Christ that is presented by Luke as the explanation for the overthrow of the old certainties. This horrifying future is in the context of a passion narrative of betrayal, trial, humiliation, and crucifixion. Rejection of the Messiah leads to destruction but faithfulness to the name of Christ is life.

It is faithfulness to that name that will become the new security. A fragile name contrasted with massive stones; a disfigured man to the beauty of a temple.


To Ponder

In the light of today (Remembrance Sunday), what are the securities in life that we take for granted?

How far do we put our faith in massive certainties and not in the fragility of Jesus' way of love?

What does putting trust in the Messiah mean to you?

And pray
For the grace of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to help us endure when old certainties are shaken up and disturbed.

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.