5 Some of Jesus’ disciples were talking about the temple. They spoke about how it was decorated with beautiful stones and with gifts that honored God. But Jesus asked, 6 “Do you see all this? The time will come when not one stone will be left on top of another. Every stone will be thrown down.” 7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” 8 Jesus replied, “Keep watch! Be careful that you are not fooled. Many will come in my name. They will claim, ‘I am he!’ And they will say, ‘The time is near!’ Do not follow them. 9 Do not be afraid when you hear about wars and about fighting against rulers. Those things must happen first. But the end will not come right away.” 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Nation will fight against nation. Kingdom will fight against kingdom. 11 In many places there will be powerful earthquakes. People will go hungry. There will be terrible sicknesses. Things will happen that will make people afraid. There will be great and miraculous signs from heaven. 12 “But before all this, people will arrest you and treat you badly. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison. You will be brought to kings and governors. All this will happen to you because of my name. 13 And so you will be witnesses about me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry ahead of time about how to stand up for yourselves. 15 I will give you words of wisdom. None of your enemies will be able to withstand them or prove them wrong. 16 Even your parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends will hand you over to the authorities. The authorities will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair on your head will be harmed. 19 Remain strong in the faith, and you will receive eternal life. 20 “A time is coming when you will see armies surround Jerusalem. Then you will know that it will soon be destroyed. 21 Those who are in Judea should then escape to the mountains. Those in the city should get out. Those in the country should not enter the city. 22 This is the time when God will punish Jerusalem. Everything will come true, just as it has been written. 23 How awful it will be in those days for pregnant women! How awful for nursing mothers! There will be terrible suffering in the land. There will be great anger against those people. 24 Some will be killed by the sword. Others will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be taken over by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles come to an end. 25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. The nations of the earth will be in terrible pain. They will be puzzled by the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Terror will make people faint. They will be worried about what is happening in the world. The sun, moon and stars will be shaken from their places. 27 At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud. He will come with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up. Hold your head up with joy and hope. The time when you will be set free will be very close.” 29 Jesus told them a story. “Look at the fig tree and all the trees,” he said. 30 “When you see leaves appear on the branches, you know that summer is near. 31 In the same way, when you see these things happening, you will know that God’s kingdom is near. 32 “What I’m about to tell you is true. The people living now will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away. But my words will never pass away. 34 “Be careful. If you aren’t, your hearts will be loaded down with wasteful living, drunkenness and the worries of life. Then the day the Son of Man returns will close on you like a trap. It will happen suddenly. 35 That day will come on every person who lives on the whole earth. 36 Always keep watching. Pray that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen. Also, pray that you will not be judged guilty when the Son of Man comes.” 37 Each day Jesus taught at the temple. And each evening he went to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives. 38 All the people came to the temple early in the morning. They wanted to hear Jesus speak.
Human life is lived in tension. We seek the assurity of God’s full victory on our lives, or alternatively, the knowledge of the ultimate meaning behind the trials and challenges we face. Reality is sometimes uncomfortable in the middle ground, grey spaces: simultaneously observing wondrous vistas or gruesome realities. Much like the disciples, who on the one hand marvel at the splendour of the temple and on the other hand puzzle over the ominous ‘signs of the times’.
The cosmic legends that Jesus foresees are peppered with practical advice:
‘watch out’ (v8), ‘do not be frightened’ (v9), ‘[don’t] worry beforehand’ (v14), ‘be careful’ (v34), ‘be aways on the watch’ (v36),
‘you will bear testimony to me’ (v13), ‘not a hair of your head will perish’ (v18), ‘stand firm, and you will win life’ (v19), ‘the kingdom of God is near’ (v31), ‘my words will never pass away’ (v33)
Holy Spirit, may my ears be continually open to your encouragement amidst the realities of living. Peace in the tension of day to day and persistent joy across all portions of my life, amen.
Written by Sam Stewart