Mark 13:1-8 As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”
Reflection Reading this text from Mark can be down right disturbing. Great buildings will fall flaming down. We will be misled, hear of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, all manner of disaster. And this is only the beginning? This sounds too much like a summary of our current events. We want to run away and bury our heads in the sand.
But if we pause and allow ourselves to rise to the 10,000 foot above the ground perspective we may catch a glimpse of something more. You see, although our minds cannot unravel the complexity of our circumstance and our emotions cannot resist being swept up in the dramatic tide of news cycles, our hearts ‘know’ there is something more. The apostle Paul explains this in his second letter to the Corinthians, it is “because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2Cor 4.16)
Regardless of the explosive uncertainty of current events there is something deep within us that insists there is more to life than meets the eye. And that is what allows us to “walk by faith, not by sight,” (2Cor 5.7) especially in the midst of chaos. When Jesus instructs the disciples and us to “Beware…” I do not believe he is telling us to build bomb shelters and stock pile supplies to mitigate impending doom. No. Jesus is warning us not to ascribe inordinate value to things that are temporary, things that by definition have an expected ‘shelf-life.’
When we put our faith in the unborn, undying eternally all that is we are able to sit at the foot of a collapsing building and not flinch. It is not that we are unaffected by the looming loss. We understand that all things that are accessible to our temporary senses are temporary. At the same time we affirm, there is that which “cannot be seen,” and it is eternal.
We are misled when we put our faith in things that we see because ultimately they will disintegrate and betray us. We rise with Jesus to the 10,000 foot perspective when we see beyond the tumult and rubble to the peace that eternally pervades the maelstrom of commotion. This is the peace Jesus leaves with us, the peace that we cannot see, the peace that is present even when the buildings collapse and “not one stone is left upon another.”
For an experience of 20 minutes of something more please listen to Benjamin Zander’s TED talk.
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