Wow! What beautiful work! It’s amazing that someone possessed the skill to make this!” I overheard this comment when visiting the grand cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Yes, it is indeed admirable, but I could not shake the feeling that we tourists had missed the point. While it represents the artistry of a skilled worker, anyone willing to look beneath the surface at the art itself can see the narrative of scripture and find the story of the world’s redemption. The tourist saw the signs and missed the point.
Perhaps that explains Jesus’ animation in this passage when people focus on beautiful stones rather than on his transformative story and work. They see the stones of the Temple and admire their beauty. Jesus’ words of caution surely catch them off guard: “The days will come when not one stone will be left upon another.” He may have intended this statement to serve as a warning so that they would not abandon their faith in him as the Messiah when the day of the Temple’s destruction arrived.
Jesus meets their natural questions of when and how with words to this effect: “Trust me. Listen to me. Persevere.” Jesus knows that other stories will creep in and try to supersede the story of his return. He warns them about following after false messiahs who claim to usher in a new age.
How easily we explain away difficulties! How tempting it is to look for signs as a means to control our fears! But the story we must heed is the one that reminds us that troubles befalling us are not without the promise of Jesus’ presence. May we have the eyes to see more deeply the transformative story of Jesus.
God, I am often tempted to look for signs of what is to come in order to control that which I cannot know. Give me the faith to trust you when difficulties arise. May I see beyond my present circumstances. Amen.
Isaiah 65:17-25 looks toward God’s creation of “new heavens and a new earth.” Jerusalem itself is not to be restored but created anew, a place in which life will be revered and protected and in which God will permit no harm to any of creation. The New Testament lessons remind us of the reality— the sometimes painful reality—of the present. Second Thessalo- nians 3:6-13 warns against the disorderly conduct of those who believe that the newness of the eschatological future permits them license in the present. Luke 21:5-19 adds an element of sobriety to the singing of new songs and the expectation of a new future. The faithful are called to bear witness to God’s future in the present, precisely when the new future cannot be seen and even when it seems most improbable.
• Read Isaiah 65:17-25. How does the promise of the new heavens and new earth encourage to tell a new story?
• Read Psalm 118. Which story will you tell? The one of your captivity . . . or the one of your salvation?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13. Where in your life do you need to be more disciplined so that you do not deceive yourself?
• Read Luke 21:5-19. What signs from God are you seeking instead of trusting in what you know about God’s character?
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