"Not One Stone"
18 November 2018
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
Mark 13:1-10 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=409206313)
As he 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.
“As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.
Context is the key to understanding.
Nobody likes ever rising taxes.
The result was protests and attacks on government officials.
Governor Florus over-played his hand:
He had the Temple plundered and the treasury emptied.
This was the spark for the first of three wars between the Jews and Rome.
The Jewish rebels fought back,
Leading the pro-Roman king, Agrippa, government officials, and soldiers to flee Jerusalem for their lives.
The rebellion was getting out of control.
Nero, the Emperor, had to act.
First, he sent Gallus to bring his legions of troops from Syria
To restore order and end the revolt.
6,000 troops were caught by Jewish rebels west of Jerusalem
In the Beth Horon pass.
All six-thousand were slaughtered.
The Jewish victory attained great support throughout the land
And won over the hearts of the people.
Volunteers poured into rebel recruiting stations
Offering to fight Rome.
Passion and patriotism surged with youthful vigor.
Hold on there, dearly impassioned Jews.
Nero wouldn’t be embarrassed again.
The most experienced general, Vespasian,
was handpicked to crush the rebellion in Judaea.
Avoiding a direct attack on the heavily reinforced City of Jerusalem,
Four legions of troops landed in Galilee in 67 AD.
For three years, the legions advanced, led by Vespasian’s son, Titus,
Who served as second in command.
Rebel strongholds were eradicated, the fields were salted, and the population was punished.
February, 70 AD found the Roman legions knocking at the gates of the City of Jerusalem.
The Jewish rebels held out against the siege for 7 months.
All food supplies inside the walls were exhausted.
Time was on the side of Rome.
Jerusalem fell on September 7th in the year 70.
The Temple was destroyed, timbers burned, every stone above the foundation was thrown down and smashed.
The fire was so hot you can see the burn stains on the rubble to this day.
Rome found its revenge.
Josephus, the famed Jewish historian, claims 1.1 million people were killed during the siege, and 97,000 prisoners were taken into Roman slavery.
The few surviving Jews fled,
Diaspora-ed under cover of night to the four corners of the world.
Among the traumatized, surviving Jews
Were a small band of disciples
Who, as luck would have it, witnessed Christ’s ascension
a mere 38 years earlier.
By the light of the burning Temple,
St. Mark and his band of new Christians,
Convert memories to record,
Put pen to paper and begin a first draft of their Gospel.
Context is the key to understanding.
“Remember when Jesus made his final visit to the Temple?”
Mark and his small band of brothers probably opined.
“Jesus told us,
‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’” (13:2)
Not one stone.
Not one stone is left.
How right he was.
You think these are bad times? End times, even?
Health care out of control.
Mass shootings, nearly every day.
Hate crimes, more bold and more frequent.
Double talking, lobbyist owned, lying parties and politicians
Who couldn’t pour water out of a boot even if the directions were printed on the sole?
You think these are bad times?
President Madison probably thought he was living through the end times
As he fled Washington and Major General Robert Ross
Easily routed the city and burned it to the ground.
Confederate John Bell Hood probably thought he was living through the end time
As his troops were overwhelmed and defeated in the Battle of Atlanta.
Sherman burned it to the ground.
Fire and fury,
Defeat and the smell of rotting corpses,
Would lead any woman or man to ask the same question
As our Lord’s disciples: When? What will be the signs?
When? And What? We ask of ourselves.
Lord, deliver us from such evil that threatens to consume us!
Jesus recognized the fact two days before the Passover
That crisis makes one vulnerable
He was facing his own crisis,
And this made him vulnerable to temptation.
The crisis made the early Christians caught up in the destruction of Jerusalem during the first Jewish revolt
Vulnerable to every self-proclaimed snake oil salesman
Claiming to be the second coming of Christ.
They will say, “’I am he!’ and they will lead many astray,” Jesus warns. (13:6)
The crisis we see on today’s news
Speaks of wars and rumors of wars,
Of nations rising against nations.
California wildfires sweeping whole towns away,
Volcanoes blowing and spewing,
Earthquakes and famines –
This isn’t the end, Jesus proclaims.
This is just the beginning of labor,
The first contractions.
Christ followers will be vulnerable,
Easily led astray.
We are vulnerable, when facing persecution,
To give up and give in.
Hold strong, Jesus is telling us today!
Now is the time to hold strong.
No one knows when, so hold strong to faith.
No one knows when, so let us prepare ourselves for
Christ to return to anyone, anytime, anywhere, to everyone.
In other words
Stop looking for signs.
The effort to correlate the return of Christ and the establishment of God’s kingdom with earthly signs
Is a complete and utter waste of time.
There is great danger in associating
The evil of this world,
The tragic natural catastrophes of this world,
With the will of God.
The Lord is the light; and is not responsible for the darkness.
This is God’s kingdom.
God acts in God’s own time.
Throughout salvation history,
God has always worked for good.
Expect this trend to continue.
Apocalyptical prophecies prey upon the vulnerable,
Especially when facing the trials and temptations of this world.
Apocalyptical forecasting is not only a waste of time,
It distracts us from the task at hand:
“The Good News must first be proclaimed to all nations.” (13:10)
Hold strong to the faith,
Jesus communicates to his followers,
And proclaim his Good News to all nations.
Share the Gospel.
Spread the Gospel.
Propagate the Gospel.
Make the entire planet aware
Of Jesus Christ, God’s gift of love,
His forgiveness and his salvation.
Not one stone will be left here upon another,
Jesus correctly proclaimed.
Today, all that remains of the Temple in Jerusalem
Are the foundation and front stairs.
Everything else is rubble,
Preserved for pilgrim tours.
When we hear about or look upon the foundation of the Temple,
Known as the Wailing Wall,
May we be reminded of our Lord’s directives:
Spread the Good News.
Leave the rest up to God.
Footnote: Historical references from: