Pentecost 25 B 2021 End of Times Sermon
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
If you look at the screen right now, you will see an artist rendering of what the Temple in Jerusalem looked like in 30 AD. I think you would agree with me when I say that the Temple was outstanding. Nothing in all of Israel was more magnificent.
Unfortunately, as spectacular as this fancy temple appears, the temple is toast. And the beautiful tall pillars? They are coming down. And the Holy of Holies? The Holy of Holies will be crushed and a garbage dump will occupy its place. And eventually the temple ground will become a shrine to a false god, and then that shrine will be destroyed. The Bible tells us that not one stone will be left upon another.
Are you impressed by the things of the world? How about the Sistine Chapel? Or the Great Wall of China? How about Mt. Rushmore or the Hoover Dam? Well, none of these impressive human accomplishments will last either. Even the Great Pyramids, which have stood the greatest length of time will one day disappear.
Your house, your neighborhood, your school, your workplace, yes even this church sanctuary will eventually be gone. And not a trace of these things will exist to indicate that they were once here. My friends, nothing lasts forever.
Now, I did not say this to depress you or scare you. No, I said this because today our lectionary scripture readings point us towards the end times, or to what others call judgment day, or the second coming of Christ, or the last times.
As we turn to the Gospel text today, we find Jesus and His disciples together at the Temple during the week that we now know as Holy Week. And it is important to point out that Jesus had already been welcomed into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with shouts of “Hosanna.”
And that Jesus had already turned over the temple tables and had used a whip like Indiana Jones to drive out the money changers. And Jesus had already spoken to the crowd, and He already had disappointed them with His teachings as He overturned the dream the crowd had for Jewish National Glory and God’s promised Messiah.
During the Week of Holy week Jesus made it clear that he was not the military messiah so many of them expected Him to be. Instead, for many of them He was just the bearer of bad news as He explained that the Temple, which was so important to their faith, would one day be destroyed.
The folks did not want to hear this. But it did come to pass. In the year 70 AD, just 40 years after Jesus had spoken these words, the Roman General Titus put down a rebellion in Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. And the Jews still mourn this event today.
History tells us that the Roman General Titus then went on and became a Roman Emperor, and the arch which tells of his glorious victory in Jerusalem still stands today in Rome. But the Temple, the Temple into which so many Jews had put their hopes for the future, was reduced to one lone exterior wall.
And this is confusing, because did not Jesus teach that “not one stone will be left.” But my friends, the prophecy is not finished yet. And the destruction of the Temple was/is but a foretaste of the final destruction that is yet to come.
Yes, there is more destruction to come. All that we see will pass away. The earth that we live in will vanish like smoke. All that we observe and enjoy will be rolled up like a scroll and a New Heaven and a New Earth will take its place.
But before this happens, Jesus informs us that there will be other calamities. Jesus said there will be rumors of wars and actual wars. Jesus said there will be earthquakes and famines. Jesus warned us that we will experience persecution and rejection. But worst of all, Jesus told us that there will be false prophets.
We live in such a time today. Right now, we are experiencing the end times. Today we hear of wars and rumors of wars. Today we experience earthquakes and famines, and drought. Today we see families torn apart and Christians hated for what they believe and false prophets distorting the truth.
But this is nothing new. The church has always faced these things, in one measure or another, in fits and starts, just like a woman in labor.
Yes, labor pains come, and then labor pains recede. Then labor pains come again in greater force, and then they recede. And this goes on and on, until the process is complete, and the birth occurs.
The same is true as we wait for the birth of the New Heaven and the New Earth that is to come. Pain and suffering will be a part of our lives.
But rather than worrying about the labor pains, it is comforting to know that the end is near, and that Christ has plans for us in the New Heaven and New Earth that is to come.
Therefore, no matter how bad things get, and no matter how much we suffer, let us take solace in the fact that Christ suffered the same labor pains that we face, and died, and on the third day rose again. Then He ascended into heaven, and He now sits at the right hand of God as He waits to come to judge the quick and the dead.
And the Good news is that you and I share in His Resurrection.
Jesus has saved you. Jesus has saved me. Therefore, let us give thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: God of hope, when we are troubled by fear and uncertainty, teach us to commit our lives to your care, and to trust in the knowledge of your hope and forgiveness, that we may find peace in Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.