In the grand scheme of things, it is a matter of perspective. Most of us have a need to know all the nitty gritty details about all the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything (quoting from Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe). All of us are born with a certain amount of curiosity about the world that surrounds us. This is a good thing because from this curiosity comes great art, great science and all the great discoveries.
There comes a time occasionally where our culture allows us to create a sense of entitlement that we pair with our great curiosity. We have questions and we believe we are entitled to the answers. I have questions and it isn’t fair if I don’t get the answers I want! I want to know NOW!
We could go on for days on why we think it isn’t fair that we’re not entitled to answers to all of our questions but we only have 12-14 minutes and there are some other things worth mentioning.
Getting back to our story today, you can’t blame the disciples of Jesus for asking some questions. They seem to be pretty impressed with the temple there in Jerusalem. It was a huge structure and as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”
Today we might look at such devotion to impressive big buildings in a religious context as an extravagant waste of money but there have been good reasons for big religious buildings, then and now. The temple they’re talking about in today’s text had been built according to the command and word of God, so there’s that. And the temple builders built it to honor and give glory to God.
And the large churches we now see around town and around the rest of the country? Not such a thing now, megachurches notwithstanding but most of these large church structures were built by a generation that is known, not surprisingly, as the Builders. They built these large churches for some of the same reasons as the builders of the temple in Jerusalem. Many of the great church building around here were built after WW I and after that bit of destruction that affected so many people around the globe the builder generation was looking for some reassurance and stability. Building big church buildings was a way they could add a little stability to their lives while at the same time giving glory to God.
The common factor then and now is the desire to give glory to God. There are worse reasons for doing something, don’t you think? In any case, big buildings and God have gone together for thousands of years.
Coming out of this great temple built to the glory of God Jesus then lays a bombshell on them when he says, “2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” This no doubt surprised his listeners a little bit. You can’t really blame them for wondering about, well, WHEN this might be happening. You can’t hold it against them for wanting to avoid the area where great buildings and stones will be thrown down. At the least you’d want to be sure to get out of the way, right?
While the danger of a large building crashing down on you is real, Jesus has in mind something a little more substantial. The disciples want to get out of the way of a crashing building and Jesus wants them to be ready for a big, world-changing shift in how life and faith go together. Jesus is trying to get them ready for a big shift from a faith life that is centered on following a list of rules to a faith life that is centered on him.
That means some crazy things will be happening in the meantime. Buildings will come crashing down and wars will be fought. Jesus warns them against false teachers and all of that.
In the end, Christ gives them assurance and gives us assurance that he will be here. Like the disciples we tend to look for things to happen very quickly. The idea of instant gratification, while more pronounced these days, is not a new idea. People have been making predictions since forever about when Christ will come.
The thing is, Christ is here. Christ is around us all the time. That’s what we’re saying when we talk about the ‘real presence’ of Christ in communion. Jesus isn’t some abstraction we read about in a book and talk about every Sunday. Communion reminds us of Christ’s true presence in our lives.
In trying to figure out where and when Christ will be we miss out on his real presence already here. Our entitled curiosity gets in the way of living as if Christ’s presence was surrounding us. We look for big answers to big questions in our lives but we lack a little bit of perspective.
It isn’t that our questions don’t matter. They do and they’re important. Like I said earlier, that sense of curiosity is where we get great art, great science and great discoveries. But there is a sense of perspective that we lack sometimes. Jesus is talking about a life changing faith in him as our savior. Sins forgiven. Eternal life assured. And the disciples are asking about… the building they’re standing next to.
As we begin to look at Holy Week starting next Sunday it is a good time for us to give some extra thought and reflection on Christ’s presence in our lives and ask ourselves some questions. How have I brought Christ’s love to life this past week? How will I stay awake and pay attention to bringing Christ’s love to life in the coming week?
When it gets right down to it, those are the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything. How will you answer?