I usually get in trouble when I do this, but it just fits so well with our lesson today, I’m going to take the chance! One of my favorite songs from The Eagles reunion effort is “Learn to Be Still” and the second verse sticks in my head every time I hear it: “We are like sheep without a shepherd. We don’t know how to be alone. So we wander around this desert And wind up following the wrong gods home. But the flock cries out for another. And they keep answering that bell. And one more starry-eyed messiah, Meets a violent farewell. Learn to be still.”
That line “wind up following the wrong gods home” is such a perfect picture of our struggles in today’s world. We are desperate for answers. We are desperate for direction and meaning. And we are leaderless which leads us in the wrong direction even with all the right intentions. I see this in the political world with all these voices saying “this is how to fix things” and then they try it and when it doesn’t work they start making excuses or saying “well we didn’t do enough.” The poverty of our ideas and our shallow answers always disappoint but we still keep going back to them in hopes that “this time it will work.”
The despair that these consistent dead ends produce pass on despair to our children that doesn’t bode well for our society. So, what are we to do? Good question.
Look at our lesson today in Mark 13:1-8:
At that time, as Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet. 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 sufferings.”
Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, a major overhaul and reconstruction effort from 25 BC to 15 BC, was one of the ancient wonders of the world. It could only be described as breathtakingly beautiful. This central structure of the Faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had all the rituals described in the Torah and all the priestly work for the Jewish people. The gold plating around the Temple meant it glinted in the sunshine and glowed at night under the moon. It was the Temple of the God of Abraham and it held all the symbols of the relationship between God and the Jewish people.
It was this building that the Lord’s disciples were so impressed by and they were convinced the beauty of the building matched the correctness of their faith in God. But Jesus needed to teach these precious men a powerful lesson. As beautiful and as impressive as this Temple was, within a few decades from the very moment Jesus is speaking to them this very building would be destroyed by the Romans, and “not one stone” would be left on another. This would become literally true as the Roman soldiers burned the Temple to the ground and the precious gold melted in between the stones. The soldiers literally dug up all the stones to get at the gold!
On hearing the fate to befall this magnificent building, the disciples immediately wanted to know when it would happen.
And Jesus gives them the first principle to keep them from stumbling when their Temple is destroyed. Don’t be led astray. Keep your focus on Jesus and not on the multitude of other voices out there who will be claiming to speak for God. If I want to protect my soul from being led astray, I have to keep my focus on Jesus Christ. HE is the True Temple of God and He will tell them and the Jewish leaders in another place “Destroy this Temple and in 3 days I will raise it up.” Of course, He meant His body being crucified and then he would destroy death by His glorious resurrection. The True Temple is the fulfillment of the shadow of a Temple in Jerusalem.
Today, as we enter into the Preparation Sunday’s for Great Lent, let’s not be so impressed with temporary things that we get led astray by them. Keeping my focus on Jesus is the only way to keep being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, I confess I can be distracted by temporary beauty. I know that there is great value in making the Lord’s House beautiful and that I am called to make Your Home beautiful. But that calling is to remind me to make my own life, which is Your True Home, beautiful in righteousness and faithfulness. Help me keep my eyes on You so I don’t lose that perspective. Amen.