Matthew 24:1-3

As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:1-3

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” We do well to keep those words in mind as our attention now turns to the “end times” chapters of Matthew. Many of us will find we have to let go of some of the things we might have picked up on the way, maybe the things we remember learning as children. We have to unlearn before we can learn and that is hard.

First, let’s do the math. Jesus died and rose again somewhere near 30 CE. The gospel of Matthew was written somewhere between the early 70’s and mid-80’s CE. That is a long time. When Jesus was alive the temple in Jerusalem was the spiritual center of Jesus’ world, the central marketplace of the city, and a living testament to the power of the powerful. It was, in a very real sense, Herod’s temple. By the time Matthew was written, the temple had been destroyed by the Roman army and the people were devastated.

That requires me to unlearn the idea that Jesus was predicting the future. It requires that I learn to appreciate how Matthew is seeking to help all of us grapple with the question of “Now what?” when our previous hopes and expectations have been crushed. What does it mean that the temple has been destroyed? Where is God in that? What does it mean that Jesus was killed and rose again? Where is God in that?

I heard a great line the other day. Someone said, “Life is like learning math. When someone is teaching us math they present us with a set of problems. They don’t give us the answers, they help us learn how to work through the problems.” Isn’t that what is happening now in this text as the disciples pose their question to Jesus, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

In the face of their questions, rather than providing answers, maybe what Jesus does is provide a framework through which we can find our way through the problems. What next? Where are we going? What is going to happen? What do we do in the meantime?

Let’s let those questions linger in our minds as we move through these next two chapters.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we all want to see around the corners of life. We want to read the end of the story first. We want that edge, that insider information, that will give us a shortcut. Like children, we constantly ask from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Especially when life is hard and our path is full of obstructions. Give us the courage to be patient as we entrust the journey to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Matthew 24:1-3”

  1. Tim McGee Says:

    Great teaching. Thank you!

  2. Linda Schaal Mercer Bohls Says:

    I posted the prayer on my FB page – giving you credit. Fred Bohls replied “greet Kerry for me.”

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