|The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, Daniel Roberts, 1850|
Week 5, Day 4, The Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 24
Today we are reading an extremely controversial bit of Scripture. For many Christians, especially evangelicals, this chapter is interpreted as a warning or prophecy about the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ. However, I don't think the warning Jesus was giving had much to do with that event.
Almost every event described in Matthew 24 actually took place before AD 70. Even the expression "the Gospel will be preached to the whole world," is used by Luke in the book of Acts to describe the preaching of the Apostles at Pentecost. Jesus is warning his followers about one of the worst events in the history of Jerusalem. It will be this warning that will save many followers of Jesus' lives when that event takes place. That event will cause many followers of Jesus to flee the city and move elsewhere, taking this faith to the ends of the world. The destruction of the second temple in AD 70 was a physical representation of something Jesus taught about for His entire ministry.
Take it outside
At the beginning of the chapter, the disciples are marveling at the size of the temple. For these guys, most of whom were fishermen from the country, this would have been the most amazing structure they would have ever seen. The size of these buildings, their gold decorations, and the weight of the symbolism contained within the Temple would have been almost overwhelming to these men and women. Jesus knows that, and again reminds them the whole temple system is about to be obsolete.
For too long, religion tried to keep God behind walls. Walls are Jesus' enemy number one. He continues to affirm a more inclusive, loving, and unconditional form of faith than any teacher prior to Him. He is asking His followers to not be so easily impressed by the glitz and glamour of man-made systems when the Love of God is much more impressive. It can't be contained.
Take it outside
When we see beautiful buildings, flashy cars, and giant homes we can be easily impressed. None of those things matter in the long run. All of those things will one day be torn down, crushed, or burned. When we waste our times on the temporal, we lose chances to take part in the eternal. Every one we meet is an eternal being, and they deserve the respect that comes with their identity. Every one we meet is already loved by a love that can't be kept behind walls and rituals.
Walls need to be torn down. Walls between races, walls between classes, walls between religious groups. We made these walls, and Jesus can tear them down. The temple is an example we should look to for God's continual movement towards people. He doesn't want us to try to contain Him.
Be amazed by relentless love.