Sunday, June 29, 2008

Matthew 24:1-3


1 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He said to them, ``Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.'' 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ``Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?''

This is a fascinating interaction between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus, standing outside the magnificent Temple, says that this Temple will be utterly destroyed. The disciples come back at Him with 3 questions: 1. When will the Temple be destroyed? 2. What will be the sign of Your coming again in glory? 3. What will be the sign of the end of the age?

Let's begin by rehearsing Jesus' answer: 20 ``But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 ``Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23 ``Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21:20-24

Jesus' answer is: the Temple will be destroyed WHEN you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies. This happened around 66 A.D. The Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem and when the capture of the city proved to be more difficult than expected, they sent out for more supplies. It was during this time that those who heeded Jesus' warning, actually fled the city to save their lives. There is a well-founded Jewish tradition that the followers of Jesus did flee the city during the time of re-supplying the troops and not one Messianic believer in Jesus died in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman General, Titus.

This prophecy was fulfilled in a close enough time period where people could actually see its fulfillment. The other two questions have a long-term nature to them and very difficult to understand for sure.

Matthew 23:37-39


37 ``Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 ``Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 ``For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, `BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!' ''

I love the Old City of Jerusalem. When we share Israel with people, we always begin in the Galilee area and then move south and up to Jerusalem. Entering that city is one of the most dramatic experiences to me. I have entered Jerusalem well over 100 times and I never have lost the thrill of it.

Yet in the 1st Century, Jerusalem was even more magnificent! Herod's Temple must have been a most amazing site to behold with all of its gold and splendor!

I can imagine Jesus looking over the city with His heart filled with grief and compassion and saying those words above. He had presented Himself as God's Messiah, yet was rejected like so many of God's prophets who were sent before. His heart is broken and He knows the coming destruction of this grand city and its people is drawing near (70 A.D.).

Then Jesus makes a curious statement , "you will not see Me until you say, BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD." Or, you will not see Me again until you welcome Me as God's Messiah for you. There is an interesting progression of passages throughout the prophets that all speak of the Jewish people (following their leadership) committing one primary sin and that sin is the rejection of God's Messiah. Then the Prophet Hosea presents the words of God saying, "I will go away (from earth) and return to My place (heaven). Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face. In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me." And then Jesus makes this statement in Matthew that they will not see Him again until they are ready to welcome Him to return. Whatever this all means in the days ahead, you can be assured that it is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to be ready and willing to welcome Him back as God's Messiah, His Deliverer, for us.

In other words, the emphasis of our lives must be to pay attention to the present-the nasty now and now-and not hyperventilate or speculate on the future of when Jesus will return. He is coming back, but that's his business. Our business is to be ready by being faithful to him.