Jesus may not be describing a dystopian future to fear as he is describing the real world in which we live. He is calling a thing what it is: the world is violent and unfair; full of forces more powerful than us we cannot control. Our present day news cycle reminds us of how dangerous and fragile the world is.
This scene takes place as Jesus and the disciples leave the Temple after a few days of teaching and calling out the hypocrisy and corruption of the religious establishment. The cross on Good Friday is only days away. The disciples comment that the buildings are beautiful – a hope built in stone that God is near and they will be God’s people forever. Jesus tells them that the Temple will be razed, the things built by human hands will pass away and all they take for granted will be destroyed. The birth pangs are coming.
What is the message?
Fear? Wrath? Helplessness?
Trust God. Especially when the world is on fire and everything we know seems to be shattering into pieces…
Our sense of permanence is broken into pieces every time our temples lay in ruins.
Our sense of control is thwarted by every new disaster; every new tragedy; every new horror unleashed into the world.
Our sense of justice is challenged every time the innocent suffer and the guilty go free; the impoverished are squeezed as the greedy are rewarded; and the oppressors get away with exploiting the vulnerable.
Nature threatens us.
People threaten us.
Change threatens us.
Jesus does not teach us to avoid suffering or how to escape from life when it challenges our false sense of stability, security and scrutiny. He shows us how to face it when it feels like the sky is falling by living for others.
Do not be afraid. Pray. Act.
God is with you no matter what destructiveness threatens you. Jesus raises you to be part of a new community that brings life to a dying world. Stay attentive to today and all its troubles. Then love your neighbor with everything you’ve got.