The Stone That Will Stand Forever
Mark 13:1-13
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Jesus has just finished preaching and teaching in the temple. He will never visit it again. As He leaves for the last time before his death on the cross, one of His disciples points out the beauty and majesty of the buildings on the temple grounds as well the new construction in the temple area. Jesus replied that the day would come when someone would destroy the temple so that not one stone would be left on another. The fulfillment of this prophecy came in 70 AD when the Roman army laid waste to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.

Herod the Great had started the grand rebuilding of the temple several years before Jesus was born. It ended up being about an eighty year project. Every time that Jesus entered the temple - from the day of His presentation until the time of today’s Gospel - there had always been new construction. In fact, the builders finished remodeling the temple less than a decade before the Romans destroyed it.

The temple had a long history, in fact the instructions for the construction of both the temple and the tabernacle were given to Moses at Mount Sinai. The tabernacle and then the temple were the physical center of the Old Testament church. It was the place of sacrifice. The sacrifices reminded God’s people of their sin - that they were constantly offending God with their thoughts, words, and deeds. The sacrifices also reminded them of their Savior - the Savior who would one day come and save them from their sin.

Sermon for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, Nov. 18, 2012
The Stone That Will Stand Forever
Mark 13:1-13
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Jesus has just finished preaching and teaching in the temple. He will never visit it again. As He leaves for the last time before his death on the cross, one of His disciples points out the beauty and majesty of the buildings on the temple grounds as well the new construction in the temple area. Jesus replied that the day would come when someone would destroy the temple so that not one stone would be left on another. The fulfillment of this prophecy came in 70 AD when the Roman army laid waste to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.

Herod the Great had started the grand rebuilding of the temple several years before Jesus was born. It ended up being about an eighty year project. Every time that Jesus entered the temple - from the day of His presentation until the time of today’s Gospel - there had always been new construction. In fact, the builders finished remodeling the temple less than a decade before the Romans destroyed it.

The temple had a long history, in fact the instructions for the construction of both the temple and the tabernacle were given to Moses at Mount Sinai. The tabernacle and then the temple were the physical center of the Old Testament church. It was the place of sacrifice. The sacrifices reminded God’s people of their sin - that they were constantly offending God with their thoughts, words, and deeds. The sacrifices also reminded them of their Savior - the Savior who would one day come and save them from their sin.

As we look at the temple in view of the life of Jesus, we see that the temple and its ceremonial law were foreshadowing the reality of Jesus Christ. Jesus with His holy life, His innocent suffering and death, His resurrection, and His ascension were the perfect fulfillment of the promises set forth in the teachings and ceremonies of the temple.

This means that the temple’s job was almost over. A few days after today’s Gospel, the sky would grow dark as the Son of God hung suspended on a cross. He would shout in victory, “It is finished!” Then, He would die, the earth would shake, and the curtain in the temple would be torn. Then the job of the temple would be over.

When we understand that the job of the temple was to point to Christ, we can understand why Jesus was more concerned for His church than for His temple.  And so when the disciples asked about the future of the temple, Jesus talked about the future of the church. Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” Instead of responding with information about the temple, Jesus warned them about their own future: “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” Jesus’ words have been true for every generation from that day on.

We have plenty of would be messiahs even today. Sun Myung Moon who claimed to be the Messiah just passed away this year. Jim Jones claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and actually convinced his followers to drink Kool Aid laced with poison. Some of you may remember that David Koresh of the Branch Davidians claimed to be the Messiah. All of these have one thing in common. They are teaching about a false christ.

The fringe cults and sects seem to have enough false christs to go around, but those fringe cults and sects aren’t the only fulfillment’s of Christ’s prophecy in today’s Gospel. Even churches that claim to be part of main line Christianity lead people astray. Ebenezer Lutheran Church of San Francisco, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, openly prays to a goddess. Their version of the Lord’s Prayer begins with these words: “Our Mother who is within us we celebrate your many names. Your wisdom come. Your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us.” Jesus spoke of spiritual decay. And that spiritual decay can occur even in the church when people live lives of open unrepentant homosexuality, of open drunkenness, or even to live as idolaters, who worship the God who is within them. These things occur in the Church when people set aside God’s loving Word and witness and allow people to live lives however they wish.

After Jesus warned about the false christs, He warned of persecutions. It is not enough for the false christs to lead people away from the truth, but they must also persecute those who remain faithful. Jesus warns that people will turn against their own relatives: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” At another time, Jesus even warned, (John 16:2) “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

Suffering, persecution, death … why would anyone want to deal with this? Why not give up and go with the culture that persecutes us? Remember the words of the Introit today, The antiphon says “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” This is a promise that is repeated by Jesus at the end of today’s gospel lesson.

Today’s Gospel began with the temporary stones of the temple. Those stones cannot save, but there is a stone that can save us. Psalm 118:22-23 22 say “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; and it is marvelous in our eyes.”

The Temple authorities rejected this stone with extreme prejudice. They arrested Him and arranged to have Him beaten and crucified. As He hung on the cross, it looked as if His end was near. As He died on the cross, it looked like his end had come. As His cold body lay in the tomb, it looked like His end had passed.

His suffering and death was an end, but it was not His end. It was the end of our bonds to sin. It was the end of the condemnation and guilt that our sin earned. It was the end of death’s reign in this world. For the stone that was placed to hold him in the grave has been rolled away, and He arose from the dead to live forever.

You were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.  Baptized so that in the words of our old testament lesson, “that your name may be written into the book of life (Dan 12:1).” You have been baptized with the blood of Christ and your sins are no more. You do not have to try to please God with your sacrifices as the people did in the Old Testament. For in Christ’s death and resurrection there is forgiveness (Heb 10:17-18).  The Savior that the Old Testament church had waited for had come. His blood was the perfect sacrifice that was once and for all people. And his death and resurrection gives to you believers the promise of eternal life.  So even when things look as if they are coming to an end, even when your body begins to give way, you can trust in the  promise of our Lord and Savior. 

For Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, he is the Rock of Ages. Those who believe in Him, believe in the only stone that will last forever. They believe in the living stone who is the foundation of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Remember the words of the psalm, it said “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” The one who believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior from their sin is the one who will endure to the end and will be saved.

All things on this earth come to an end. Today’s Gospel talks of the beautiful buildings of the temple. That temple has been replaced by a Muslim Mosque, and there will be a time when that mosque will also be gone. Eventually, even the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars will all be gone. Only Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages will remain to preserve us. Those who followed the false prophets of this world will remain without salvation but Those who endured in the one true faith who believe that the sacrifices of the Old Testament have been replaced with Jesus, the true atoning sacrifice once for all will be saved. Amen

 

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