The disciples saw that the temple was being rebuilt. And Jesus had a teachable moment
This week's reading from Mark 13:1-8 is the beginning of what is known as the "little apocalypse" because of its end-times sound and understood Jesus' unveiling of future events. The "Left Behind" book series and movies as well as the 1970's 'Thief in the Night" movie series rely on this passage as one that reveals Christ's return.
The books and movies (OK – I should really call them "Direct to video releases" to comment on the filmmaking quality –but that wouldn't be nice.) use fear as an excellent motivator to get the readers and viewers to change their ways and become a follower of Jesus (or face certain punishment and death.)
I don't see it in this passage.
Instead I see a scene (recalled and written around the time of the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE) where Jesus points out trouble brewing and how the things the disciples thought were stable and safe (like the huge stones used in the temple) weren't. He sparked a curiosity in the disciples, who sought "insider information" about what Jesus really meant and when it would all happen.
And here's where I miss why so many use this passage to scare the, ummm , hell out of people.
Jesus talks about things getting bad. He says that some will come claiming to be "the one" and they'll lead many in the wrong direction. He says that there will be wars and earthquakes and famines.
But he also tells the disciples not to be afraid.
Jesus was (and is) smart. He knew that violence and hunger and poverty and natural disasters would exist all through humanity's existence. He knew that things would and could get worse too. But he still told the disciples to move ahead without fear.
(Note that Jesus also didn't describe any of the violence as something that God orchestrates. We're good at getting angry and pointing our buns and tanks and bombs at each other. If only we would just stop.)
As we ponder this week's little apocalypse, let's look not with fear or apathy or hopelessness. Instead let's move forward without fear to trust God and to, of course, continue to follow those two rules. Do you remember? They're valid any day and any time in any situation.
- Love God
- Love others.