25th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 28) LSB #’s 730, 645, 587
Text – Mark 13:1-2
As He was leaving the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” Jesus replied. “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
NOT ONE STONE
On September 11th of 2001 – jet airplanes were hijacked & flown into the World Trade Center towers. To all the New Yorkers who lived there before that day, the skyline of New York City will never look the same. Those towers were the defining characteristic of the city’s skyline. They were massive & impressive beyond anything else ever built there.
Even after they were gone people could hardly believe it was possible. Engineers & architects took to their computers to figure out if it was mathematically conceivable. And in record numbers men, women & children across America took to their religion to discover if it was possible to find hope or comfort there.
It was a short-lived revival. In remote parts of the country, like North Dakota, the short-lived version never even took place. That’s because New York City is so far removed from their day-to-day existence, it’s as if NYC is on a different planet. In the rest of the country, as life returned to normal, not one stone of that religious revival has been left upon another.
Too many people think that God’s Word has nothing to do with their day-to-day lives. It’s pie in the sky & ivory tower kind of stuff; idealistic, & just as un--real--istic. In times of great catastrophe people are almost forced to religion out of confusion & terror, but once they get a grip on things they go right back to relying upon themselves.
They think you can’t heat the house with God’s Word, you can’t pay college tuition with it, & you can’t base your retirement plan on it. And even if people don’t openly say such things about God’s Word, they certainly live as if they’re true. The majority of Christians even, actually live as if they have very little confidence in God’s Word & wonder if they really can trust in it. The serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say…?” & then Eve doubted the truth of God’s Word. So did Adam. And ever since, mankind has been cursed with doubts about the usefulness of Holy Scripture. You & I are no exception.
For example, do you worry about where the economy is headed? Do you fear the loss of the familiar routine of your way of life? Are you concerned about what the future holds for your children or grandchildren? Maybe you struggle with doubting God’s Promises!
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life & the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22 NIV)
Is God’s Word unfruitful in your life? If you believe the Bible’s teachings are unrealistic & out of touch with the real world, I’d suggest that Holy Scripture is unfruitful for you. Worrying about your life will make God’s Promises unfruitful.
Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NASB) Do you worry about things? Of course you do, & you struggle with doubting God’s promises. All of us do!
Each one struggles with unbelief in some way or another, because all of us are still 100% sinner. Sinful people naturally reject what God says. That is a fact of our condition. The key to our predicament is, “Who has overcome our condition for us?” It’s certainly not the massive stones or magnificent buildings of the sermon text.
The disciples of Jesus were obviously impressed with them & no doubt found great pride & a sense of permanence there. Sort of like people of our nation look at the White House or the Pentagon & think, what magnificent buildings & how proud we are of their beauty.
Then Jesus bursts the bubble of His disciples. He tells them, that of those magnificent
buildings, not one stone would be left upon another. And these weren’t your ordinary cement blocks that Jesus was talking about. Many of those stones were 25 feet long, 18 feet wide & 9 feet high, yet not one of them would be left upon another.
The disciples couldn’t believe it. They doubted Jesus’ word because they were unable to comprehend the scale of the destruction He was predicting, especially since they did not want to believe Him. They found comfort, security & pride in those massive stone buildings. They felt good about themselves because of what their people had accomplished there.
So here comes Jesus, tearing down their accomplishments & the source of their pride. It’s like ridiculing the dress that your prom date is wearing. It’s not a nice thing to do, unless you realize that what we’re talking about here is idolatry.
For the meaning of the 1st Commandment, Luther wrote, “We should fear, love & trust in God above all things,” even above the magnificent creations of mankind, & even above the church buildings that we worship in.
The disciples didn’t know it then, but the magnificent & awe inspiring Temple that they & Jesus were talking about, would in less than 40 years be destroyed by the Romans so that not one stone was left upon another. The Jews had been worshipping their Temple above the true God, so He removed the temple from them.
What might God remove from our lives? Is there anything that you hold in higher esteem than your Lord & Savior? Do you really trust in all of God’s Word above all things? Or, do you worry what’ll happen if St. Matthew Lutheran church disappears?
Is your home your castle, or is Christ the Rock in which you take refuge from the trials of life? Do you find more comfort in the Words of God, or in the approval of your family &
friends? Satan will use even those blessings to lead us away from salvation.
As the Gospel reading ends, Jesus gives some rather severe predictions concerning family & friends. He says fathers will betray their children to death, & children their parents. Have you considered how abortion & euthanasia fit those predictions quite well? Yet the pro-choice groups make them sound so logical, so acceptable, so reassuring; so worthy of our trust.
The point of today’s Gospel reading is this, “Where do you place your trust?” Do you place it in the science & the creations of mankind? Or, do you place your trust in the Words & promises of God, however far-fetched & unrealistic they might seem? Are you living by the sight of faith, or living by the sight of your worldly, physical eyes?
If you see the works that your hands have made & relax in a feeling of success, you may be like the rich fool whose life God took from him one night. If you look at the disintegration of our culture around you & you lose all hope & become discouraged with despair, then you are like Judas who gave up on Christ & killed himself.
Our Savior calls you & me to a sure & certain hope. He calls us to a hope more permanent than the most massive & extravagant building. That’s why Jesus tears down what we so stubbornly build up. The Law is meant to tear out every prop we build up under ourselves. We doubt God’s Word because we would rather trust our own efforts & common sense.
But those efforts & our wisdom only lead to destruction, where not even one stone is left upon another. Yet through Christ, we receive a kingdom that can never be shaken, though all the world & even the heavens may be falling & collapsing around us. He who stands firm to the end will be saved, & Christ is the Rock upon which our life everlasting is built.
Our lives can be shaken by illness or disaster yet God will not be shaken. Christ Jesus is the same yesterday & today & forever. The OT lesson tells us that at the end of time,
Michael, the great Archangel, will arise & protect God’s people. In spite of those times of
distress, greater than anything the world has ever seen, everyone whose name is written in the book of life will be delivered.
The picture is one of such certainty that God has already written the history! Our salvation, our rescue, our forgiveness is so assured that God Himself has already recorded it as done! His only begotten Son, the Creator of all that exists, has declared that your sins are as white as snow.
Even if Satan himself were elected as our next president, God’s declaration of your forgiveness cannot be erased. On Judgment Day, there will be no recall votes. Only God’s vote will count & in your Baptism Christ elected you as His own, for all of eternity.
In the coming weeks, months or years, whenever doubts & fears assail you, remember what Jesus has done, because He will be faithful unto the very end, & you will be saved. God’s Son will leave not one stone unturned in His search for those who are lost, or confused or hurting. Every sin you & I have ever committed was paid for on the cross.
It is possible to find peace, comfort & hope in that. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Sing verse 1 of LSB 645.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet