A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. It houses an incredible collection of paintings and statues created by the greats of the arts. I remember vividly walking into a room accommodating a solitary statue which, at first glance looked a little disappointing set amongst the treasures assaulting the senses in every room. The face and hair seemed ill-defined and looked unfinished. Yet, as I circled the figure reading the work of art was named, crouching boy, and created by none other than sculptor Michelangelo. It is suggested the boy kneeling down is pulling a thorn from his foot and as I arrived at the rear of the statue I was struck with wonder at how the sculptor had captured the agony of the boy, in the way he had created the moment etching the tension on every bone and muscle in the boys back. I was struck with wonder by a hunk of marble. Departing the temple for the day the disciples were having one of those moments of wonder at the grandeur and size of the temple. Hearing this Jesus predicts that the temple and the city will soon be rubble.
Later, sitting on the Mount of Olives, with a panoramic view of historic Jerusalem and the temple, his disciples ask him two questions. When will the temple be destroyed and when will Christ come and wrap everything up?
Jesus answers the first question about the actual temple when he describes the epic events of AD 70 in verses 15 – 28 when the temple will be destroyed by Emperor Titus. He and his armies laid siege to Jerusalem in April and by September of that year, the temple and Jerusalem had been destroyed.
But first Jesus talks to his disciples about his coming and the end of the age. He warns them, before his return, many false Christs will show up, wars will scar history, famines will blight communities, natural disasters such as earthquakes will shake the earth but, ‘This is routine history; this is no sign of the end’ as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message translation. (v6) He goes on to say the church will experience persecution from the outside and betrayal and indifference on the inside. However, set against this trouble comes a stunning encouragement and cast-iron promise.
“Staying with it—that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved. All during this time, the good news—the Message of the kingdom—will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come. – Matthew 24:13-14
Jesus is saying to his disciples, and through Matthew to us, don’t get distracted by trouble in the world, or trouble and indifference in the church. Don’t look for signs to predict his coming as no one knows not even him. ‘But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.’ (Matt 24:36). Don’t waste your time on all that stuff but, have a laser focus on sharing the good news of the Gospel everywhere you go with everyone you meet. People in every tribe and nation will respond to the message and then the end will come.
Lord, I pray for a greater love for the lost. Help me to rise up with the boldness provided by the Holy Spirit and seize the day believing that there are no “no-go” areas for you Lord. No people that cannot be reached. No chains that cannot be broken. So Lord, send me to bring the good news of your Kingdom, bringing light, hope and love wherever you send me. In Jesus’ name. Amen
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series