Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 13th (Mark 13:1-13) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
This morning our Lord leaves the Temple never to return. It is a sad day in the midst of a Holy Week. Years ago, Joseph and Mary brought their little Yeshua, just 6 weeks old, to this temple that they might offer sacrifice. There was joy in Israel that day as Simeon cradled the infant Messiah, taking Him up in his arms and singing his Nunc Dimmittis. “Lord lettest now Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation!” The God whom the world seeks had suddenly come to His Temple. The year of the LORD’s favor had come. The kind heart of our God had appeared in the flesh.
But this morning, Jesus leaves the temple never to return. It is a sad day. Simeon is gone. He has received his peace, Anna as well. She now dwells in the temple of the Lord all the days of her life. The crowds listen but do not believe. The Scribes and Pharisees test and tempt him even while they plot together with the Herodians behind his back. The hustle and bustle of religiousity, preparations for ceremonies, rituals, and festal banquets has filled the temple grounds with the noise of ignorance. Jesus leaves the temple because there is no longer any reason to stay. His departure is the temple’s desolation.
And then speak his disciples, who voice the ignorance of a nation, “Teacher, behold what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” Isn’t that just like humanity? To completely miss what’s going on! To be caught up in the energy of the crowds! To be engulfed with the fervor of the day! To glory in that which cannot give life. It’s as if they were saying, “Look, Jesus! Look at what we can do for God!” Look at how grand we can create! Look at how magnificent we can design! Look at how regal we can stand stone upon stone reaching to the heavens, all for God. “Behold what manner of stones and what buildings are here!”
“Do you see these buildings? Not one stone shall be left standing upon another that shall not be thrown down.” Stone cannot give life. Man’s efforts cannot reach the heavens. Humanity’s endeavors cannot earn God’s favor. Jesus leaves the temple, because the temple and the nation have rejected him. They did not recognize the day of the Lord’s visitation. They were not like Simeon or Anna. They did not take Him up in their hearts and swaddle His Word with faith. They turned a deaf ear. And that which they glory in shall be overturned one stone at a time. Jerusalem itself shall be overturned one stone at a time. And, you know what . . . it happened. In 70 AD Titus fulfilled our Lord’s Word.
What happened to Jerusalem is a sign of the end, the end of Rome, the end of Wittenberg, the end of Washington D.C., the end of Lansing, the end of the World. Where God’s Word is not received there are wars and rumors of wars. Nations rise against nation and kingdoms against kingdoms. Children rise up against their parents and Christians are persecuted. These are the signs of the end and they are all around us. But even with all of this going on in our midst, even as the stones humanity has erected are being torn down, taken away, removed from their place in our hearts, there is a greater danger to your soul.
Jesus says, “Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my Name saying I am He and will deceive many.” You see, beloved, the greatest danger to your soul is not war, not rebellious teenagers, not the political activism of liberal ideologues. The greatest danger to your soul is not the troubling economy, not the warming of the planet, or lack thereof. Its not swine flu, or the actions of Muslim terrorists. The greatest danger to your soul is the teaching, the doctrine, of deceivers.
And when Jesus warns you about something you had better take note, write it down, fix your mind on it, and make sure you understand what He’s trying to say to you. Because if unheeded, these deceivers can lead you to hell! That’s where the deception of false teachers always leads – HELL! Because such doctrine, teaching, and preaching leads you away from Christ, away from His cross, His Word and His means of Grace.
The doctrine of deceivers says, “Don’t look there, look over here for Jesus. He’s in your heart! He’s in your mind! He’s in your works for your neighbor, the stones of good things you stack one upon another for God to see and then reward you accordingly. Don’t look in bread and wine! Don’t look in water! Don’t listen to the voice of your pastor, or the Sunday school teacher. Don’t fix your heart on the bible. No! Instead, listen to your heart. Look for him in more glorious things! Look for Him in your praises. Look for Him in your emotions, your experiences, your daily deeds done to your neighbor. And then, when all is said and done, step back and see what manner of stones you’ve built in your life. See how good you really are.”
And Jesus says, “Do you see these stones? Not one stone will be left upon another that is not thrown down!” Beloved, to listen to false doctrine is to ignore the truth. To listen to deceivers is to endanger your soul. To listen for and look for Christ in places that He has not promised to be is to be led away from heaven and further down the path towards eternal FIRE.
Jesus leaves the temple this morning never to return. The Jews have rejected Him and put their hopes in the stones they have stacked. But their rejection is not yet complete. It is not enough to ignore His Words. They must silence His voice. Their temple built with hands cannot compete with God’s tabernacle. There is not room for two in Israel. This stone must be cast out. Christ Jesus, the rock of our salvation was examined by the scribes and chief priests. He was found lacking, found blasphemous, found to be worthy of death. He was examined and He was judged. The builders of a temple of stone, took Him, weighed Him, beat Him, striped Him, bruised Him, placed a dead tree on His shoulders and tossed Him, and drove Him, and pushed Him toward Golgotha where they nailed Him and mocked Him, and spit upon Him, and pierced Him dead. The glory of Israel hung in humiliation for the sins of the world, both Jew and Gentile, for the sons of Abraham both Isaac and Ishmael, for the slave and the free, for every man and every woman, for you and me.
But Jesus is the greater Temple. He is the temple not made with Hands, but the tabernacle of God in the flesh. “Destroy this temple not made with hands and in three days I will raise it up,” He said. And three days later, the stone which the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone. For He was weighed, measured, and examined, not by scribes and priests, but by His Father in Heaven. The Jews declared Him a blasphemer. Pilate called Him King. But the Father received Him as the New Adam, perfect, righteous, and Holy, as His only-begotten Son, who in love offered Himself for the sins, the rejection, the rebellion of the people who crucified Him, even you and me.
The Greater Temple rose from the Dead! The Greater Temple cannot be destroyed. His voice cannot be silenced. His heart cannot be stilled. His will cannot be thwarted. His Love cannot be withheld. But He must speak, He must forgive! He must be merciful. He must show compassion. He is the greater temple in the flesh – not for Himself but for humanity! Behold what manner of life Christ gives through His Word and Sacraments! Behold the works of God in His Son!
To behold Him we must believe Him. To believe Him we must hear Him. To hear Him we must have a preacher preaching His Word. Faith comes by hearing. And if you and I are to be a people of faith, a people who have been grafted into Christ through baptism then we must be a hearing people, a people fixed on the Word of Christ and the means of His grace! Jesus warns us of deceivers bringing a deceitful word because they do not bring His Word. With such a ruckus all around us it is easy for these teachers of human opinion, these professors of false hope, to secure for themselves a crowd of hurting souls. Despite all of the noise going on in the world, your ears must listen to the voice of your God. Do not listen for the whisper in the wind. Do not look deep within yourself. Do not go out into the woods looking for God in the trees, or the animals. Do not look up into the heavens hoping beyond hope to grasp that which is surely out of reach. No, behold with faith the Christ who is in His Word. In Jesus, God has come down to you. God has taken on flesh for you. God has promised to be in His Word, in His baptism and in His Supper for you. These are sure and certain in a world torn by sin, ravaged by war, full of doubt, plagued by fear, looking for hope, wanting to change, needing to repent, but refusing to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, refusing to turn and be saved, refusing to recognize the day of their visitation.
Beloved in the Lord, the disciples in our text gloried in the work of man. “Look at these stones! Look at what we can do when we put our minds to it.” Jesus dashes their false hopes and their false glories. The only glory for God’s people on this side of eternity is the cross. Behold the work of God! Behold His passion, His love, His never ending mercy. Behold the destruction of the temple of God and on the third day His resurrection! Here is life for the world. Here is merits that last unto eternity. Here is Christ, the Word made flesh, the Son of God, the Child of Mary. Here He is, right where He’s promised to be . . . for you . . .to forgive you . . . to love you . . .to preserve you from the coming judgment upon the earth.
Watch out beloved. Beware! Take Heed! Don’t let the Savior’s exhortation fall on deaf ears. Be a hearing people, a people of the WORD, a people whose glory is not the works of their hands, but the one who pierced His hands for you on the Cross.
And when they arrest you, and when they betray, and when you are handed over to councils, when your life is threatened on account of Christ – blessed is the one who clings to Christ like a burr on their pant leg! Blessed is the one who endures to the end – he shall indeed be saved! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ, Jesus. AMEN!