What makes something strong? Is steel strong because of its ability to withstand stress from many directions? Is wood strong because of its ability to absorb impact while remaining intact? Is the material of a spider’s web strong because of its tensile strength-to-weight ratio? Things are strong for many reasons. The temple in Jerusalem was thought to be stronger and more permanent than anything, yet Jesus says in Mark, “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down” (Mark 13:2). Jesus shows hearers that true strength is not built upon the oppression of widows (Mark 12:41-44).
Many of the world’s most prized structures are built on the shoulders of the poor and oppressed. How many homes in poorer areas of cities have been destroyed by the need for a new or wider highway? How many workers living in poverty died building the Golden Gate or Brooklyn Bridges, the Hoover Dam or the Empire State Building? In order for human beings to build structures of great strength, they must rely on sacrifice and compromise. Can any human standard of strength be achieved without making something else weak?
Real strength, however, is not shown in things built by human hands. Real strength is found in the hands themselves. True strength is shown in workers reporting to work day after day in impossible conditions because it’s the only way to feed their family. It is shown by an entire community of God’s people linking their trembling hands as they share the “confession of our hope without wavering” (Heb. 10:23). The new, true temple, Jesus’ faithful strength, succumbs in weakness to human-made nails. While the nails lie rusting away, the wounded hands and body rise again to break bread with all on the journey down the path of life.
Gospel: Mark 13:1-8
In the last week of his life, Jesus warned his disciples concerning trials that were to come upon them and upon the world. He exhorts the listener: Do not be alarmed.
1As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”