Biblea biblical reflection, based on Mark 13.1-2, for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, November 15, 2015

One of Jesus’ disciples marvels at the magnificence of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus prophesies its destruction.[1]

Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple, Alexandre Bida, 1874

Why this stern response?

In its original time and place, Jesus’ stinging riposte, I think, was his way to explain and expand on his previous action of cleansing the Temple.[2]

The Merchants Chased from the Temple (Les vendeurs chassés du Temple), James Tissot, 1886-1894

In that holy place, Jesus found money changers and sellers of pigeons. The coin of the Roman Empire, not acceptable for Temple offerings, had to be exchanged and the birds were needed for ritual sacrifices. However these necessary acts of commerce camouflaged the greed of overpricing and overcharging, fleecing the faithful who sought to satisfy their religious obligations. Jesus, outraged, drove the changers and sellers out.

Answering his disciple’s “Wow!” at the grandeur of the Temple, Jesus said, “Not one stone will be left upon another. All will be thrown down.” This is an awe-filled and awful word. When something no longer fulfills its purpose, it is set for ruin.

Jesus’ message also embraces an ageless truth, applicable in all times and places, expressed in the Latin phrase, sic transit gloria mundi, thus passes the glory of the world.

Nothing in this world endures forever. No building. Nobody.

Nevertheless, one aspect of the human quest, I believe, is the search for that which lasts. Relating to the inexorable deterioration of buildings, I think of Jesus’ comforting word, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,”[3] and regarding the inevitable decay of my body, I recall the Apostle Paul’s assurance, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”[4]

In the meantime, in my living, in my pilgrimage toward my eventual dying, my soul rests in the belief of the permanence, throughout all generations, of love and compassion, truth and beauty, goodness and kindness. And in my time in this life in this world, whene’er I see these things in others and in myself, there I behold the unmistakable presence and unmitigated power of the eternal.

Illustrations: Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple, Alexandre Bida (1874) and The Merchants Chased from the Temple (Les vendeurs chassés du Temple), James Tissot (1886-1894)


[1] In the year 70 of the Common Era, during the First Jewish-Roman War, the Roman army besieged and conquered Jerusalem, sacking the city and destroying the Second Temple (erected to succeed the First Temple, which had been built by King Solomon in 957 Before the Common Era and destroyed by the Babylonian army in 586 BCE).

[2] Mark 11.15-17

[3] John 14.2

[4] 2 Corinthians 5.1

2 thoughts on “permanence

  1. So I read the title of this reflection Paul, and instantly thought… “is there such a thing as permanence?” I thought that of course as I, along with the rest of the world, watch CNN as details of the latest terrorist attacks in Paris unfold. People who were enjoying a concert, or a dinner, who may have thought their lives still had many years to go, suddenly lost their lives in a second. Their enjoyment and happiness falling far short of permanence.

    Then I got to the last paragraph of the post where you speak of the things that are permanent through generations, “love and compassion, truth and beauty, goodness and kindness”. I’m sure that through all the horror and suffering (from your last series), tonight in Paris, there will be many stories of truth and beauty, goodness and kindness of folks trying to help each other, and comfort each other. Tragedy always seems to bring out the BEST in humans, and I pray that that remains a “permanent” fixture in our lives, because it certainly seems as if horrific things we do to each other will also remain permanent.

    “The search for what lasts” is one of the things I’ll remember most about this post. I’m wracking my brain to think of the things that may qualify… I love buildings, especially old buildings and the amazing architectural beauty they hold. I’m gratified by the fact that even if buildings deteriorate, we will always have “a building from God” that will shelter us. That’s a very comforting thing, on a night like tonight when there’s lots of suffering and very little permanence. Thank you for this!


  2. Loretta, a moment after posting this blog piece I heard and read of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Immediately, as is my normative reaction to such terrible shocks to all human kindness, I was sickened down to the core of my being in my bowels. Still, I trust, I cleave to the permanence of love and beauty. I have to do this. I must. For if I give in to my despair, my sense of hopelessness in the face of the seemingly indefatigable violence in the world, the indefatigable violence in the souls of human beings, I will die.


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