1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
3And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.7And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  Mark 13:1-13

Today is one of those days when being a disciple, being a follower of Jesus leaves me scratching my head and reconsidering my choices to be a part of Jesus’ Jerusalem journey.  There is no feel-good exchange and Jesus’ words don’t seem to offer a whole lot of hope.

Following Jesus around Jerusalem isn’t so bad when he is taking on the Pharisees and Sadducees and challenging the status quo or when he is teaching his disciples important lessons about fig trees and widows. But this? This is definitely a difficult moment to be a part of. A difficult lesson to absorb.

One of the disciples offers a seemingly innocuous observation about the beautiful buildings surrounding the temple. A comment about the wonderful stones that created such beautiful buildings. Jesus’ response seems strange, incongruous. He addresses not the beauty but the destruction of this beauty.

pillars still standing in Old Jerusalem (photo credit: Joe retsf on stock.xchng)
pillars still standing in Old Jerusalem
(photo credit: Joe retsf on stock.xchng)

It’s not all that surprising then that the next thing the disciples ask him is when. When is all of this going to happen? And how will they know it’s about to happen? We don’t know why they want to know these things because scripture doesn’t tell us, but as I sit here on the Mount of Olives with Peter, James, John and Andrew in the company of Jesus, part of me wonders if they aren’t at least a little bit hopeful that Jesus will tell them that this will all take place long after they have left this world for heaven.

Because, let’s face it, who wants to be around to see their world fall apart?

But as is his way, Jesus doesn’t answer their question. Instead, Jesus continues his dire predictions, painting what at first glance appear to be dark, foreboding pictures of suffering, of sadness, of ruin. Of the ruin of Jerusalem, of wars and disasters, of the suffering of his disciples because of their relationship with him.

I wonder if they question their decision to follow Jesus right now. Are they second guessing their choice? Because I am. Being singled out and being put on trial? Being betrayed by family and friends? Being hated, being flogged, maybe even dying? All because of Jesus?

I don’t know about Peter, James, John and Andrew, but that’s not what I was signing up for when I decided to follow Jesus. Not in that moment when he first showed up on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and said, Come, follow me. 

And certainly not when it came time to follow him to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with him. Until now, we’ve watched him heal, watched him cast out demons, watched him bring the dead back to life, watched him turn water into wine. It’s been miracle after miracle.

What happened to the Jesus of miracles? What happened to the Jesus of love and celebration? Where did the Jesus of compassion and hope go? Suddenly he’s the Jesus of doom, despair and dire predictions.

No, this is definitely not what I signed up for.

But here I sit.

When Jesus finishes speaking, we sit in silence, each with our own thoughts. I cannot help but wonder, what does all of this mean? Why is Jesus telling us this? Is Jesus painting as hopeless a picture for his followers as it appears?

As much as it may seem like it, I don’t think so.

Because for one thing, with Jesus there is always hope. No matter how dark the path, no matter how dire the circumstances, no matter what prison we are in or what trial we face, there is hope with Jesus. And the world can definitely use some hope.

Yes, this world filled with hate and hurting and pain definitely needs hope.

And there is hope in Jesus’ words. Even when those words describe suffering and death and darkness. The Good News will be shared. Disciples’ testimonies will come directly from God. Things will seem bleak, but those who endure will live.

In death there will be life.

In darkness there will be light.

In suffering there will be hope.

In Jesus there are all of these things. And more.

In Jesus there are all of these things and more because of his suffering. Because of his death. Because he defeated the darkness.

The Good News is that Jesus won.

The Good News is that Jesus wins. Every time. And that, that is definitely what I signed up for.

No matter the cost. No matter how little I understand sometimes. No matter what.

This is what I signed up for when he said, Come. Follow me.

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