Mark 13:28–31 ESV
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
As we near the end of this, the final speech of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, it’s worth remembering how it all got started.
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:1–4)
This little contextual clue—“When will these things happen?”—could save a lot of apocalyptic angst. Right up to today’s text, Jesus is responding to the disciples’ question about the destruction of the temple. He is not talking about the end of time. This is what the fig tree analogy is all about—understanding and interpreting the signs that indicate the imminent end of Jerusalem as they knew it.
So if this was all about the destruction of the temple in the first century, what on earth does it have to do with us? Nothing and everything. I think the clue is in the next and closing verses from today’s text.
“Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Jesus nailed it with his prophecy about the temple. The temple was brutally destroyed in AD 70. It happened in that very generation. On the day Jesus made the prophecy, no one in their right mind would have ever imagined the magnificent temple would come down. Jesus knew. All these years later, his words still stand. They witness to us of an event in history that has little bearing on our everyday lives, yet it has everything to do with it. Jesus’ words will never pass away. Everything Jesus said has been tested and it can be trusted. The words of Jesus offer the only ultimate security in existence. Everything else will pass away. World history proves it out. Consider how so many of the great societies and civilizations in the history of the world today lie in ruins. They have passed away and all that keeps them alive are the words of the tour guides. All the words of countless great and powerful leaders have all but passed away. They are recorded in books and taught in universities, but they are not alive. The teachings of the Buddha and Muhammad and Moroni continue to be treasured and revered by many, but they are as alive as the pages on which they are written.
The Word of God stands in a category of its own. The Word of God is living and active because the God of the Word is living and active. The words of Jesus will never pass away because Jesus will never pass away.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
A lot of people have wasted a lot of time trying to dismantle, deconstruct, and demythologize the words of Jesus, many of them self-avowed Christians with good intentions while others were satanic emissaries straight from hell. Their work and words always find their way to the ash heap of history. Those who stake their lives on the indestructible words of Jesus, though they die, yet shall they live and leave a legacy that lives on.
How about taking those thirteen words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,” and making them your mantra this week. Here’s a practical prompt: Anytime you begin to read anything whether it be online or on paper, recall these words and say them aloud: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isa. 40:8).
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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