While walking out of the temple, one of the disciples saw the buildings and said, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!” (Mark 13:1) The disciple was clearly impressed with the grandeur and seeming permanence of the architecture of the place.
Jesus’ response should be instructive. He correctly predicted that the temple would be destroyed. The destruction at the hands of the Roman army come some 40 years later.
I recently read these verses after reading a news story about the decline and possible bankruptcy of Sears, Roebuck and Company.
For baby boomers, Sears was an institution that no-one would have thought would ever fail. Seemingly every shopping mall had a Sears store in which just about anything that could be needed was available for purchase. How could they ever fail?
Similarly, in the Northeast US, where I live, there are many beautiful church buildings that are now museums, restaurants or art galleries.
My initial reaction is sadness that the church could fail in these locations. But then I am reminded of two things.
First, the church is not a building or an organizational structure. The church is a gathering of people redeemed by our Savior. The local organization may fail, but the church lives on in the believers that take up the legacy.
The second thing I need to keep in mind is that Jesus has taken on the responsibility for the building of his church (see Matthew 16:18) and no-one will be able to stop what Jesus wants to do. As a church leader this is comforting, because even if I mess up as a leader, I cannot derail God’s plan for the church.
So whether it is a seemingly indestructible temple that falls or a seemingly perennial institution like Sears or a beautiful old church that goes away, we don’t have to have our confidence shaken.
Jesus will build his church.