Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s passage is Mark 13:1-8, where the Bible tells us what happened in Jerusalem during Holy Week.   

And as [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And 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.”

And as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For 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.


Do you remember the 60’s song by Aaron Neville, “Tell It Like It Is?” It was smooth and soulful. It invited those in love to “tell it like it is” and to let “conscience be your guide.” But, truth be told, people as a rule don’t like to “tell it like it is,” and they don’t like to hear the whole truth much either. Why? First, truth often hurts. It reminds us of the reality of the sinfulness of our world and, worse, the deeper reality of our own sinful hearts. The truth shines God’s exposing light on the hidden shadows of our own sinful pride, lust, and selfish desires. Secondly, truth often exposes our incapacity to do what we know we should do. Unfortunately, when our consciences and even God’s Law rightly guide us and “tell us what to do,” we often don’t do it when it matters most. Think about the all-too-common failures of our heartfelt New Year’s Eve resolutions! We often can’t do what is best for ourselves or what is best for others, even when they need it most. St. Paul reminds us of the deeper problem which resides within us when he says in Romans 7,

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

But, thankfully, there is an answer even then. When our “kingdom building efforts fail,” already present is God’s enduring Kingdom of Grace in Jesus Christ. Yes, we need to be told how things really are. But in the face of our own sin and inability, we especially need to go to a source upon which we can rely, a source that has our best interests at heart. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, it is Jesus’ activity finally come to fruition in His suffering, death, and resurrection, that is what is enduringly wonderful and beautiful for all.

The disciples were amazed at the beautiful temple buildings in Jerusalem. They were amazed at what human beings could do. So they go to Jesus to “tell it like it is.” Jesus shatters their confidence when he predicts the coming destruction of those beautiful buildings and ultimately points them to what only God can and does do for them by grace. They, like us, need to hear that our best efforts are not a reliable source for what we ultimately need. Jesus points to the finest building efforts of their day and tells the disciples that it will all amount to nothing when it really counts. It’s much the same today. No government program, no technological algorithm, and no new “must have” human invention can overcome our greatest needs. Human sin and human brokenness ultimately need a Savior, not a politician, economist, entrepreneur, or tech guru. Jesus continues to “tells it like it is,” even when those things come crumbling down, reminding us that even then, there is a God in heaven who brings the joys of salvation and rescue to fruition. These earthly birth pains will lead into a new, enduring world of righteousness and peace which is what God can bring about amidst the incapacity and inabilities of our best efforts then and now. As Paul reminds us in Romans 7:24-25, and Roman 8:1,

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!....There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Let that be your confidence and your guide in all things.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, tell it like it is for us so that our faith rests in You alone. Then lead us into lives of truth and grace towards others until that day when we see You face to face! AMEN.

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