This year I’ve started using the Moravian Daily Texts to guide my reading of and meditation on Scripture. The following is a little devotional thought I wrote for 3DM’s Facebook page on today’s New Testament passage (Matthew 24:1-25).
[The painting above is The Stoning of St Stephen – After the last stone, by Gordon Shepherdson. More info here.]
Matthew 24:1-25 is a bit of a prophetic bi-focal lens. Jesus’ disciples ask him two questions, 1) when the temple will be destroyed and 2) what the signs will be of the end of the age. Jesus gives one answer to both questions: there will be wars, earthquakes, famine, persecution, apostasy, deception, distress, etc.
So are those the signs of the destruction of the temple or the end of the age? Yes, Jesus seems to be saying. It would be easy to dismiss this passage as “not for us” because it seems to be either referring to an event that already happened (destruction of the temple), or one that oftentimes feels way out there in the future (the “end of the age”).
But the kinds of things Jesus talks about in this passage are very current realities for many of his followers around the world today. Because Christ has one body on earth today, we are connected with those who suffer for their faith today, and if one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer with it. As songwriter Graham Kendrick put it,
Lord, help us to live worthy of
our sisters and our brothers
who love you more than their own lives,
who worship as they suffer.
Jesus’ words here can also teach us how to respond to any kind of suffering and calamity. In verses 13-14 he shows us that the secret of remaining faithful in times of distress is to 1) stand firm and 2) testify. In every temptation and trial, we are promised that we will not be given more than we can bear, that we will be given sufficient strength to simply stand firm in the grace of God. And in that place we speak of God’s goodness, testifying to the reality of the kingdom that stands opposed to the suffering we are experiencing.
What kind of distress and suffering are you experiencing? How can you stand firm and testify today?