Jesus was talking with his disciples one evening as they were returning home from a visit to the temple in Jerusalem. It was just before Passover and his crucifixion. Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening he returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. Early each morning crowds gathered at the Temple to hear him speak.
As Jesus and his disciples walked together, some of his disciples began talking about the majestic stonework of the Temple and the memorial decorations on the walls.
But Jesus told them, “The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
The disciples were looking at the material world and seeing things in a worldly way. Jesus was looking with spiritual eyes and seeing things in a different way. We know that we have the same problem as those first disciples.
The famous Christian philosopher, priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
I think he makes a good point about who and what we are. We often don’t even see the truth about ourselves the way God sees us. We have been thinking these last few weeks about how God sees us communally as a body, his bride. I think however that we often struggle to put that into a spiritual context. I know that I do, so I guess some of you might as well.
The church as God’s body is not a physical body, but a spiritual being. Just in case there is any misunderstanding, I am not saying the resurrection body isn’t a real substantial body. I think I’m in agreement with Teilhard de Chardin in saying that the real you is spiritual, not the body in which you live. However real the body seems to us now, it is not the important part of us. It is not our body that defines us. The colour of our hair or eyes or skin is not who we are. The shape of our body is not who we are. The wholeness or brokenness of our body does not change who we are in front of a God who sees our spirit and looks into our hearts. I have broken bones and bits missing. Does that change who I am? No, because we are all spiritual beings with thoughts and hopes in physical bodies.
Genesis 2:7 says: “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”
The Bible repeatedly emphasises that it is the spiritual things in life that matter. Love is most important, as we hear again and again. Holiness is also important.
Last week I was talking with a friend from another place, nobody here.
Something this friend said about the situation of the world made me think, and now I’m going to tell you what I thought.
There are many unfortunate consequences of seeing life from the perspective of a human being seeking a spiritual experience. One of these is tribalism. Tribalism is a way of thinking that sees life as being divided into tribes, with ourselves being a tribe member. And these are usually worldly tribes. From there we can easily slip into to the idea that all that is wrong is because of those other tribes.
You can see this in politics, for example, where one party shouts that the solution is to topple the rival party. One nation, for example England, sees another nation, for example France, as being part of the problem with the world.
When Christians, disciples of the Lord Jesus, get trapped in this way of thinking they might begin to blame the communists for the troubles of the church. Or they might blame the gays, or the Buddhists. Did Jesus teach us to blame others for the troubles of the world.
When I lived in Hong Kong I learned the word ‘gweilo’ (鬼佬), which means ‘ghostly man’ or ‘foreign devil’. It’s what all the white people were called by the locals. The English call the French ‘frogs’ but I don’t know what the Jews called the Romans.
God does not see us in that way. His ways are far above our ways, and his thoughts are not like our thoughts. So we have to change our thoughts, because we are the ones in the wrong.
We know that we have been commanded to love God and to love each other.
We know that we fall short in our efforts. What then causes us to fall short in our efforts to obey the two greatest commandments? Is it because of the work of another tribe?
What do you think of the spiritual beings we call angels? Perhaps you, like me, don’t spend much time thinking of them. Would you listen to an angel if one approached you with a message? Would you be excited to be having a spiritual experience? There are two types of angel, how would you know which type was speaking. There are the angels that follow the greatest angel of them all, Satan. And there are the angels that remain loyal to the almighty God creator of the universe. We need to be sensitive and discerning each time.
Jesus warned his disciples in our reading this morning that there would be wars and great earthquakes, “and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.”
Jesus told them that great persecution was coming. “Even those closest to you will betray you,” Jesus said.
Terrible events were laid out in detail and Jesus said it will be so bad people will be terrified and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. As bad as it looks from a human perspective, it is good news because it means “you can know that the Kingdom of God is near.”
There is one great danger in all this, and Jesus said it is not death.
In verse 34 Jesus tells his disciples, and that includes us, what we have to watch out for.
Jesus says that in those days the great danger will be a dull heart.
The greatest threat to us is not another tribe. It isn’t the obviously unholy or evil people in this world that are the biggest danger to our developing relationship with God and each other.
The danger is a dull heart. A dull heart is a heart where love is weak. A dull heart is a heart that has lost interest in God and is bored with Scripture. A person with a dull heart is a person without motivation, who is neither hot nor cold. There is no passion or joy in the life of a person with a dull heart, only a desire for safety and comfort.
Jesus says that the danger is a dull heart, and that a dull heart is caused by worries. If you spend time worrying about life in this world, your heart will become dull. If you spend time seeking pleasures in this world to take your mind off the worries and cares, your heart will grow dull. A dull heart is a calcified and calloused heart that has grown hard and cold.
Our hearts should be soft and sensitive and discerning. That means our hearts are easily hurt, and of course we don’t like it when our hearts are hurt. But that’s the kind of heart we need, and it’s the kind of heart that a person must have to fulfil the commands of love.
In verse 34 Jesus says, “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life.”
Instead of worrying, pray for strength. “Pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”
The troubles will come upon us all, but when they come will your heart be dull. We are warned to fill ourselves up with the life that comes from God, and grow in love by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us.
We are spiritual people learning to live human lives of passion with hot and sensitive hearts that burn with holy fire and love for each other.