As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!"
Martin B. Copenhaver
In New York City you can always spot the visitors. It's not from the way they are dressed, because you can dress any way you like in New York. It isn't from their accents, because New Yorkers may have grown up in Kansas or Katmandu. Rather, the telltale sign of visitors is that they are always looking up, trying to take in the tops of the buildings.
That is how I picture the disciples as they entered Jerusalem with Jesus: "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!"
Jesus responded, "There will not be left one stone upon another," putting the temple, in all its magnificence, into a different perspective. Like all human achievements, it was little more than a sand castle that was destined to be swept away.
We are forever confusing the lasting and the momentary. When Jesus was brought before the chief priests, he was accused of saying, "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and in three days I will build another, not made with hands." The priests were incensed: Surely no one can destroy the temple. It will stand forever. And what is this nonsense about building a temple in three days? Any temple that could be built in three days would be felled by the first brisk wind.
But, sure enough, the temple that the priests and disciples admired no longer stands. And there was a temple built within three days of Jesus' death, and it is still standing. You are part of it—the church, a never-ending testimony to the ever-living Christ.
Jesus, help me not to confuse the lasting and the momentary, so that I might follow you more faithfully. Amen.
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.