‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter. For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!”] or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything.
I am sure you recall dreadful scenes of frightened people running in sheer panic as the Twin Towers collapsed on 11th September 2001 in New York. The events were so dreadful that, I would wager, you can probably recall where you were when the news reached you.
Today’s apocalyptic words of Jesus foretold a “9/11” event of the classical world – the fall of the Temple in AD70. Jesus had specifically condemned the religious system of his day for its opposition of the purposes of God. It would fall, and its demise would send people running for their lives. Its downfall was so dramatic that it fundamentally affected the direction of Judaism and the embryonic Church for centuries to come.
Apocalyptic language alone captures the gravitas of this moment in time. But what about us today? Are these words now redundant – except for the purposes of history – or is there something that we can take away from the rubble of the Temple’s collapse?
Two thousand years later we still see societies, systems, institutions, and individuals setting themselves up in opposition to the purposes of God. Again, people of the prophetic tradition will rise and respond in such circumstances. If we ourselves are not caught in such a moment in time, then we should be grateful. But we should remember those who are caught up in such terrible circumstances – through prayer and acts of mercy.
Father, we thank you that you are a God of justice and righteousness. Your kingdom will come, despite the best efforts of those who may oppose it. Opposition causes pain and suffering for those caught up in the moment.
We pray for those who suffer; may you strengthen them and provide for them. Guide us to offer support to today’s prophets. Grant us wisdom and strength to stand for the Kingdom. Amen.
The Rev’d Daniel Harris, Minister with the Rochdale, Bury and North Manchester Missional Partnership.