“As he walked away from the Temple, one of his disciples said, ‘Teacher, look at that stonework! Those buildings!’”
Mk 13:1 EHP
Great cities, especially capitals of countries, tend to be places where magnificent buildings predominate. They becomesymbols of the wealth, power and prestige of the rulers and of the inhabitants themselves. The people who live in these great cities become proud of the great buildings – they are icons of nationhood and relics of history. London has its “Big Ben” and Tower Bridge. New York has its skyscrapers, Paris its Eiffel Tower, Rome its Colosseum. Then the religious buildings in great cities come to enshrine the religious traditions that have shaped and influenced the nation and its culture. Rome has St Peter’s and the Vatican. Paris has Notre Dame Cathedral. London has St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
Jerusalem in Jesus’ day had the Temple. It was not the magnificent one built by King Solomon nearly a thousand years earlier. That had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Upon their return from exile some decades later the Jews built their second temple on the same site, a much smaller and less glorious building, but precious as the centre of their worship, and, in their eyes, the symbol of the presence of God. Now, all that remains of the second temple is the western, or “wailing” wall. That draws many thousands of Christian pilgrims annually. The disciples might well have been proud of the Jerusalem temple.
There is nothing wrong with Christians being proud of the earthly buildings that enshrine their faith, their memories and their hopes. But they should always remember that these shrines are not the faith itself. Jesus is present in much humbler places – and often in no building at all.
Lord, help me not to put my faith in buildings.