For several reasons, we are in a bit of a time warp listening here to what Jesus said. Jesus would have spoken these words in about year 30 c.e., making his prediction about the temple’s impending destruction. It did happen, but not until forty years later, in 70 c.e., when the Roman Empire’s occupation forces did completely destroy the temple.[i] Not one stone was left upon another, just as Jesus predicted. Luke is writing his Gospel account 15 years later than that, in about year 85 c.e. Luke is quoting Jesus based on what Luke has been told by eyewitnesses to Jesus, plus what other people have remembered Jesus’ saying. The temple was destroyed; there were indeed wars and insurrections, which increasingly compromised the pax Romana; and in the midst of these horrific experiences, Luke had his own experience of Jesus’ good news: how who Jesus claimed to be and what he promised to do was all true. Luke was a believer.
Daniel 2:31-45; Luke 21:5-9
At first glance it may be difficult to see any connection between tonight’s two readings. (Even at second glance it may be difficult to find, but here’s what I see.
The first reading, from the 2nd chapter of the book of Daniel, tells the story of Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Nebuchadnezzar was the King of Babylon who captured and destroyed Jerusalem in the year 597 B.C.E. and drove the people out of their homeland and into exile. Daniel, a Jew living in Babylon during the exile, is able to interpret a dream for the king that none of the wise men of Babylon had been able to decipher. He even describes the dream itself without ever having been told it and makes it clear that GOD has revealed both the dream and its meaning to him. In the dream, a large statue made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay is completely destroyed. The statue is symbolic, says Daniel, and represents the future of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and his descendants, indicating that his kingdom will become increasingly weak and divided until it is at last completely destroyed.
“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Jesus’ ominous words about the destruction of the Temple. The Romans did indeed destroy it in 70 A.D. I’ve just seen where it once stood. In its place now is the great Dome of the Rock, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The plot has thickened–considerably.