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All the world’s a stage....

And as he came out of the Temple, one of his disciples said to him [Jesus of Nazareth, c. AD 30], “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Mark 13: 1-2

In bold above is an extract from the biography of Jesus written around AD 65 by Mark. Mark was rather kind in not identifying the particular disciple of Jesus who, that day in Jerusalem, drew Jesus’ attention to the magnificent buildings there – and, in particular to the Temple.

That overawed disciple could well have been a Jersey man like me. When one is used to Jersey and its size it’s very easy to be impressed with the magnificence of large and beautiful buildings elsewhere.  It’s also all too easy to think of Jersey and its buildings as being indestructible…… Indestructible, that is, unless we decide, for example, to return the Plemont headland “to nature”. But is everything so much within our control that we can safely maintain that Jesus was wrong – wrong in principle?

The Temple in Jerusalem in AD 30 was truly magnificent. Wikipedia (“Second Temple”) provides some amazing information. According to Jewish historian Josephus, the Temple, begun in BC 20, was only finally declared completed in AD 64. By AD 70 it was totally and completely destroyed by Titus who, in AD 79 succeeded his father Vespasian as Roman Emperor.

In Rome, close to the Coliseum, a triumphal arch commemorating Titus’ destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple still stands today. But, as if to indicate the general truth of Jesus’ AD 30 words [Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down], Rome itself experienced awful destruction of many of its famous buildings in AD 80.
‘Visible success has never been the proof of Jesus or his followers.’ (Vance Havner, preacher, 1901-1986)

A little later on the same day that Jesus foretold the total destruction of the Temple he told four of his closest disciples to be very sure that no one would lead them astray: “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Shakespeare, in his play “As you like it”, wrote this monologue: -

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. ..........
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

If Shakespeare was and Jesus is correct then the stage upon which all human beings have their entrances and their exits is a stage of buildings being built and of buildings being destroyed – also of wars being won (and lost) – also of nations overpowering nations (and nations being defeated) – also of earthquakes and famines.

As the years of our lives tick by it becomes quite clear that nothing stands for ever. Even the Triumphal Arch of Titus had to be restored in 1821 because it was falling down......

‘This life is all the heaven the non-Christian has, and all the hell the Christian ever sees.’ (Anon.)

What does matter on this ever changing world stage is what Shakespeare called “all the men and women ... players”. At first sight it seems a pity he wrote “merely players” (because the players are the only living things on the stage) and that he described the final exit of every human being as “second childishness and mere oblivion”. But he was asking his audiences to think.

Jesus said, “These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” The destroyed buildings and wars and earthquakes are the beginning of the pains within which wonderful new birth takes place.

I’m convinced that what takes place on the stage is not only for time but also for eternity – not only for the “world” stage but also for the “heavenly” one. I’m convinced that the key issue is what, on the world stage, we do with Jesus.
Richard Syvret

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