Living Stones of the New Jerusalem

“Living Stones of the New Jerusalem”
A reflection on Luke 21:5-19
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
©️2022 by Gloria M. Chang

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

Luke 21:5-19

The Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold

Captivated by the splendor of the Jerusalem Temple, observers extolled its majestic stones and votive offerings. According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, massive pillars of white marble, each made from a single stone, towered above the visitor. Gates of gold and silver dazzled the eye. From ornaments of golden vines, “clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man’s height.” A Babylonian curtain embroidered with blue, fine linen, scarlet, and purple mystically mirrored the universe. Even the embroidered garments of the priests lifted the mind to heaven. On the ephod, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved upon twelve jewels.

Shockingly, Jesus prophesied the imminent collapse of the earthly temple and city, which took place after his crucifixion in A.D. 70 with the Roman siege. In response to queries about the time of this catastrophe, Jesus warned them to reject false prophets who will come in his name. Wars, insurrections, earthquakes, and pestilence will give the impression of the end times, but the end will not be at once.

The Rise of the New Jerusalem

In the eye of the tornado of turmoil, the imperishable name of Jesus Christ will hold believers fast. Destroyers of the holy name will seize disciples and imprison them. Persecuted before earthly kings, martyrs will bear witness (marturion) to the King of Kings. The Greek word martus (“witness”) is the root of “martyr.”

Unlike proceedings in an earthly courtroom, witnesses will prepare no defense. “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict,” Jesus promised (Luke 21:15, RSV). On account of the holy name, which transcends all earthly ties, family members and friends will betray the followers of Christ. Martyrs will be killed, but not ultimately destroyed (Luke 21:18). For the living stones of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, will reign forever as the New Jerusalem (1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Revelation 21:9-27).

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 21:2 (RSV)

Though the stones of Jerusalem topple down,
The stones of the living Christ receive a crown.


Flavius Josephus, “A Description of the Temple” from The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem.

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