Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.—Luke 21: 33
Few of us imagine that our names will live forever in the memory of generations to come. Yet still, in our impermanence, we seek something to which we can hold fast, something enduring. We who are parents once held fast to our children—those newborns and toddlers who, in the twinkling of an eye, are grown and far beyond our grasp. Those of us blessed with life partners may experience the joy of companionship for decades; yet the day inevitably will come when one of us will be left alone, bereft, rent apart.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that God is ever with us in our transient humanity, sustaining us in our quest for the transcendent. Our loving Creator knows full well we are seekers of permanence, and in loving response the Lord reaches out to us in a supreme act of self-revelation. Surely you have heard: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Near the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus delivers a farewell discourse to his followers. He addresses humankind’s search for permanence in an impermanent world. As an illustration of the latter, he points to the great temple in Jerusalem, “adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God.” The temple is massive yet transient; it will be utterly destroyed by Roman legions within a few short years. “As all these things that you see,” says Jesus, “the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Following his prediction of the temple’s destruction, Jesus warns of continuing disasters: earthquakes, famines, plagues, persecutions. As Jesus completes his discourse, he reveals what shall endure, what is truly permanent, that to which we most assuredly can hold fast. The earth and the heavens shall pass away, “but my words will not pass away.” Jesus means here not just what he speaks but also who he is. As the apostle John testifies, “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
God has thrown us a lifeline, someone sure and eternal to whom we may hold fast. And that someone is Jesus Christ. Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, puts it this way: “Jesus Christ, the anointed monarch of God’s people, stands at the heart of the twofold movement, of God’s life towards the world and the world’s journey to reconciliation with God. … Jesus truly embodies the absolute eternal love and action of God.” Humankind’s quest for permanence in a world of impermanence is fulfilled in the eternal Word of God “playing itself out in translated form in the human being, Jesus.”
It is through Christ that we reach out to hold fast to God, and more astounding still, it is through Christ that God reaches out to hold us fast. And so we give thanks to our loving Creator for “the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Rawls, James J.. On the Way: 100 Reflections on the Journey of Faith. WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.