English Standard Version (ESV)
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
He has finished His last sermon to the crowd - ending with a strong warning to the people about the direction their false leaders are taking them, and a blistering condemnation on the religious leaders themselves. He has nothing more to say to the crowd.
He has nothing more to say to the crowds. He has told them the truth. He’s given them the gospel. He’s declared Himself to be the Messiah, Son of David, and David’s Lord at the same time, God and Man. He has preached His last message, His last warning. He’s had His last discussion, His last dialogue confrontation with the leaders. It’s over. The last thing that we know that He did in the temple was sit down because He was drained and weary. And as He sat down in the Court of the Women, He looked across opposite Him to the treasury and He watched the people putting money in and He saw the widow come by in the first four verses of chapter 21, and He watched the widow put in her last two cents to go home to die. And He hated the kind of religious system that would take the last two cents out of the hand of a defenseless, destitute widow. And that was the final scene with Jesus in the temple, so corrupt...so corrupt that those whom He had accused of devouring widows’ houses are doing just that and He watches a widow give up her last two cents because that’s what that religious, legalistic system required of her if she was to buy her salvation, and blessing from God. And He has had all that He can take of this system.
And so, He leaves the temple. We know this from the parallel passage in Matthew, the parallel passage in Matthew, the end of chapter 23. He closes the sermon against the false leaders with these words, verse 37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who were sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were unwilling. Behold, your house, that is your temple and your city and your nation all encompassed in your house is being left to you desolate. For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” And He implies there that there’s going to be a long time of desolation. Desolation upon your house, destruction and emptiness upon your house for a long time until you acknowledge Me.
And so He leaves the temple. And as they're leaving, the disciples are looking back at the temple and talking about it. It was an amazing temple - in total an 85 yr building project begun by Herod the Great to immortalize himself. It was likely the most beautiful building in the world at that time.
And the disciples were fully aware of what this building meant to them, and what it meant to their history and the effort that had gone into it. And that the whole sacrificial system and the religious system dominated their whole lives. They had been to the Passover and other feasts and festivals every year of their lives. And Jesus has unmasked it as full of hypocrisy and wretchedness and death and it’s coming down. Stunning
I think Jesus has just had it. I think He's repulsed by the beauty of this temple that was built to immortalize a human, but that was portrayed as the presence of God. He's had it, and He lets them know it. He's going to destroy it.
The disciples can understand the idea that judgment is coming. They expected Messiah to come to save them, to bring judgment, to restore. But if He's going to destroy the temple, they're expecting a really quick restoration. And so they ask Him, when will this happen?
They weren’t waiting for the Messiah to come, He was present. In fact, in Matthew 24:3 where it says, “What will be the sign of Your coming?”coming is really a little bit of a misleading translation. The word in the Greek is parousia, it means presence...presence. And it really was used of a king who had arrived and would continue to dwell among his people. So what they’re really asking is this, “Now that You are here, what are we looking for that will inaugurate the work that You’ve come to do?” They don’t see Him there and going away and coming back several thousand years later. They see His parousia, His presence, and they want to know You’re here, what sign are we looking for that’s going to inaugurate all our Messianic expectations? That’s their question and it comes in response to His statement about the tearing down of the temple in verse 6, that not one stone will be left upon another that will not be torn down.
And then Jesus gives them the answer - and it's the longest answer to any question that He's asked. And it's not the answer they were expecting.
But back to the destruction of the temple for just one more moment.
Do we have anything like that in our lives? Something we've built that looks holy but it was built with the wrong motives or for the wrong purpose? Do we have anything in our lives that God would be repulsed by and determine to destroy?
Or have we brought everything we have, all that we are, to the altar, and laid it at the feet of the cross?
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 21:8
Sunday's passage: Ezekiel 19-20
Monday's passage: 1 Peter 3, Ezekiel 21-22
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