As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1,2, NIV)
Who knows the future?
A lot of people get it wrong with their predictions. Not Jesus!
The disciples had it wrong. Matthew and Luke both report that the conversation among the disciples as they left the temple precincts that day had to do with the impressive temple structures. Mark notes that one of them personally exclaimed to Jesus his wonderment at the great and marvelous buildings.
You can see what they are up to. They still don’t understand Jesus’ mission. All that day they listened as Jesus verbally fenced with the opposition on the temple grounds, winning each engagement. No doubt now, as they began to leave the temple, they were thinking: Soon all this will be ours. Jesus will show himself as the true Ruler of Israel. He’ll replace the hypocrites now running the temple, and we’ll be with Him as He reigns. All this divine real estate will soon be ours.
Granted. The buildings were impressive. Construction had taken, by this point, almost 50 years. The Temple Mount itself occupied almost 37 acres — enlarged to that extent by Herod who built massive retaining walls for the dirt in order to extend the temple area to its present size. If Herod used the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:2), then the size was similar to the present Sistine Chapel in Rome.
The comment on the magnificent buildings is also a tip-off that the disciple was not a Jerusalemite. All but Judas were from Galilee. Those who live in Jerusalem, like those who live in most any famous place, become inured to the tourist sites that draw others from around the world. They no longer notice the specialty of what’s in their neighborhood. But the Galileans were googly-eyed.
I’ve been to Jerusalem many times and, even though Herod’s Temple (the Second Temple) no longer stands, the Western Retaining Wall never fails to impress. Truly the stones are massive, and it’s an architectural wonder they got there without modern machines to lift them on top of one another.
Sometimes fellow pilgrims ask me when they see the Wall (also falsely called the Wailing Wall), how Jesus’ prophecy could be true. Aren’t the stones still standing on top of one another?
I explain that Jesus made no reference to the retaining walls, but to the temple on top — where the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque stand today. All the structures on the temple grounds were destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. In fact, you can stand at the bottom of the southwestern corner of the wall and see the massive boulders that were thrown down in that destruction.
Jesus knew the temple buildings were coming down. Within four decades, His prophecy came to pass.
Jesus came to save people, not buildings. One day all buildings will be destroyed. Even if the end of the world does not occur within this century, the world as we know it will end for us. We do not last on this earth as long as ancient buildings. The good news is that Jesus is building an eternal home for us that can never be destroyed!
A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, my time is so short on this terrestrial ball. Thank You for
the assurance of an eternal home You are preparing for me.
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.