On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
The Insider Question
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:3,4, NIV)
Jesus’ followers are at different levels of learning and curiosity. After Jesus declared that the magnificent temple would be thrown down, only four of the Twelve were curious enough to ask Him the follow-up question. They evidently pondered asking as they followed Jesus down from the temple, through the deep Kidron Valley ravine, and then up the slope of the Mount of Olives.
On three occasions in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus pulled aside the inner three of Peter, James and John (5:37; 9:2; 14:33). This time the three are joined by Peter’s brother, Andrew — completing the two sets of brothers. They get to ask their question when Jesus sits down on the Mount of Olives and looks west toward the Temple Mount.
The location in which Jesus sits provides a superb panorama, both then and now, of history past and future. Did it go through the Lord’s mind that opposite Him is where Abraham prepared to offer Isaac? Where David purchased the threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite? Where Solomon built his temple? Where the siege of Jerusalem occurred under Hezekiah, or the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon? I’m sure He saw it all; not only that, but the future as well. The Temple Mount, which now is occupied by the Muslim faith and serves as its third holiest site, is the piece of land on which final battles will be waged and won.
Jesus knew it all.
When Jesus said the temple buildings would be torn down and not one stone left on another, the disciples knew if that happened it would be because of foreign invasion. It meant the end of Israel as they knew it. They could extrapolate further: “If the temple is destroyed, then Israel is destroyed, and therefore the world was coming to an end.”
Thus, in their minds the destruction of the temple carried the harbinger for the immediate end of the world.
So, the four of them — the two sets of brothers — ask two questions.
First, “When will these things happen?” That question refers to the prophecy Jesus made while on the Temple Mount that the buildings would be destroyed.
Second, “And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” Matthew’s account of the question is: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (24:3). The difference in wording of the questions may arise from the fact that four disciples are asking the questions. What we have, in comparing the Gospels, is the composite concern of the four disciples.
A summary of the questions reveals three components: the destruction of the temple, the sign of the Lord’s coming, and the sign of the end of the age.
In the disciples’ minds these three things would occur all together. From their point of view, the destruction of the temple meant the end of the age and the coming of Christ.
However, Jesus’ answer will be different from what they expect.
For now, one thing is very clear. The disciples have supreme confidence that Jesus knows what the future holds. If they did not believe this, they would not have asked. We also know Jesus holds all our tomorrows.
A prayer of response
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark