Bible read me 2Continuing with a study of passages from St Mark’s Gospel which have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, this week’s post explores another episode of Jesus’s last life on earth.

As these do not appear in the Lectionary, they form part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential for understanding Scripture.

Today’s verses come from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Mark 13:1-2

Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple

 1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

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The longer I continue this series of Forbidden Bible Verses, the more dismaying it is to see the many Bible passages which the Lectionary compilers have excluded.

Whilst churchgoers attending Catholic or mainline Protestant churches are ‘getting more Bible’ from the Lectionary with a three-year set of readings, many important passages are left out entirely. Today’s and the next upcoming post are two cases in point.

Understanding the relationship of the Jewish people in Jesus’s day to their temple is essential in comprehending the dichotomy between their idea of salvation with His.

As Mark 13 opens, we are in the middle of what we call Holy Week, or Jesus’s Passion, just before His death.

This post recounts the history of the three Temples in Jerusalem. The Babylonians destroyed the first, a judgment from God on apostate Israel. Some conservative American Christians today believe that a similar judgment could come upon the United States (e.g. destruction of the Republic), just as Jeremiah prophesied the temple’s destruction to the Jews. (Who knows? Perhaps, perhaps not.) They built a second one, much more modest than the first (Solomon’s) but that was desecrated by a pagan ruler, Antiochus. Although Judas Maccabees attempted to revive worship there, the Jewish people were still unfaithful to the Lord in their apostasy.

This brings us to the magnificent structure of Mark 13, which Herod had erected over a period of 84 years. Although it was already magnificent and sumptuous in Christ’s time, construction continued after His death. It was completed in 64 AD, just six years before the Romans destroyed it.

John MacArthur tells us (emphases mine):

it was overlaid with gold, it was a massive building. It had been being built for literally decades. By the time it was destroyed, it had been under construction for eighty years. It was a massive monument to the architectural brilliance and genius of Herod, as well as to his desire to demonstrate how wealthy he was. Coated with gold and covered with votive offerings of all kinds that demonstrated the rich gifts that had been given to add to the beauty of the building.

In the morning when you came over the top of the Mount of Olives, you couldn’t even look at the building because the morning sun reflected off the gold would blind one. In the evening its glory was only slightly diminished, perhaps the most strikingly beautiful building in the ancient world. They’re impressed. What wonderful stones and what a wonderful set of buildings.

It is no wonder then that, after Jesus’s run-ins with the Sanhedrin — Jewish leadership — in the Temple grounds (Mark 12:1-12, 18-27, 35-37), one of His disciples remarks on the Temple’s splendour (verse 1).

However, outward beauty signifies little. As a pastor counsels about marriage and family — ‘Many beautiful houses are not homes’ — the same principle can be applied to a place of worship and the love of God (or absence thereof) by those within.

Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary:

How apt many of Christ’s own disciples are to idolize things that look great, and have been long looked upon as sacred. They had heard Christ complain of those who had made the temple a den of thieves; and yet, when he quitted it, for the wickedness that remained in it, they court him to be as much in love as they were with the stately structure and adorning of it.

There is another element of the disciples’ awe at play, which is the notion of Messiah, Israel and salvation that the Jews had learned since the time of the Old Testament. MacArthur unpacks this for us:

They are convinced Jesus is the Son of God, that He is the Messiah and that He is the One who will establish His Kingdom. They believe that they are about to experience the establishment of that glorious Kingdom. They are familiar, for example, with Isaiah 9, that the government shall be on His shoulders, that He will literally take over the rule not only of Israel but of the world. They are familiar with Zechariah 14 which lays out in detail how the coming Messiah establishes His rule in the world. They’re familiar with every Old Testament promise that looked forward to that Kingdom. Messiah is to come, establish the Kingdom, destroy all the enemies of God, destroy all the enemies of Israel, restore the glory of Jerusalem gather the Jews into the land, set up His Kingdom there, and from that vantage point rule the world.

Israel then would be the favored nation on the planet. Righteousness and peace and knowledge and truth would fill the earth. And life the way it was would be no more. Jesus clearly is the Messiah, announced by John the Baptist, validated by miracles, and truth teaching. He entered Jerusalem on that Monday of the very week that we’re looking at now and He was given an appropriate messianic welcome. Everything looked like it was on schedule.

Imagine their surprise and bewilderment then at Jesus’s reply when He says that not one stone will be left standing (verse 2).

Henry develops this further:

His disciples knew not how to digest this doctrine of the ruin of the temple, which they thought must be their Master’s royal palace, and in which they expected their preferment, and to have the posts of honour; and therefore they were in pain till they got him alone, and got more out of him concerning this matter.

So, the afternoon of that last Wednesday before the Crucifixion carried a shock for the disciples. Jesus’s plan for salvation was entirely different to what the Jews had taught for countless generations. He was concerned about spiritual, not temporal, salvation.

Henry says:

How little Christ values external pomp, where there is not real purity; “Seest thou these great buildings” (saith Christ), “and admirest thou them? I tell thee, the time is at hand when there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down,” v. 2. And the sumptuousness of the fabric shall be no security to it, no nor move any compassion in the Lord Jesus towards it. He looks with pity upon the ruin of precious souls, and weeps over them, for on them he has put great value; but we do not find him look with any pity upon the ruin of a magnificent house, when he is driven out of it by sin, for that is of small value with him. With what little concern doth he say, Not one stone shall be left on another! Much of the strength of the temple lay in the largeness of the stones, and if these be thrown down, no footstep, no remembrance, of it will remain. While any part remained standing, there might be some hopes of the repair of it; but what hope is there, when not one stone is left upon another?

On our Lord’s prediction of the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in 70 AD by the Romans, MacArthur expands on the event to warn us about the veracity of Scripture with regard to other real-life events through the ages up through the present day:

This is another evidence of our Lord’s deity because the things that He said would be true are in fact true. He predicted the destruction of the temple in verses 1 and 2 and it was destroyed in 70 A.D. He predicted that not one stone would be on another, and that’s exactly what happened in 70 A.D. and it’s never been rebuilt. He predicted the nature of life on a corrupt cursed planet, and everything He said is true. And if you want to get all that He said, you put Matthew and Mark and Luke’s account together and you get the full picture of what life is like on this planet. All the things that He said would come to pass, have come to pass and they are very familiar to all of us.

We conclude from that, and this is an important thing to hear, the Bible always perfectly corresponds to reality. When the Bible says something will be a certain way, that is exactly how it will be. It will be what Scripture says it will be, both in general terms as well as in absolutely specific terms

These are far from ‘fairy tales’ or ‘allegories’, friends!

For those who are unconvinced, especially if they have fallen away from the Church, please read the Gospels carefully and pray for God’s grace that you return to the truth.

The next post will explore this further. What Jesus went on to say must have shocked His disciples.

Next time: Mark 13:3-13