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God’s Word for You

Mark 13:1-6 Not one stone left on another

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 14, 2023

We turn now to another chapter of Mark.

It is Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus had spent the day in the temple teaching (Mark 11:27-12:44). Mark begins by saying that Jesus was now leaving the temple, and it often eludes the reader that this was the last time Jesus was ever in the temple. As far as we know, he never returned—an act not unlike the departure of the Glory of the Lord from the temple in Ezekiel 11:23. It stopped at the Mount of Olives, as if waiting for the people of the city to repent. So Jesus walked up to the Mount of Olives now and turned and sat down for a while. He had left the building and stepped out from under its shadow. Now he told his followers about how it would soon be gone.

13 As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones! What wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these huge buildings? There will not be one stone left on another. All will be thrown down.”

Herod the Great had wanted to make a name for himself. Everyone in Israel knew about Solomon’s temple. When the exiles returned and rebuilt the fallen structure under their governor, Zerubbabel, at the command of God (Haggai 2:4), the people called the new building Zerubbabel’s temple or the Second Temple. Now it was five hundred years later, and Herod wanted to put his own name on it. The problem was that the Second Temple was still being used. Herod could only modify what was there; he could only add on or try to make it even more impressive. He worked at it through his whole reign, and now more than thirty years after his death the work was still going on.

Jesus’ disciples were impressed. Some of the stones in the temple were massive—yards long, fitted with such precision that a sheet of paper or a pocket knife could not be slid between the blocks. They were hoisted into place with the best technology of the age, more efficient in some ways with their counterweights than the usual methods in use today.

The disciples were impressed. But Jesus wants the disciples to be aware of two things. First, the physical temple they were looking at in the gorgeous light of a spring sunset was going to be destroyed, and soon. Its time had come to an end. Its main purpose was to point ahead to the coming of the Savior, even if most of the priests, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees no longer believed that or thought about it. Now the Savior was here. In just a few days, the sacrifice for all sins would be done and over with.

Second, with the coming of the Savior, the temple would give way to the church. The temple looked ahead to the one who was coming; the church looks back at the one who came. The disciples themselves and all who put their faith in Christ are themselves the church. It is not a structure, but a collection and a gathering of believing souls.

So Jesus’ words, “All will be thrown down,” is a reference to the purpose of the temple as well as the stones. He was and is the true temple, the presence of God among God’s people.

3 While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” 5 Jesus said to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will lead many people astray.

In private a short while later, Jesus was relaxing on the hill opposite the temple, the Mount of Olives. Four disciples—the original four (Mark 1:13-20)—came to ask him when all of this destruction would happen. They really ask two questions. One was, “When will these things be,” meaning the destruction, but the other was, “What will be the sign,” meaning the coming of Jesus in his glory at the end of the world. The two events are related but are far apart in time. The destruction of the temple would happen in just a few years (70 AD). The return of Jesus on judgment day and the surrounding signs would not happen for many centuries, and of course has still not taken place. Jesus warns that in between the two events the world would be littered with liars claiming to be Christ. Our Lord says: “Watch out that no one deceives you.” We can’t stop heretics from speaking, but we don’t need to embrace anything that they say. A man would be worn out trying to combat everything a false teacher says. It is better to make sure we are familiar with what the Scriptures say and to read and re-read our Catechism, where Luther has gathered the most important proof-passages for the key doctrines of the Bible.

When we teach about the end of the world, it helps to understand the reasons that Jesus and the Holy Spirit (through the prophets and apostles) tell us about what is coming. There is a theoretical side (for teaching and for correcting and combatting pagan ideas about reincarnation and the eternity of the world) and there is a practical side. The practical side is to aid the Christian in his meditation on the end of things, in order to be certain we do not love the world more than we love Jesus (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) or the greedy acquisition of wealth and riches. Too much love for the world or its many temptations also causes many Christians to postpone repentance. The end will come suddenly, just as the collapse of the house in the storm came suddenly and terribly on Job’s children (Job 1:19). Watch, therefore! Be ready! “Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves his faithful ones” (Psalm 31:22). False teaching or sudden death may come (Daniel 8:5; Ezekiel 24:18). Jesus’ warning urges us to get our house in order so that we are ready; our souls are prepared. We make plans as if the end is hundreds of years away, but we behave and prepare as if the end will come today. Come, Lord Jesus!

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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