As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “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)
The temple was the center of worship in Jesus’ day. There were synagogues in other towns, but the temple was the “mother church” of the Jewish faith. It was hard to imagine it not being there.
I don’t mean to suggest people were under the delusion the temple could not be destroyed. Many years before it had been sacked and ruined by conquerors that desecrated Jerusalem’s holy hill and took many of its inhabitants into captivity. The temple was rebuilt some time afterward, but the quality of construction was inferior to that used earlier by Solomon. When Herod the Great came into his own in Judea, he wanted to erect a more fitting center of worship. Herod wasn’t particularly spiritual, but he did have a big ego, and the construction of a first-class temple was his way of building a monument to himself, and making himself a hero to the Jewish people. Herod’s temple was actually an extreme makeover of the second temple built after the time of captivity. Herod’s character and sincerity were always in doubt, yet God’s people inherited a grand venue for the expression of their faith.
This is why it was very hard for the disciples to comprehend the destruction of the temple. But it was destroyed. In 70 AD Titus entered the city and leveled the temple. It wasn’t a random act, but rather a response to a rebellion by some Jewish people who were very tired of their pagan oppressors.
Some believe the disciples were referencing a comment Jesus had made earlier in His ministry that He would tear the temple down and raise it in three days (John 2:19). We know now that Jesus was speaking of His body that would be crucified and raised. This was, however, one of those quotes people didn’t forget, and it was used to convict Jesus at His trial. Perhaps the disciples were pushing back on Jesus’ statement a bit here to get Him to think about how crazy it sounded.
But the temple would be destroyed. And Jesus’ temple would be destroyed and raised up. Herod’s temple would not be raised up.
Physical structures are important from a practical standpoint, because they provide a place where work can occur. Church facilities are a tool for ministry, and have been used effectively for years to bring glory to God.
Yet, a building is just that…a tool. We can do much with it, but any notion that we can hold on to it forever is false. Ask any member of the congregation I serve who stood with me a few years ago and watched our entire facility burn to the ground as a result of a lightning strike.
We raised a building to replace our old one, but even that is temporary. Yet, the building Jesus raised up from Calvary is eternal. His glorious church has no walls, and the gates of hell can’t prevail against it! I don’t think the disciples understood. But they would.
Dear God, thank You for Your eternal kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.