“Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)
For guys who grew up in the country, this wasn’t a surprising statement when visiting Jerusalem. The Temple in 30 AD was beautiful. White stone, gold features, bright Middle East sun. But its beauty was skin deep. And its history as a place of worship wasn’t as pure as the white stone and bright sun.
- This wasn’t the tabernacle built by Moses and his creative team following directions from God.
- It wasn’t the temple built by Solomon with all the building supplies that David had stored up.
- It wasn’t the temple rebuilt by Zerubbabel and others, nearly a century after Solomon’s temple had been destroyed.
All of those were remarkable projects, in response to God’s directions and with God’s affirmation.
This Temple was built by King Herod to make the Jews happy.
The political origins didn’t make it impossible to worship there. But its permanence wasn’t guaranteed. Which was true of the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple and Zerubbabel’s temple. In every case, the building was just a building. What mattered to God was the obedience of the people who used the building.
So when the disciples made a comment about the beauty of the temple, Jesus wasn’t very supportive. “It’s going to come down.“
The way he said it made it clear that this wasn’t going to be the natural decline of a building: every stone is going to be tossed aside.
That’s what happened to Solomon’s temple, and every one of the people listening to Jesus would have known the story. The Jewish people had disobeyed God for generation after generation. Finally, there was an invasion. And exile. And destruction of the temple and the city walls. And not a stone was left on top of another.
And for these listeners, living with a Roman governor and seeing Roman soldiers while walking to work and to worship, this wasn’t something in a fantasy novel. It could be next week’s news story.