Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. At the heart of the festival was the Temple, an impressive building. Whilst the Jews on returning during Ezra and Nehemiah’s day had been disappointed by the 2nd Temple, a poor comparison to the one Solomon had built, Herod the Great had sent lavishly on extending and beautifying it so that it qualified as one of the wonders of the ancient world. The disciples are in awe.
Read Mark 13:1-2
Jesus does not allow the disciples to get caught up in awe and wonder at the grandeur of the Temple. They are not to be taken in by its appearance of permanence. Only a few days previously, Jesus’ cleansing of the temple courtyards will have brought much Temple activity to a halt. Now he says that a day is coming when this temporary pause will become permanent. The Temple will be destroyed.
Jesus was prophesying the events of AD70 when the Romans would encircle Jerusalem in response to a Jewish uprising. The revolt would be brutally crushed and the city would be sacked. The Temple itself would be utterly destroyed with only one of its outer walls remaining.
We may make two observations here. The first is that this passage helps us to date the authorship of Mark’s Gospel. Liberal scholars assume that the Gospels were written many years after the life of Jesus. Yet, if they had been written after AD 70, still within the lifetime of eye witnesses, then the authors would have been able to follow a traditional approach of noting the fulfilment of the prophecy. In Old Testament style you would have expected them to say something along the lines “and so is the case even until this day.” We can be confident that Mark wrote his Gospel before AD70 so that fulfilment of the prophecy was still to come.
Therefore, the first application we can make here is that you and I today can have great confidence in the reliability of the New Testament. We really are reading the eye witness reports of those who were alive in Jesus’ day.
Secondly, the passage challenges us to think about where our hope and confidence is. The Jews I Jesus’ day were in great danger of making the same mistake that they did in Jeremiah’s time, of finding their confidence in the city of Jerusalem and in the great religious symbols of the priesthood and the temple. That was to find false confidence. Those things could not protect them, could not provide for them and were temporary not permanent. It is only in Jesus -who presents himself as the true temple that we find trustworthy and lasting hope.
What are the things or who are the people that you and I are tempted to put our hope in today?