As Jesus went out of the temple, one of his disciples said to Him: "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" (Mark 13:1). Indeed, the temple of Jesus’ day was a remarkable structure. It was one of the wonders of the Roman world.
We should not be surprised that the disciples of Jesus, as pious Jews, were in awe of this place. Nonetheless, they were clearly demonstrating their dullness to the teaching and mission of Christ. Jesus had exposed the spiritual corruption of the temple. The religious leaders had made it a den of thieves (Mark 11:17). Jesus had come to do away with this whole place and its entire sacrificial system by his "once for all" death on the cross. This whole place would be obsolete by the end of the week! It would be replaced by Christ. And Jesus’ disciples are still admiring the building!
Matthew Henry says of this passage: "We may see here how apt many of Christ’s own disciples are to idolize things that look great, and have been long looked upon as sacred…. How little Christ values external pomp, where there is not real purity…."
When I read this, I thought of people who decided on the church they will attend based on the aesthetics of the building. Better to attend a gospel preaching church that meets in a storefront, a field, or a barn than one that meets in a grand old building but is void of the gospel.
I also thought of folk who want to have a grand wedding in a church building in a lavish ceremony, but they do so without any thought of what it might mean to have a Christian marriage.
Notice Jesus’ answer in Mark 13:2: "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Can you imagine the look on the disciples faces when Jesus said this?
On one hand, Jesus is here making a prophetic prediction about the total destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. It was burned to the ground and the great stones they were admiring were, as Josephus wrote, "dug up to the foundation" with nothing left "to make those that came hither believe it has ever been inhabited."
Beyond the prediction, however, Jesus is also taking a wrecking ball to their false conceptions of piety. It is not rich men making great gifts but a widow putting in two paper thin coins (Mark 12:41-44). It is not a magnificent building, but his body. Jesus himself is now our temple!
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Evangel article for 10/22/08.