13 As Jesus 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.”
3 As Jesus 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?”
(Mark 13:1-4 NIV)
As we ended chapter 12, we saw Jesus and His disciples sitting and people-watching in the Temple. Jesus pointed out the incredible faith of an unnamed widow who placed all she had in the offering – two small copper coins. Jesus noted that she put in more than all the others combined, as she gave all she had to live on.
As we begin chapter 13, Jesus and His disciples exit the Temple area, headed for the Mount of Olives on the hill about Jerusalem. Jesus uses this time to tell His disciples about future events so they won’t be surprised when they occur.
Mark chapter 13 is one of the hardest sections of New Testament scripture to understand. One of the reasons is that Jesus’ teachings are deeply rooted in the context of Jewish culture and folklore. The Jews had the Old Testament writings and prophecies that told about the judgment of the Lord. Over the centuries, the Jewish writers and storytellers imagined what that “terrible day of the Lord” would be like. These stories, poems, and songs formed the mindset and folklore of the day.
As Jesus and His disciples were leaving the Temple, one of the disciples exclaims about the wonder of the Temple, with its amazing stones and architecture. Jesus replies that none of the stones would be left standing on another. To the disciples, this sounded like the end of the world.
When Jesus and His disciples reach their destination on the Mount of Olives, four of Jesus’ disciples come to Him and ask Him two questions in private:
- When will these things happen?
- What will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?
As we shall see in subsequent days, Jesus will answer their questions and more. But His answer will be rooted in His role as Messiah, not as a conquering hero of Jewish folklore, but as the Suffering Savior who came to save and serve humanity.
Every generation has its crisis of faith; the disciples were not immune or exempt from theirs. This generational turning point happens in our modern times as well as ancient days. I remember my grandparents talking about their parents (my great-grandparents) thinking that the world had come to an end during World War I. My grandparents and my parents talked about the Great Depression and World War II. My parents lived in the shadow of Vietnam and the Cold War with Russia and its allies. We now live in troubling economic times and ongoing culture wars and the constant threat of terrorism.
As we will see, Jesus tells His disciples (and us) to stand firm in our faith, and not be surprised or misled by the events happening around us and to us.
May we remain faithful to Him regardless of our circumstances.