New Testament passage for Wednesday, February 5, 2014: Matthew 24:1-28
1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:1-2 (NKJV)
One of the Greatest Structures
Throughout history, extravagant building projects have taken place. Think for instance of the Pyramids of Egypt built around 2500 B.C. -- probably with Hebrew slaves. Consider the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome during the 16th Century.
It may surprise you that one of the largest and most extravagant building projects of Jesus' day was undertaking by Herod the Great in Jerusalem. Herod loved building temples for those he ruled, and he did so for the pagan gods of the Gentiles in his territory. But, his masterpiece was the Temple of Jerusalem.
Previously, the Temple had been rebuilt 500 years by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel. But, limited resources and manpower cause this initial re-building to be small and austere. Herod went all out to build one of the most opulent structures in the world -- white marble plaited with gold! It shone in the sun so brightly a man could barely look at it.
Model of Herod's Temple (a renovation
of the Second Temple) in the Israel Museum
The entire Jewish religious community was delighted and proud. This new and improved Temple was better than even Solomon's. It was the best of times.
The Unbelievable Words of Jesus
Then Jesus showed up. It is hard for us to imagine how His words in Matthew 24 hit home to the Jewish religious pride of His day. "I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matt. 24:2).
Jesus predicted complete dismantling of this fantastic structure. The Jewish leaders couldn't take such blasphemy. This hot-headed rabble rouser had to be silenced. So they had Him crucified.
Here are some observations:
1. Jesus always rearranges things.
Even though Herod's rebuilt Temple looked fabulous, it was not God's idea. We too often mistake good ideas for God ideas. He always has the best plans. Sometimes He tears our plans down so He can built up His own plans for us. We need to hold things lightly and be ready for Him to change them.
2. Be ready for the next thing God has for you.
Too often we spend our lives looking back. I can do that. I remember when my girls were small and how wonderful it was. Then they grew up. Now I've got grandchildren. Guess what? They're growing up too. You can't hold on to yesterday. Life can be a succession of saying, "Goodbye." But, it is also saying, "Hello!"
God was through with the Temple in Jerusalem. I know there are Bible verses about the Temple yet being rebuilt someday, but God never goes backwards. He always leads forward and upward. The Jews could not imagine God being finished with their beautiful Temple. But He was. He had something better -- a Temple not built with hands, eternal in the heavens (Mark 14:58; II Co. 5:1).
3. Judgment comes.
This is a sobering note. God walked out of the Temple (see Matt. 24:1 ... "then Jesus went out...") because the Jews rejected His Son.
Does God ever walk out on a situation? Does God ever say, "That's enough?" Does He ever bring judgment? The answer is YES. Two millennia of misery and pain lay ahead of the Jewish people. By 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus had encircled Jerusalem. He burned the entire city and destroyed the Temple. Using grappling hooks, he tore every stone down and leveled that high mountain mesa.
Just a few verses before, Jesus had wept over the fate of Jerusalem. 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Matthew 23:37-38 (NKJV)
He does not delight in bringing harsh judgment, but HE DOES. In a grace-oriented world, we need to hear also about the righteousness of God and His call to live according to His Word. In His true grace, He calls us to welcome His will.
Predictions You Can Count On
God has a wonderful future in store of all those who follow Him. He has the ways and means for blessing and fulfillment. It is a comfort to me to know that Jesus already knows my future and all the details. It is under His control.
Throughout the rest of Matthew 24, Jesus predicts harrowing circumstances that will come upon the earth. The tells about tribulation and terror -- about moral decay and misleading prophets. History heads toward a climax in which He will return in glory.
But He also predicts His care for us. The singular lesson in all this is STAY CLOSE TO JESUS. Keep watching (24:42). Keep praying. Keep believing.
The same Jesus who predicted the end of the Temple is also the Jesus who offers you His comfort and care. He gives us power for the present, and hope for the future.