Wednesday 8 January 2014

Mark 13:1-19 - The end of the Temple

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The time of Jesus' death is now very close and in Mark 13:1-19 he responds to his disciple's awe about the Temple in a way that must have puzzled them at the time. These massive buildings 'thrown down', what did he mean by that?

In 70 AD, only four decades after Jesus spoke about it, the Roman troops under Titus would do just what he had said. They killed many Jews and ejected the rest from the city of Jerusalem, rebuilding it as a Graeco-Roman town. And as part of the process they utterly destroyed the Temple complex, throwing the massive stones down over the side of the Temple Mount. Some of them are still visible there to this day.

The Romano-Jewish historian, Josephus, lived through these terrible times and provides a description of what happened in considerable detail. Mark's report of Jesus' words in these nineteen verses fits the later events very well indeed. However, as with much prophecy his words may also refer to other events too, still to take place.

But what are we going to learn from Jesus here? For one thing he is clear that people are of more value than buildings, however magnificent they may be. Some of his closest disciples want to know when it's all going to happen. Jesus tells them not to be taken in by others who come claiming to be him. Nor are they to be troubled by wars and rumours.

And Jesus speaks clearly about standing firm to the end in the face of persecution. We in the West have little idea what persecution means. But believers living in North Korea, or Syria, or Iran, or Pakistan know all too well what it means to 'stand firm to the end'.

And what is 'the abomination that causes desolation'? (Luke 13:14) It is spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 11:31). In Daniel's day a powerful imperial force entered Jerusalem, stopped the daily Temple sacrifices, and set up an altar to Zeus in the Holy Place. Jesus is saying that something similar will happen again. This time the powerful imperial force will be the Roman legions and not only will the daily sacrifices be stopped, but the Temple itself will be pulled down. And from 70 AD until now, there has been no Temple and no daily sacrifice.

But there is also hope in Jesus' words. He says it will be a terrible time, worse than anything that has happened previously. Yet he also says that nothing this terrible will ever happen again.

Jesus the Messiah, Yahshua ha'Mashiach, is the same yesterday, today and forever. He knows the end from the very beginning. This is true, not only of history, but also of our individual lives [Tweet it!]. He knows where you are coming from, he knows your heart today, and he can already see your tomorrows even before you live them. And although he knows everything about us, he still loves us. John says that Elohim is love! (1 John 4:8)

Terrible things may happen in our lives, yet he remains with us. Jesus said, 'Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'. (Matthew 28:20).

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