And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,…
It would seem that, as an interlude amid his diligent teaching in Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples, on their way back to Bethany, had paused on the Mount of Olives and contemplated the temple. The building was a superb one, and so well put together that the disciples and people generally believed it would last till doomsday. Hence, amid their admiration for the gorgeous pile, came their question about the end of the world, which would, they believed, synchronize with that of the temple. Now, our Lord, while prophesying its destruction, warns them not to be mistaken about times and signs.
I. OUR LORD WARNS THE DISCIPLES AGAINST FALSE ALARMS. (Vers, 7-9.) He indicates that many false Messiahs will arise, declaring their Messiahship and the speedy approach of the end. They are to be for the most part of the military type, for this was the kind of Messiah Israel wanted. The result will of necessity be "wars and tumults." But the disciples ought not to be alarmed at these mere preliminaries. The end would not be "immediately" (Revised Version). It is well known that between our Lord's time and the destruction of Jerusalem quite a number of military and mushroom Messiahs arose, "making confusion worse confounded." They were only the outcome of the people's false hopes, and of no prophetic import.
II. THE DISCIPLES, AS THEIR LORD'S WITNESSES, WOULD EXPERIENCE BOTH PERSECUTIONS AND INSPIRATIONS. (Vers. 10-19.) And here the Lord states that persecution of his people would precede national and natural troubles. War, earthquake, and pestilence would be the providential judgment upon unrighteous persecution. But the persecuted witnesses should receive the inspiration needful to speak resistlessly. They might be betrayed and martyred, but no real injury would overtake them. "There shall not an hair of your head perish." In this remarkable deliverance of our Lord about persecution he implies that his people are really imperishable. The world might do its best to annihilate them by fire and sword; their bones might be scattered, no marble tells whither; but the Lord who loves and prizes his people's dust will reorganize the scattered remains, and demonstrate how absolutely imperishable his people are. Hence he urges patience. "In your patience," he declares, "ye shall win your souls." So that it was a most wonderful preparation of these marked men for martyrdom and all preceding tribulation. Were we more dependent on Divine inspirations, we should be There calm and influential before a hostile world.
III. THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM. IS DISTINCTLY FORETOLD AS AN INSTANCE OF DESERVED VENGEANCE. (Vers. 20-24.) And here the Lord gives his people directions to escape from the doomed city as soon as they should see the armies gathering round it. The siege was drawn upon it by no misconduct of theirs, but by the misconduct of their enemies: why, therefore, should the Christians lay down their lives for a false policy and cause? Their duty was, if possible, to escape. He also hires at the horrors of the siege, and how mothers with their infant children would suffer terribly. The issue of the investment would be the slaughter of multitudes and the exile of the rest, The Jews became wanderers and exiles from that moment.
"Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast,
How shall ye flee away and be at rest!
The wild dove hath her nest, the fox his cave,
Mankind their country - Israel but the grave!"
IV. REDEMPTION MAY BE DISCERNED AS DRAWING NIGH. (Vers. 25-33.) Our Lord. indicates that distress of nations, perplexity, and faint-heartedness through fear will precede his second coming. But his people need be no sharers in this fear. So far from this, as soon as the judgment-signs begin they are to lift up their heads, assured that redemption is drawing nigh. The outlook may be wintry for the world, but it is summer for the saints of God. And here we may notice:
1. The parable of the spring trees. (Vers. 29, 30.) Our Lord reminds the disciples that every spring, in the buds and shoots of the various trees there is the promise of the summer. The progress is gradual, yet noticeable. In the same way his people are to look for the signs of coming summer, and to manifest a hopeful spirit in beautiful contrast to the despairing spirit of the world.
2. The imperishable character of the Christian stock. (Vers. 31-33.) All the world's opposition and persecution will not annihilate the Christian stock. As the martyrs fall before their persecutors, it is only to summon fresh witnesses for the Master from the ranks of their enemies. The Christian stock abides. There need be no fear. Let this be left to the unbelieving world.
V. THE LORD'S PEOPLE OUGHT CONSEQUENTLY TO BE WATCHING AND PRAYING FOR THE ADVENT. (Vers. 34-38.) And in the conclusion of this discourse our Lord clearly indicates:
1. That it is possible to escape the judgments which are coming on the earth before the advent. For there is no merit in allowing one's self to be involved in judgments which others by their unbelief have invited. It is our duty to escape, if possible, the catastrophe.
2. It can only be by a watchful and prayerful spirit. Self indulgence, everything that would dull our sense of the impending advent, must be avoided. It is to come as a thief and a snare upon those that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Hence the imperative necessity of watching. And it is prayer which will help us in our watching. We must wrestle with the coming King, that he may count us worthy to escape the world's judgments and to stand before him.
3. How great a privilege it will be to be permitted to stand in the presence of the Son of man! No such privilege is afforded even by the greatest of earthly kings. It becomes us, therefore, to be in downright earnest about this privilege, and by persevering prayer to secure it.
VI. OUR LORD GAVE THE DISCIPLES THE EXAMPLE OF THE WATCHFUL PRAYER REQUIRED. (Vers. 37, 38.) For it would seem that, in the closing days, the people came so early to the temple to be taught, that he could not go as far as Bethany to spend the night. He went out, therefore, at nightfall to the Mount of Olives, and spent the night-watches more in prayer than in sleep. He was showing what persevering prayer in the crises of history must be. Let our Lord's Gethsemane habits call each of us to privacy and patient prayer such as will alone secure the proper public spirit. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,