And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!…
The chapter now coming under our perusal for two Sundays in succession, is not easy of interpretation in a good many of its particulars, because the suggestions of doctrine glide so imperceptibly and fitfully between the predictions of Jerusalem's downfall and the prophecies of the world's end that we cannot always fix their exact application. It appears as if it might be as well on the present occasion to occupy ourselves with what is plain and practical, and not lose our time in speculation upon what is not certainly revealed.
I. We learn, in the beginning, THAT JERUSALEM WAS OPENLY ANNOUNCED AS DOOMED TO FALL BEFORE IT FELL. Some specific incidents were related beforehand which would test the prophetic power of Jesus Christ there at once, and put within reach of His disciples a confutation or a confirmation of His claims. It hardly needs to be stated, for the whole matter is so familiar, that the predictions of this city's overthrow showed that our Lord spoke with a perfect knowledge of the events He mentioned as coming on the earth. The site of that old town is a well-known fact; no one thinks of disputing the locality. The historic books of the Jews tell how Jerusalem was overthrown by the Romans. Any one can ask and answer whether the stones are large, whether they are in position or not. The city lies "on heaps." Mount Zion is "ploughed." The temple is gone. Those vast walls are scattered. Some few stones of prodigious size yet remain in what were the foundations of the edifices, and in the cavernous substructions underground. No one can pass out of the modern Jaffa gate, and push on around along the declivity of Zion till he enters again the gate of Stephen, without unconsciously saying to himself, "See what manner of stones!"
II. We learn, next, as we continue to read the verses (vers. 3, 4), THAT IT IS LAWFUL TO INQUIRE FOR THE TIME OF FULFILMENT OF SCRIPTURAL PROPHECY. It is not right to attempt to set it, but if it can be ascertained, so much the better for our understanding, and in that direction our duty lies. Christ makes no rebuke for what some consider their curiosity. On the contrary, He tells them most important facts concerning the great times coming.
III. We learn also, just here, THAT THERE WILL BE ONE SPECIAL TOKEN OF THE WORLD'S END WHICH WILL NOT FAIL: "the gospel must first be published among all nations" (ver. 10): Very carefully chosen is this phraseology. We are not told that all the nations are to be converted by the gospel before the true Christ shall come again, but that they are all to hear it. It would seem as if it could not be a difficult thing to decide so evident a fact as this assumes, whenever it should occur. Most of us would, no doubt, be surprised to learn how many of the nations on the face of the earth have, really, already heard the tidings of salvation; and it is not impossible that the joyous moment is very nigh. It is time, certainly, to be thoughtful. It is within the memory of almost all of us that the fixed, and with some good old men the stereotyped, prayer for monthly concert, for many a year, was that God would open China to the gospel, and break down the barriers in Japan. Now there is in all the world nothing in the way except the hardness of men's hearts. Growth has been made in evangelizing effort that startles us when we think of it. Lately, the sudden conversion of nations in a day, as once seemed to be the case in Madagascar, has come to appear less and less strange. Spiritual uprisings of whole peoples at a time have been recorded in our generation.
IV. We learn, also, that when the end of the world draws nigh, IT WILL BE HERALDED AND ACCOMPANIED WITH MOST DIRE CONVULSIONS AND TROUBLES (vers. 19, 20).
VI. So we are ready for our final lesson from the passage: MAN NEED TO PREPARE FOR SUCH A DAY AS THIS BEFORE IT SHALL PROVE TO BE TOO LATE. It is easy for us to see now the relevancy of what has been given us as the golden text (Proverbs 22:3), "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself." There is but one refuge for any human soul: Christ is our "hiding place;" He will "preserve us from trouble" (Psalm 32:7). If we believe in Him, we are safe. It is revealed in the Scriptures that the coming of our Lord to judge the world will find men in a condition of apathy and listlessness. They will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, as they were in Noah's time (Matthew 24:37-39). They will be buying and selling, planting and building, as they were in Lot's time (Luke 17:28-30). Better for us who are studying to know God's will this impressive hour to call on the Lord at once, and be secure.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!