As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, look at the magnificent stones and buildings!"
some of the stones as forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth." Many of these were of sculptured marble. The reply of Jesus may be read either affirmatively or interrogatively, or with a mixture of both assertion and question. The apodosis is, "There shall not be left here stone upon stone," etc. Thus their lingering gaze is quietly but grandly rebuked, and their thoughts directed with solemn, practical earnestness to the Divine future in which all that pomp of masonry and decoration was to have no place.
I. THE NATURAL MIND IS MOST IMPRESSED BY WHAT IS GREAT AND BEAUTIFUL IN OUTWARD APPEARANCE. The simple Galilean peasants were carried away with enthusiastic admiration of the princely buildings, so unparalleled in their experience. To such an extent was this the case that they were in danger of being ensnared.
1. Sensuous admiration is easily confounded with spiritual attachment. The mind, in order to correct this error, must dwell on the spiritual truths of which external objects are but the symbols, and realize that, whilst the latter shall pass away, the former must endure for ever.
2. The world, in its sensuous totality, is similarly pregnant with temptation to the soul that has not learnt to look through the visible into the invisible and eternal.
II. THAT WHICH FAILS OF ITS DIVINE IDEA, OR OPPOSES THE DIVINE PURPOSE, SHALL BE DESTROYED. The splendid building upon which they were gazing had ceased to minister to the higher spiritual life of the people, and had, through its officers and representatives, rejected the Son of God. It had thereby sealed the warrant of its own extinction: not one stone should stand upon another. So is it with the individual, institution, or nation which fails to realize its chief end.
1. This is penal. There was no process of natural decay, no growing beautiful with age - the sensuous slowly merging into the spiritual; no succession of normal changes ensuring expansion, adaptation, and continuity; but sudden, awful destruction, accompanied by unheard-of misery. God must witness to his righteousness even in judgment. The soul that sins shall die.
2. It is in order to give place to a worthier realization of the Divine will. The "house not made with hands" was nearer when this external sanctuary, which had been defiled, was removed. "The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:21-24). Not until the temple had been destroyed would the temple's Lord make advent to the world. Judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). "But on all these points the first and great question is not what is to be done, but who is to do it. Is the reform of the Church to be consigned entirely to politicians and economists, who only look at the goodly stones and gifts of the temple, some with an anxious, others with a greedy eye, and care nothing about the service of the sanctuary nor the edification of the worshippers? Or will any part of the work be put into the hands of sincere and zealous and enlightened lovers of the Church? In the latter case we may securely hope for the best. In the other, it is to be feared that, if beneficial changes ever take place, they will have been purchased by great losses and a disastrous experience" (Thirlwall," Letters,' vol. 1 p. 107). - M.
Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here.things to what He does of doomed people. Mind was infinitely more interesting to Him than masonry. When He refers to the temple He says, "As for these things" with an air of comparative indifference; but when He refers to doomed people He weeps, and says, "O Jerusalem," etc. The language of Christ and His disciples here will apply —
I. TO SECULAR INTERESTS, WHICH ARE DOOMED THINGS. Markets, governments, navies, and armies are doomed.
II. TO ARTISTIC PRODUCTIONS, WHICH ARE DOOMED THINGS.
III. TO SOCIAL DISTINCTIONS, WHICH ARE DOOMED THINGS.
IV. TO RELIGIOUS SYSTEMS, WHICH ARE DOOMED THINGS.
V. TO THE WORLD ITSELF, WHICH IS A DOOMED THING. Why set your hearts on doomed things?
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. THIS EVENT FURNISHED A MOST STRIKING PROOF OF THE TRUTH OF OUR LORD'S PREDICTIONS AND CONSEQUENTLY OF HIS DIVINE MISSION AND AUTHORITY.
II. The destruction of Jerusalem served a most important purpose in reference to Christianity, BY LIBERALISING THE MINDS OF THE BELIEVERS AND PARTICULARLY BY EMANCIPATING THE JEWISH CONVERTS FROM THE AUTHORITY OF THE MOSAIC RITUAL.
III. The destruction of Jerusalem, by weaning the believing Hebrews from their national attachments, AND SCATTERING THEM ABROAD IN THE EARTH, CONTRIBUTED ESSENTIALLY TO THE DIFFUSION OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND INFLUENCE OF THE GOSPEL. But what are its bearings upon Judaism?
1. Whether the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews is not to be regarded as an act of righteous judgment upon the nation, incurred by the dreadful crime of rejecting the promised Messiah?
2. I ask whether the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple was not a clear intimation of the final abolition of the Mosaic economy? Here only could the sacrifices be offered, so that when it was destroyed, the institution itself was abolished.
(H. Gray, D. D.)
I. IT AWAKENS THAT LOVE OF THE PAST WHICH IS SO NECESSARY A COUNTERPOISE TO THE EXCITEMENT OF THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE. "I have considered," says the Psalmist, "the days of old, the years of the ancient time." They were to him as a cool shade, a calm haven. The study of them carries us back from the days of the man to the days of the child; it opens to us a fresh world; it makes us feel that we do not stand alone in our generation on the earth, but that under God, we are what we are because of the deeds and thoughts of those who have lived before us, and to whom we thus owe a debt which we have constantly to repay to our posterity. How this insight into the past has been increased in our own age. Not only Greeks and Romans, but Egyptians and Assyrians, are familiar to us in this century.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE STUDIES IN DEVELOPING THOSE RAREST OF GOD'S GIFTS TO MAN, A LOVE OF TRUTH, AND A LOVE OF JUSTICE — the will and the power to see things as they really are, and in their just proportions to one another.
III. The more thoroughly we can understand these ancient forms, the more eagerly we can restore and beautify ancient buildings, so MUCH THE BETTER IS THE FRAMEWORK PREPARED FOR THE RECEPTION OF NEW THOUGHTS AND NEW IDEAS. It has been sometimes said that the great periods of building and of admiration for the past have been the precursors of the fall of the religion of the nations which they represented. It has been said, for example, that the burst of splendid architecture under the Herods, immediately preceded the fall of Judaism; that the like display under the Antonii preceded the fall of Paganism; that the like display at the beginning of the sixteenth century preceded the fall of the Church of the middle ages. There is no doubt a truth in this. There is a tendency in an expiring system to develop itself in outward form, when its inward spirit has died away. But this is not at all the whole truth, and the higher truth is something quite different, namely, that these magnificent displays of art, these profound investigations into the past, in those eras of which I have spoken, were part of the same throes, of the same mind and spirit, which accompanied the birth of the new and higher religion, which in each case succeeded. Those Augustan buildings suggested to the apostles' hearts the imagery by which they expressed the most sublime of spiritual truths. "The chief cornerstone;" the stones joined and compacted together; the pillars which were never to be moved; the whole idea of what the apostles called "edification," — that most expressive word when we understand it rightly — the architecture, so to speak, of the Christian soul — all these images were drawn from the superb edifices which everywhere rose before the apostles' eyes. And so in the last great efflorescence of mediaeval architecture, religion, instead of dying out with that effort, took a third start throughout Europe. Oh! may God grant that the glory of the third temple, the glory of the living temple, may as much exceed the glory of the second, as the glory of the second exceeded the glory of the first! Cast not away the old, but see what it means, see what it embraces, see what it indicates, "See what manner of stones and what buildings are here," and then, as in the case of sacred and of ancient words, so also in the case of sacred and ancient edifices, they will become as Luther said of words, not dead stones but living creatures with hands and feet; living stones which will cry out with a thousand voices; stones which will be full of "sermons;" dry bones which when we prophesy over them, will stand on their feet an exceeding great army; ancient, everlasting gates, which shall turn upon their rusty hinges and lift up their hoary doors that the Lord of Hosts may come in; a heavenly city within the earthly city, a city which hath foundations deeper than any earthly foundations, a city whose builder and maker is God!
Sunday School Times.Jesus and the disciples of Jesus differ in just this way about the strength and durability of a great many things in this world. The disciples point to the wealth of the millionaire, to the reputation of a man of worldwide fame, to the influence of a popular leader, to the power of a national government, to the strength of some system of wrong; and they say, "Behold what manner of stones and what manner of buildings!" Jesus says, "There shall not be left here one stone upon another." And the word of Jesus never fails. Wealth is no sure support even for the life that now is. The splendid fabric of a fortune, which a man has toiled a life through to give as an inheritance to his family, crumbles in a night, and the millionaire's children are beggars, or worse. The man whom all the world honoured has become a by-word of the scoffer and jester. He who swayed multitudes at his will, and who defied the voice of an outraged public sentiment, is a wretched outcast denied help or pity from the very creatures of his influence. A system of iniquity edged in by law, and venerable for ages, is overthrown and swept away as by the breath of Omnipotence. No nation on earth, today, is beyond the possibility of ruin tomorrow. A few pounds of dynamite may scatter the last vestiges of the strongest dynasty. The traditions of the ages, the superstitions of entire races, ignorance, vice, evil in high places, Satan himself, and all his hosts combined, cannot keep one stone on another, when the word of God is spoken for the fabric's fall. If we only really believed this truth, which is as true as any other truth of God, and which has been verified anew before our own eyes again and again in the present generation, how much more restful we should be, and how much more courage we should have.
(Sunday School Times.)
1. Taste is not everything in religion. The temple of Jerusalem was perhaps the most beautiful religious building ever raised by men; yet it was built by Herod the Great, a man as wicked in his life as he was exquisite in his taste. And all this beauty is so valueless in God's sight that, costly and marvellous as it was, it had no endurance, but like the grass of the housetop, which withereth afore it groweth up, the world had hardly time to marvel at its aspect before they lamented its end. The true beauty of a church is that of hearts: the kindly thought, the gracious prayer, the consecrated life.
2. There is only one thing that can give endurance — righteousness. Where it is absent, nothing can secure man, city, or institution from a grave fate. So the Saviour begins His teaching on the judgment of Jerusalem. Was it any wonder that, sickened with the thought of such calamity, Christ could not enjoy the outward beauty of the temple as others did?
(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
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.)
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