1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2–ESV)
Here are the disciples walking in Jerusalem almost as if on tour. Their minds were filled with the grandeur and probably they were considering how they might be related to this magnificence given their alignment with Jesus.
They spoke their wonder to Jesus, but Jesus rained on their parade, saying it was all going to be destroyed. No details on timing or how, just that the demise would be thorough.
I am sure that shifted their outlook on those great edifices. That injected a different awe to intermingle with their stares. They did not seem to doubt the words of Christ. Perhaps they could as little imagine how the great stones would fall as how those great buildings could have been built in the first place. Their happy exuberance was covered by a great cloud. It would have given them pause in their aspirations.
A mindset of futility…
What have I seen and thought at having read this passage in the years of my life? I think foremost is a desire to avoid the same mistakes the disciples made. They thought too well of the great deeds of man. Their own hopes were high and their view of earthly things fit well with their own imaginations, but then came Jesus’ reality check.
I think that I have been jaded by this. I have been marked internally against human achievement. Those temple buildings and great places were made by man and were wondered at by the disciples. They were, though, temporary. Jesus’ answer to marveling was discarding.
When I look at magnificent buildings, bridges, cities, tunnels, I do not see them like the disciples did. Rather, I see them with my negative eye, and as marks of man’s self-building. I see them from the standpoint that they, too, will likely be destroyed. They are not permanent. Their builders are long gone. What is their point?
Jesus called the buildings great…not an exercise in futility
Jesus did not speak of futility when he and the disciples were speaking about this. In Mark he called the buildings great. He did not say that it was stupid to have built them. Jesus said nothing about vanity in this context. No disparaging comments were brought against the builders. He mainly said they would be torn down.
He was not happy at their coming demise. It was more like sadness at the thorough demise of the Jewish culture. For me to go the extra step asking, “Why build?” is not a facet of godliness.
Those buildings were often made to honor God and were the result of God’s blessing upon an obedient people. To declare that such effort should be skipped in the name of futility does not honor God. It is better to build even in the presence of sin’s corrupting principle.
Those buildings would not have passed away had the people adhered to the words of God. Jesus said those do not pass away. Proper adherence will prevent early disappearance.
People want to build and improve. People want to do great things. These desires are not sinful, but are God given. Proper coupling of desires to God will lead to proper building. Couple human effort to the drive toward great things and faltering will be the reality.
Things to remember from this section
- Great things do not last forever
- Forever is not the only good thing
- The end-game is not the only game
- The point now is as good as the point forever
- We must not allow our own negative outlooks to overtake or overshadow God’s intentions
- Pray that our own outlook will be shaped by God’s outlook