READ Luke 21:5-6
After Jesus has praised the poor widow for giving of her very life, some (we are not told who) begin commenting on the wealth of the temple. Perhaps the disciples wanted to make a display of their insights, proving to Jesus that they understood the point of his teaching. I can imagine them noting the luxury of the temple in a nearly scoffing tone, as if to imply that wealth is the problem. In doing so, they would have missed the point of Jesus’ teaching entirely. Hearing this commentary – from the disciples or otherwise – Jesus continues teaching:
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5-6)
Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus teaches about the upside-down way of the kingdom of God, and this is no exception. Jesus tells His disciples that the temple that they are sitting in will be dismantled. Each stone will be disassembled; the walls will fall and the center of worship as they know it will no longer exist. To our post-New Testament, Western ears this may not strike us as spectacular. In a church culture that supports hopping from one church to another in different seasons of life or worship preferences, the idea of a worship center being destroyed is not likely to undo us. But to the disciples Jewish ears this is an upending reality. The temple was a long-awaited promise of God! After years of wandering in the dessert and desiring a place to put down spiritual and physical roots, the people of God were given a place to call home. And one of the primary signs of its permanence was the composition of the temple.
Take a look at Exodus 33:7-11. In what kind of “building” did God first meet with His people?
For years, the Jewish people met with God in a tent, called the Tent of Meeting. Though God spoke to prophets and leaders in this tent, it could be packed up and put away, without any sign of when it would be re-erected. As they wandered in the wilderness – far from home and, at times, far from God through disobedience – the Tent of Meeting served as a physical sign of their spiritual wandering.
What do you imagine the command to start building a permanent temple meant to the people of God?
The day finally comes when God calls the people to start construction of a temple – a permanent place to meet with God! This not only signified that the people would consistently have the presence of God among them in the temple, but it also represented their permanent place in the world. They could build a temple because they could finally, after generations of wandering as nomads, call this place “home.” The laying of the temple’s foundation paved the way for their own roots as a people to grow down, giving them a sense of place and belonging.
Then, Jesus tells His disciples that the temple will come tumbling down. Tomorrow we’ll look more closely at the temple itself and get to the bottom of what Jesus is saying. But for today, let’s sit in the fear and confusion that the disciples must have felt. Not only is the temple of huge spiritual and national significance to the people of Israel, but it is also the very place where the disciples are standing. The disciples have no idea what Jesus is up to. And, as we’ll see tomorrow, He’s up to more than they ever knew.
Spend some time thanking God that He is with us permanently through His Spirit. Thank Him that in Christ we have access to God – not through a tent or temple, but through His Spirit.