“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ 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
Many people’s reaction to Jesus’ statement in these verses is, “Why do you have to be so serious all the time? Why can’t you just enjoy the beauty of something man has accomplished? Lighten up!” The reason is because Jesus saw the stakes of helping His disciples see the world through His eyes (the eyes of God Himself), moving them away from their temporally focused, fleshly, sinful eyes. Yes the temple was gorgeous, I’m sure. I cannot even imagine the architecture, the craftsmanship, the work involved to have made it what it was. What we have left at the present time in Jerusalem is absolutely beautiful. How much greater was it’s beauty around the time of Jesus?
Of course Jesus could appreciate beauty, He created everything that exists and is Himself the Author of beauty! (Colossians 1:16) That is not why Jesus came to this world though, to appreciate beauty. He came to show a just God who does not pass over sin without any regard for His honor and name; and He came to redeem a people for Himself by His blood. He came with specific intentions, and His disciples were the one’s through whom He would begin building His church. Jesus was not going to let them get distracted from the end for which He entered the world by man made structures and accomplishments. Jesus had an intentionally designed agenda at every point along the way in His ministry: to give them (and us) an eschatological vision that was centrally focused upon the prize, that is the glory and supremacy of God for their ultimate enjoyment and His glory in that enjoyment, forever. It pervaded everything Jesus said, His whole life. This is no exception.
The natural person will of course start questioning why Jesus could not just appreciate the temple with his disciples right before He was going to the cross. This is because the natural person, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Jesus’ statements make no sense to those without the Spirit. Apart from the Spirit giving us understanding into His words, His statements are mere sayings, teachings, or good wisdom. That is why you have so many theologically liberal scholars who seek to equate Jesus’ life and ministry with that of Ghandi, Buddha, and other “wise” teachers. Regardless, Jesus Himself was looking beyond this world and its riches and glory to the one to come, which is infinitely greater. The only way that world would be possible for sinners was by His nearing death and resurrection. Hence, this is why Jesus was so centrally focused upon the end goal, the joy set before Him: the glorification of God in redeeming sinners by His blood.
In Mark 13:1-2, Jesus is instructing His disciples that everything they see around them will fall apart and decay. They have no reason to set their hopes on or find their joy in these things or the things of man at all, for all is fleeting and will pass away in the twinkling of an eye. This was the message of Ecclesiastes. And the message of that book was so depressing for our natural selves really so that we are forced to find our joy not in the things that decay, fade, and fall apart, but in the Rock, in the Redeemer, in Jesus Christ alone. The last chapter of the book ends by saying, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.'” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) And we do this (fear God and keep His commandments) by daily fixing our gaze upon Him in prayer and Scripture reading, humbly depending upon the Spirit to move us and conform us to His image. For apart from Christ you can do none of these things.
“There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down,” Jesus says. Now of course, in the context of this passage, Jesus is specifically speaking about the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. But the same principle still applies for all of us in the present day. Focusing on the here and now with no eternal perspective on the end goal, the glory of God and His people enjoying the presence of His being forever, is foolishness. It is in fact absurd! If our existence upon the Earth as Christians is to just gather “stuff” that the world considers to be the end goal, then we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19).
But the point of Christian existence in this world is to focus our entire worldview, our entire eschatological understanding and perspective, our entire lives even, upon the reward which is Christ Himself, at the expense of ourselves. This reward is spoken of as it pertained to Moses: “[Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26) For the glory of God and the joy of our own hearts, we must do the same. Consider the reproach of Christ from a secular world who thinks the cross foolishness as greater wealth than the treasures it focuses upon as the ultimate joy and reason we exist. At your schools, in your jobs, and unfortunately, even in many churches nowadays, be willing to sacrifice yourselves for the cause of making Christ the center of your life and the lives of others, for He is your final, great Reward.
May we all consider that Jesus came not to give us uppity, upper-class, rich lives in the materialistic world’s eyes, or just help us live to the best of our potential, or to help us gather abundance in possessions and create and work for the ends of man. There is quite enough schlock out there already in the name of Christ to make me sick. But rather, Christ came and suffered on our behalf on the cross, so that we could also suffer with Him, and by His work in and through us, build His Kingdom, reversing the curse. And He did this that we can all, as His adopted people who trust Him alone through faith, together enjoy Him as our great Reward forever. There is indeed nothing better in all the universe. Let us look to the Reward and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Enjoy the things God has blessed you with. I’m not saying that we should not enjoy these things, or that it is bad to have them, because they do point to the character and goodness of the One who provided them for you; enjoy what He’s given you to His glory! But let us also consider His words at the same time in the verses at the top, that not one thing around us will be left standing when He comes to execute judgment upon the Earth. Therefore, He is all that matters. We are not to set our final hope and joy upon these temporal things and make our life’s work for the world’s ends, for all of these things will quickly disappear, right before our eyes many times. Christ is the solid Rock upon which we stand, who never changes though, a Person who we can set our ultimate, final hopes upon because of His life, death, and resurrection.