Summary: The Temple in Jerusalem was foundational to OT Judaism in the same way as the Temple of the Holy Spirit is foundational to the New Covenant
Field Dalling 26-11-03
Shaking the Foundations
As I started preparing the sermon for this morning, I was puzzled why this particular passage of the Gospel of Mark was in the lectionary.
The whole Chapter is about the Signs of the End of the Age, but these first eight verses only speak about the impending destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and a need to beware of being led astray.
1. Resume of the Story:
Let’s try and get a flavour of the story.
As the disciples walked out of the Temple in Jerusalem, they said to Jesus:
"Look, teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" (Mk 13:1)
Jesus paused with his disciples, looked back at the Temple and replied
"Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left upon another; every stone will be thrown down." (Mk 13:2)
And to put it bluntly - the disciples were gobsmacked.
The Temple was the foundation of the disciples’ Jewish faith.
Jesus was dedicated in the Temple there – he had disputed with the teachers of the Law as a young boy. He had worshipped there with his disciples and now he prophesied its doom.
How could this be – Surely nothing could bring down these walls. It was after all “God’s place”
Story: Maddy and I went to Jerusalem in January 2000 and only the base of the Temple remains – the Temple Mount on a part of which the “Dome of the Rock” is built.
But that base is awe inspiring. It is massive.
And the Temple must have been breath- taking.
2. The OT Temple
The smallest stones in the structure weighed 2 to 3 tons. Many of them weighed 50 tons or more.
The largest existing stone is 12 meters in length and 3 meters high, and it weighs hundreds of tons!
The stones were so immense that neither mortar nor any other binding material was used between the stones. Their weight ensured the stability of the walls.
The walls towered over Jerusalem, over 400 feet in one area.
Inside the four walls was 45 acres of bedrock mountain shaved flat and during Jesus’ day a quarter of a million people could fit comfortably within the structure.
Even today - where you can only see the base of the Temple, you can easily imagine how impressive it must have been. Even the base simply towers over the road below
And of course, 40 years later Jesus’ prediction came true. In 70 AD the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Titus as the Romans took the city.
The Jews were indeed led astray by false prophets who believed that they were God’s chosen Messiah to rid the Jews of the slavery of Rome.
3. The NT Temple - the Temple of the Holy Spirit
So what does this passage mean for us today?
To me, this passage speaks of a new foundation.
In the Old Testament, the Temple – the place where God dwelled - was foundational. It was located in one fixed place - in Jerusalem.
But when Jesus came all that changed.
In the New Testament, we see that the Spirit of God is no longer centred in the City of Jerusalem and in the Temple.
Rather there is a new Temple and it is the dwelling place of God in each believer’s heart – regardless of where he or she lives.
St. Paul put it so cogently when he said:
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)
The focus of the New Covenant in Christ is not buildings - however wonderful they may be - but rather in God himself living in us.
If we are God’s temple, what consequences does this have for us? If we can dispense with the ceremonial law associated with the Temple, does it means that we can disregard the moral law of God too.
The apostle Paul has this to say:
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2)
That is quite a challenge isn’t it? To allow God to transform our minds so that we can recognise and do the perfect will of God in our lives.