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“WHAT WONDERFUL STONES AND WHAT WONDERFUL BUILDINGS!”
by Philip Owen

The disciples had been with the Lord for some three years.  Now just a few days before His death, the Lord enters the temple in Jerusalem with His disciples and takes as His teaching text the first verse of Psalm 110:  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet.”  The gospel writer observes only that “the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him” (Mark 12:37b).  If any of the twelve disciples felt compelled to comment on Christ’s teaching, those comments are not recorded; they seem to have been little moved by their Lord’s words.  The charge that this is an observation without foundation may be countered by the incident that Mark records shortly thereafter.  “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’” (Mk. 13:1).

  Perhaps, it is a gracious act of the Spirit of God to omit the identification of the disciple who spoke those words.  He, at least, appears to have been far more impressed with natural things than spiritual, consumed with the temporal and oblivious to the eternal.  He had just heard a message delivered by the Son of God from heaven, words filled with light and power, truth and life, words that could deliver from the bondage of sin and save a soul from hell, words filled with a supernatural energy to bring one who heard the words into fellowship with God, but words also that brought a stinging condemnation on the hypocrites who pretended to look for the Messiah but rejected Him when He came.  Yet at least one of the disciples seemed to have ignored these profound truths to exclaim over some stones that had been chiseled out of rock and mortared together.

  We must admit that Herod’s Temple, nearly fifty years in the making, was a magnificent structure.  The point is not that the disciple was unduly impressed with a ramshackle hovel because, in His response to this exclamation, the Lord makes no attempt to deny the accuracy of the observation.  The stones were wonderful, I suppose; certainly, the edifice was worthy of note so far as buildings go.  But the Lord simply responded, “Do you see these great buildings?  Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down” (Mk. 13:2).  And, in fact, within about forty years, the Roman general, Titus, attacked Israel, destroyed Jerusalem, and razed the temple.  The Messiah Whom His people had rejected and had slain, had risen, ascended, and was sitting at the right hand of God as the temple was destroyed because it had become a mere emblem of vain religion, empty works of self-righteousness, and meaningless displays of false piety.

  Perhaps, that disciple remained unnamed so that we might more readily identify with his observation and see ourselves in him.  How quickly we forget the words of life we hear preached from the pulpit.  Far too often they are as ephemeral as a wisp of smoke.  All the while we revel in the external trappings of worship.  Going to church makes us feel good:  we have done our duty, fulfilled our religious responsibilities for another week.  “Look how wonderful the pulpit-arrangement flowers are!”  “We’re going to be having a good dinner today!”  “What do you have planned for this week?”  Not temple stones, exactly, but merely temporal things that, like Herod’s temple, will shortly crumble. 

May we seek and may the Lord teach us to see things with His eyes.  May we not be excessively impressed with temporal things.  May we not let the eternal riches of the Word of God fall by the wayside as we pursue the temporal gains of this world.  The Lord warned the disciples what would happen to the temple, and by implication, to those who were impressed with externalities.  Titus created such a conflagration that the stones of the temple crumbled.  Similarly, what we value will be tried in the fire.        Only that which is of Christ will survive.  May we focus our hearts and efforts on those things. 

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