Enduring the Shame (Mark 15:16-32)

We're in Mark 15 this morning. Jesus has been tried and condemned, and abandoned by everyone. We are now moments away from his death in this passage.

But before Jesus is killed, we have an interlude. And in this interlude we notice two things. One: that Jesus is mocked. Two: that in the entire time leading up to his death, Jesus does nothing to resist what's happening. He never raises his voice to defend himself. He willingly endures whatever comes his way as he moves closer to the cross.

As we look at this passage we're going to see three things. First: we're going to learn about ourselves. Second: we're going to learn about Jesus. And then lastly, we're going to learn about what Jesus accomplished for us not only in his death, but in the hours leading up to his death.

First: let's learn about ourselves in this passage.

What's shocking in this passage is the extent to which Jesus is abandoned. Look at this passage and what takes place immediately before:

  • In 14:43, Judas - one of the twelve disciples that Jesus had chosen - betrays him with a kiss.
  • in 14:51, another one of his followers runs away naked. Some think that this person is Mark himself. Whoever it is, it points to the complete failure of Jesus' friends to support him when the moment came.
  • In 14:65, members of the Sanhedrin - the top religious leaders - spit on Jesus, covered his face, and struck him.
  • In 15:13-14, the crowds call out for Jesus' death.
  • In 15:15, Pilate had Jesus scourged. Scourging meant that Jesus was tied to a post and beaten with a leather whip that had pieces of bone and metal that would tear through the skin. Scourging itself was sometimes fatal.
  • In 15:16-20, the guards sarcastically mocked Jesus as a supposed king.
  • In 15:29-30, those who passed by the scene of the crucifixion mocked Jesus. They wagged their heads and taunted him.
  • In 15:31-32, the chief priests and scribes joined the mocking.
  • In 15:32, even those who were being crucified alongside Jesus joined in and mocked him.

It's absolutely shocking as we read this. Jesus is completely and utterly abandoned by everyone. Jews and Gentiles, religious and non-religious, leaders and ordinary folk, and even criminals join in the mocking. His own friends betray him.

What is this supposed to teach us? Martin Luther, a monk and Reformer who lived 500 years ago, wrote:

Let us meditate a moment on the passion of Christ. Some do so falsely in that they merely rail against Judas and the Jews.

Let's stop there for a minute. Luther was saying that 500 years ago, some would open up the Bible as an excuse to attack Judas or the Jewish people. In other words, the Bible became a tool they used to point the finger at others, and even to engage in racist behavior. Luther continues:

The true contemplation is that in which the heart is crushed and the conscience smitten...Take this to heart and doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ. Your sins certainly did, and when you see the nails driven through his hands, be sure that you are pounding, and when thorns pierce his brow, know that they are your evil thoughts...The whole value of meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself and sink and tremble.

Do you see what Luther is saying? There are two ways to read this account. One is to read it and to shake our heads at the people who mocked Jesus. We look at them and condemn them. The other way to read this account is to contemplate that this is a passage that reveals our hearts. This passage shows us to be enemies of God who abandon and mock him, because nobody is excluded from this passage. Everybody joins the mocking. Everybody abandons Jesus. As Luther says, "The true contemplation is that in which the heart is crushed and the conscience smitten."

This passage both humbles us and raises us up. First, it humbles us. You know, it's easy to blame a group of people to which you don't belong. We've all been parts of groups in which we begin talking about the faults of others who aren't like us. But what if we are all put on even ground, and what if there is no difference between us? That's exactly what happens in this passage. Everyone is humbled. Everyone abandons Jesus. The religious mock him; so do the irreligious. Jews mock Jesus; so do the Gentiles. His friends abandon him; strangers shake their heads at him. Nobody gets off. Everyone is humbled as we read this passage.

But this passage also raises us up. What do I mean by this? Because we're all in the same boat, nobody here can claim superiority over the other. Everyone of us is equal in our need for Christ. We're all brought to the point of sinking and trembling. But we're going to see in a moment that there is hope for us in this passage as well.

This is the first thing that Mark asks us to see in this passage. Everyone is guilty. Everyone abandons Jesus. Everyone joins in the mocking. All of us are humbled. All our hearts our crushed, and all of our consciences are smitten.

Secondly, let's learn about Jesus.

If you've ever been falsely accused, you know how you want to respond. You are going to let people know the truth. There's no way that you are going to allow people to spread falsehood about you and to ruin your good name. Yet in this passage, Jesus is falsely accused and verbally attacked, and he says nothing. He's silent.

If you've ever been physically attacked, you know that we all instinctively either fight or flee. But in this passage Jesus does neither. He endures the blows and is beaten and shamed, and he doesn't raise a voice or a fist to defend himself.

This is especially significant because had Jesus stuck up for himself, he would have been very convincing. Adrian Rogers writes:

If Jesus had risen up in his own defense during his trials, I believe he would have been so powerful and irrefutable in making his defense that no governor, high priest, or other legal authority on earth could have stood against him! In other words, if Jesus had taken up his own defense with the intention of refuting his accusers and proving his innocence, he would have won!

We've seen that Jesus is incredibly convincing whenever he's had a verbal confrontation with anyone in this gospel. Jesus is never at a loss for words. But in this passage, Jesus says nothing in his defense, nor does he make any move to avoid what's happening to him. Centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah had written of Jesus:

I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
(Isaiah 50:6)

In other words, Jesus willingly endured the mocking and the spitting. Hebrews 12:2 puts it this way: "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame." It's here that we learn something very important about Jesus.

What do we learn? In a sense, everything that is said about Jesus is true in this passage. They mock him as King of the Jews; ironically, they're right. He is the King of the Jews, except he's a king who suffers. Read verses 29-32:

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!"

In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe."

What are they saying? They're calling on him to save himself. They accuse him of saving others, but not being able to save himself. And in a way they're right. Don Carson imagines what it would have been like if Jesus had taken them up on their challenge:

This would be a pretty remarkable and convincing display of power, and the mockers would be back-peddling pretty fast. But in the full Christian sense, would they believe in him? Of course not! To believe in Jesus in the Christian sense means not less than trusting him utterly as the One who has borne our sin in his own body on the tree, as the One whose life and death and resurrection, offered up in our place, has reconciled us to God. If Jesus had leapt off the cross, the mockers and other onlookers could not have believed in Jesus in that sense, because he would not have sacrificed himself for us, so there would be nothing to trust, except our futile and empty self-righteousness.

But then Carson explores the meaning of their statement, "He saved others, but he can't save himself." Carson says:

The deeper irony is that, in a way they did not understand, they were speaking the truth. If he had saved himself, he could not have saved others; the only way he could save others was precisely by not saving himself. In the irony behind the irony that the mockers intended, they spoke the truth they themselves did not see. The man who can't save himself--saves others.

One of the reasons they were so blind is that they thought in terms of merely physical restraints...But those who know who Jesus is are fully aware that nails and soldiers cannot stand in the way of Emmanuel. The truth of the matter is that Jesus could not save himself, not because of any physical constraint, but because of a moral imperative...It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do his Father's will--and, within that framework, it was his love for sinners like me. He really could not save himself. (Scandalous)

Jesus was completely capable of saving himself - but then he couldn't have saved us. So he willingly chose to endure the mocking and the spitting. He willingly chose to suffer and die so that we could be saved. He chose death so that we could live.

What is this about? Maybe a movie from 1938 will help. The movie is called Angels with Dirty Faces. James Cagney plays the part of Rocky Sullivan, a celebrity criminal who is the hero of all the young juvenile delinquents in the city. He's about to go to the electric chair. The night before his execution, he's visited by his childhood friend Jerry, who is now a priest trying to save inner-city kids from a life of crime. Jerry makes a request of Rocky. He asks Rocky to disgrace himself so that his juvenile followers can live.

I want you to let them down. You see, you've been a hero to these kids, and hundreds of others, all through your life - and now you're going to be a glorified hero in death, and I want to prevent that, Rocky.

Rocky can't believe it.

You asking me to pull an act, turn yellow, so those kids will think I'm no good...You ask me to throw away the only thing I've got left...You ask me to crawl on my belly - the last thing I do in life...Nothing doing. You're asking too much...You want to help those kids, you got to think about some other way.

Jerry is saying to Rocky, "It's them or you. If you go down in glory, these kids are going to go down in shame. But if you go down in shame, if you're willing to throw away everything you have, your entire reputation, then they can be saved." But Rocky refuses.

The next morning he walks out to the execution chamber as Father Jerry watches. He comes out with a snarl. When one of the guards insults him, he slugs him. He's in control. He's going down in glory. But when he gets to the door of the death chamber, suddenly he begins to squeal like a child. "No! I don't want to die! Oh, please! I don't want to die! Oh, please! Don't make me burn in hell. Oh, please let go of me! Please don't kill me! Oh, don't kill me, please!"

Father Jerry, as he sees that happen, looks to heaven. The next day, the newspaper says:

At the fatal stroke of eleven p.m. Rocky was led through the little green door of death. No sooner had he entered the death chamber, than he tore himself from the guard's grasp, flung himself on the floor, screaming for mercy. And as they dragged him to the electric chair, he clawed wildly at the floor with agonized shrieks. In contrast to his former heroics, Rocky Sullivan died a coward.

You see what Rocky did? He substituted his life for the boys. He gave up his reputation so that he could save others.

You see, we are in that story. We are those boys whose life is about to go down. And Jesus is in the story too. He can either save his reputation and his life or save us. And in the most stunning reversal, he offers his life and his reputation so that we could be saved. He substitutes his life and everything he has for us.

Friends, we've seen ourselves in this passage this morning. We're crushed because we are the ones who mocked him. We've seen Jesus in this passage. He willingly endures the mocking and the spitting, because he can either save himself or us. He can't do both. And amazingly, he chooses to save us. There's one more thing we need to see this morning.

Finally, let's see what Jesus accomplished by enduring the shame.

Have you ever been shamed? I mean, really shamed? We see it happen with celebrities and politicians. Scandal hits, and somebody's good name becomes fodder for the late night comedians. We've seen it in business. You spend a lifetime building a good reputation, and you hit one rough patch and your name becomes mud. Think of the worst thing that you've ever done being made public. It would be enough to disgrace every person here.

What does that have to do with this morning's sermon? You've probably been told that Jesus died for your sins. I believe that this morning's passage also teaches us that Jesus did more than this. Adrian Rogers puts it this way: "The Bible teaches that when Jesus took our sin, he took all the punishment that goes with that sin. A part of that punishment is shame."

You see, Jesus assumed your sin. But in this passage he also assumed the shame. Jesus didn't just die; he was humiliated and shamed so that you don't have to be. Romans 10:11 says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame."

As one person put it, "You don't have anything to prove to us or the world. The work is finished at Calvary, and that work has unlimited meaning and value. Keep your focus there" (Jack Miller). You have nothing to prove. You never have to be ashamed. Jesus took all the shame. And anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.

So Father, humble us this morning. We see ourselves clearly in this passage. We are those who mocked him. Everybody abandoned him. Our hearts are crushed, and our consciences are smitten.

But we see Jesus, who willingly endured the mocking and the spitting. He couldn't save himself and us at the same time, so he chose to save us. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame.

Because he took the shame, we don't have to be ashamed. Help us to trust in him and in what he did. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Two Kingdoms (Mark 15:1-15)

We're in Mark 15 this morning. In Mark 15, the book of Mark is reaching its climax. Jesus has been betrayed by Judas and abandoned by his disciples. He has been arrested and beaten and condemned by the religious leaders. And now he's in his last hours. He's about to face his death, but before he does he's going to come up against Pilate, the Roman governor who was in charge of Judea. Only Pilate had the power to condemn Jesus to death. So as we approach this morning's passage, Jesus is bound and beaten, completely abandoned, and about to lose his life.

This morning's passage is really a contrast between two people. Mark has set this scene to contrast two types of strength, two kingdoms. One type of strength is the strength that we all aspire to; the other type of strength is what we'll avoid at all costs. Mark is going to show us what true strength looks like, and if we understand this, it's going to turn our church and our lives upside-down.

First, let's look at the strength, the kingdom, that comes from power.

When Jesus was alive, Rome was in power over the nation of Israel. Because Rome was so huge, they appointed governors in different regions to maintain order. The Romans allowed self-government, so that each nation felt like they had some of their identity and autonomy. But the real power belonged to Rome. They had the ultimate say. They had all the military and economic power, and what they decided is ultimately what happened.

So as we open Mark 15, Jesus is brought before the most powerful person he has ever met in his life:

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

"Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate. 

"You have said so," Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. (Mark 15:1-5)

Notice the contrasts.

Scholars tell us that these events took place early in the morning, because Roman officials began work at daybreak so they could be free by midmorning to pursue activities of leisure. Pilate was going to enjoy the rest of his day; Jesus was on his way to being killed later that day.

Pilate was connected to the most powerful people in the world at that time. He was a mover. At one point he was considered a possible future emperor. He had connections and knew how to access the levers of power. Jesus had no connections. His closest friends had abandoned him. He had no access to the levers of power, and was completely abandoned, even by those closest to him.

Pilate was sitting in a palace. The trial probably took place in Herod's Palace, which was used by Roman governors when they came to Jerusalem for the feasts like Passover. It was encircled with ramparts and towers. It was the largest and most elaborate of Herod's palaces. It had two huge and elaborate reception halls in which you could entertain hundreds of guests. One historian from the period said described it as "the king's palace, which no tongue could describe. Its magnificence and equipment were unsurpassable." The historian wrote that this palace had rooms that were even more magnificent than the Holy Temple, Herod's greatest edifice in Jerusalem. Pilate had free access to all of this magnificent palace. Jesus, on the other hand, came as a prisoner, bound and about to be beaten and condemned.

Pilate had troops at his disposal. It is written that he had "power even to execute." He hadn't been afraid to use his power either. Luke 13 tells us that he had once mixed the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices, perhaps in response to a riot. Pilate was the law, and he could essentially determine what was going to happen. There was no appeal, no supreme court to second guess his decisions.

In short, Pilate has wealth, connections, power, and leisure. Jesus has nothing - no money, no friends, no power, and no freedom. The contrast between Pilate and Jesus in this passage couldn't be more striking.

I want us to see this today because Pilate has everything that we can hope for in our own lives. Henri Nouwen wrote:

Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink; and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love.

I don't know about Pilate's sex life, but everything else that Nouwen mentions is what Pilate had, and what we long for too: the accumulation of wealth and power; the attainment of status and admiration; the best food and drink. Pilate had it all. He had everything that we spend our lives trying to get. We want the connections, the money, and the power. In this passage, Pilate embodies everything that we normally want for ourselves.

But notice what happens in this passage. Pilate has all the advantages, but it's Jesus who seems to be in control. We read in verse 10 that Pilate perceives that the real reason Jesus is on trial is because of the jealousy of the religious leaders. Pilate comes to an accurate conclusion about Jesus, and realizes that Jesus isn't guilty of treason. It's here that you begin to realize that what Pilate has is the appearance of power. He's not a free man. In verses 6 to 15 he tries to free Jesus, but the crowd won't let him. Look a little more carefully and you begin to see the problem with Pilate's strength.

He has access to the best that Jerusalem has to offer - but he hates the place. He has all the power, but he's learned from the past to pick his battles. He's already backed down from one battle with the Jewish people, and here again he gives in. It turns out he's really not in control after all. Eventually he is removed from office and and travels in haste to Rome to defend himself against charges. Before he could get there, the Roman emperor died, and so Pilate disappears from history. Nothing more is known about him. Pilate is a man who has everything, but even in this passage you see that there's really nothing there.

Listen. You and I will spend our lives chasing everything that Pilate had. Many of us are doing this right now. We want the money, the leisure, the respect, and the power. But this passage shows us the futility of this kind of strength. These things are idols that promise the world but that ultimately never deliver. Mark contrasts the strength of Pilate with the weakness of Jesus, which ultimately turns out to be the greatest strength that ever existed.

So let's look for a moment at the strength, the kingdom, that comes through weakness.

We've already seen the weakness of Jesus in this passage. He's bound and abandoned. The religious leaders turn the crowd against him. An insurrectionist and murderer ends up being more popular than him. By the end of this passage, Jesus is condemned and scourged. Scouring means that Jesus would have been bound to a pillar or post and flogged with whips made of leather that were sometimes weighted with pieces of metal, bone, or even hooks. There was no prescribed number of lashes, so scourging was sometimes fatal if they got carried away. At best it left you severely weakened and already on your way to death. There's no greater picture of weakness than in this passage.

Yet it's a chosen weakness. Jesus had a kingdom that far exceeded Pilate's kingdom. Rome could not compare to the riches or the power or the acclaim that Christ enjoyed. Yet he laid it all aside and chose to become weak for our sakes. He chose weakness.

The irony is that Jesus is bound and seemingly powerless, yet it's Jesus who is in charge not Pilate, and not the crowds. Jesus had predicted that this would happen. Jesus had said back in Mark 10:

"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." (Mark 10:33-34)

And Jesus could have put an end to it at any moment. But he didn't. Jesus chose everything that happened to him, because somehow his kingdom functions completely different from every earthly kingdom. His kingdom functions through weakness.

That's why, when Pilate asks Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus answers: "You have said so." What kind of an answer is that? It's an enigmatic answer that means yes or no - or in this case, maybe it means both yes and no. Jesus says, in essence, that he is a king. But he's not the kind of king that Pilate is. He doesn't hold to his rights or his privileges. He's the king who willingly leaves his throne to come to earth unrecognized, to give his life for people who don't deserve his grace or return his love. Jesus is the kind of king who offers his life. He's the king who lays aside his strength and comes in weakness. Isaiah 53 says:

He was despised and rejected by others,

a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.
(Isaiah 53:3-4)

If that's the kind of king we have, what does that mean for those of us who are in his kingdom? It means that we too will lay aside our privileges so that we can serve others. We'll choose to be weak. Justin Martyr, an early church father who lived from 100-165, wrote:

We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.

Hear that? Willingly choosing to give up wealth and grudges. Clement, who lived around the same time, described a Christian this way:

He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.

Nobody puts this better than John: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another" (1 John 3:16). Jesus chose to be weak, and we'll choose to become weak as well as we follow him - willingly pouring out our lives for others.

Because it's not just a chosen weakness, it's a saving weakness. The end of this passage gives us a picture of what happened because Jesus chose to be weak. This man, Barabbas, actually had another name: Jesus Barabbas. Somebody was going to be free; someone was going to be condemned and killed. Pilate knew that Jesus Barabbas was guilty and deserved to die. He was an insurrectionist and a murderer. Pilate also knew that Jesus did not deserve to die. He was guilty of nothing. The only reason he was on trial was because of the jealousy of the religious leaders.

Unthinkably, the convicted murderer goes free, and the innocent Son of the father is condemned. Barabbas deserves to die, but Jesus dies in his place. The love of God does for us what we can't do for ourselves. It's a picture of what Jesus does for every one of us who trusts in him: he dies in our place, while we who are guilty go free. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Mark is showing us two kings, two types of strength. One king, one type of strength, is how we normally live. It's about getting ahead and enjoying the best of life. As Nouwen said, it's what "the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment." But it ultimately leads to the kingdom of self, a kingdom that ends in weakness.

But Mark shows us another type of king, another type of strength. It's a strength that willingly lays aside its rights, the strength of a Savior who's condemned for our sins so that we can go free.

Mark shows us two types of kings - but only one is a king who saves, and a king who will reign forever.

So Father, help us to see what Jesus did.

He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself and came in love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race!

And I pray that all of us would trust in that kind of king.

And I pray it would change us, individually and as a church, so that we would lay down our lives for each other. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

1 Comment

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The Beginning of the End (Mark 13)

This morning we are looking at one of the most challenging passages in the Gospel of Mark, and indeed in all of Scripture. One commentator says that this is "one of the most perplexing chapters in the Bible to understand, for readers and interpreters alike." And he's a scholar and a professional interpreter! So we're in for a lot of fun this morning.

Despite the challenge, this is a crucial passage for us to examine. It's the final discourse of Jesus with his disciples before his death, and the longest block of teaching in the Gospel of Mark. It has a message that we really need to hear today, although this passage may push us a little. So let's look at this passage and try to figure out three things: what he's talking about, what Jesus says about what he's talking about, and what difference it should make for us today.

First: What is Jesus talking about?

Mark 13 begins like this: "As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!'" This is really one of the most important verses to notice in this chapter. It tells us what Jesus is going to be talking about in this passage: the temple in Jerusalem. It's easy to miss this and to get completely sidetracked. Jesus is talking about the temple. And it begins with the disciples being overwhelmed by the temple and admiring its beauty of the temple in Jerusalem.

You probably know that the temple had huge significance for the Jewish nation. It represented the very presence of God among them. God had said in Psalm 132:14 of the temple: "This is my resting place for ever and ever." So it was a place of huge significance.

Why would they be in awe of the temple? When these events took place, Herod's temple had been under construction for fifty years, and it still wasn't finished. Herod had the reputation for being one of the greatest builders ever, and the temple was his crowning achievement. It was massive. The platform on which the temple sat was big enough to hold twelve football fields. The retaining wall around the temple was as high as fifteen stories off the ground. Some of the single stones were as long as sixty feet, and weighed over a million pounds. You couldn't possibly walk around the temple without being awed at the sheer size and magnitude of the place.

And then there was the beauty. It was said that the temple was the most beautiful building in the entire world at that time. We have some eyewitness accounts. Marcus Agrippa, the grandfather of one of the emperors, visited Jerusalem and could talk of nothing else "but praise for the sanctuary and all that pertained to it." The historian Josephus wrote that "the exterior wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye." The sanctuary was covered with gold and silver, crimson and purple. As you approached Jerusalem, you would sometimes be blinded by the sun reflecting on the gold. It would dazzle you. It's been said that Jerusalem wasn't a city that had a temple; it's more like the temple that had a city. The temple was a huge deal.

As the disciples looked at the temple, they were overwhelmed with its beauty and size. And it's this that Jesus is going to talk about in this passage.

What does this have to do with us? We don't have the temple, but we sure have our equivalents. A few years ago I visited the old Bank of Commerce building on King Street, built just after the Depression, you can't help but marvel at the beauty and opulence of the building. It screams that the bank is secure, and that when everyone has been going broke this bank is going to survive. Don't forget when it was built, right after the depression. Buildings make a statement. We have buildings all around us that scream that they matter, that they're permanent, and that they're going to stand when everything else has fallen.

So the temple is unique in one sense. It represents God's dwelling place among the people of Israel. But in other ways it represents the crowning achievement of powerful and rich people. It's part of the national identity and pride of the people who are living at that time. It's something that inspires awe. It makes you think that it's going to be around forever.

Let's ask ourselves the second question: What does Jesus say about the temple?

The disciples marvel as they look at the temple. What does Jesus say?

"Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Mark 13:2)

If you were looking at the buildings, this would have been shocking. Don't forget how big the stones are. Some of them are over a million pounds.

Later, across from the temple on the Mount of Olives - a vantage point with a spectacular view of the building - the disciples asked Jesus to explain. They asked, "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?" They want to know when the temple is going to be destroyed.

If you're going to understand the rest of this passage, you need to understand that Jesus answers this question. Most of what we're going to read is not about the end times. It's about the temple. Jesus begins to describe what's going to happen in the next 40 years after his ascension. There will wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes, he says in verses 5 to 8. The followers of Jesus Christ are going to be persecuted, betrayed by even family, and killed, he says in verses 9-13 - but the gospel will be preached to all nations. The temple itself is going to be desecrated, Jesus says in 14. And it's truly going to be horrible, says Jesus in verses 15 to 23. People will have to flee from Jerusalem and they won't have any time to grab what they need before they leave.

You may buy that Jesus is talking about the destruction of the temple at this point, but you may really struggle with believing me in the next few verses. In verses 24 to 27, Jesus says:

But in those days, following that distress,

"'the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'

At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:24-27)

A lot of people have interpreted this as referring to the second coming. But stay with me for a minute here. I think Jesus is still talking about the destruction of the temple. In the Old Testament, the prophets often used cosmic language to describe God's decisive judgment, particularly on foreign nations. So, for instance, Isaiah described God's judgment on Babylon:

The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sung will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light
(Isaiah 13:10)

And later on, other Gentile nations including Edom:

All the stars in the sky will be dissolved
and the heavens rolled up like a scroll;
all the starry host will fall
like withered leaves from the vine,
like shriveled figs from the fig tree.
(Isaiah 34:4)

Now Jesus says that God is going to judge the temple in Jerusalem in the same way. Just as God has judged the evil Gentile nations in the past, now God is going to judge his own people as well. This is shocking.

What about verses 26 and 27? Again, that really looks like the second coming, doesn't it? Here again, Jesus is quoting from an Old Testament prophet. He's quoting Daniel. If you look carefully at Daniel 7, it is not so much about the second coming as it is about the enthronement of the Son of Man, a name that Jesus used for himself. It's not about his return to earth as much as it is his coronation. When was Jesus crowned as king? When he ascended to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God. That's why Mark could say in verse 30 that this is all going to take place within a generation. We're going to see in a minute that it actually did.

You know what this means? Mark is saying that God is going to decisively judge the temple. In its place is going to be a new king. People always thought that the authority and power of God rested on the temple. But now, Jesus says, that authority and power is being moved to him. And God is going to gather people from every nation, from ever corner of the earth, to be part of his kingdom. And, Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

That's exactly what happened. After Jesus ascended to heaven, his followers did receive the persecution he promised in verses 9 to 13. In 70 A.D. the Romans besieged Jerusalem. Josephus describes how terrible it was. People starved and ate their own babies to survive. They fought each other for scraps of dirty food. There was infighting, so that more people were killed by other Jews than the invading Romans. And, indeed, the temple was destroyed. A Roman soldier threw a burning stick onto one of the Temple's walls. The fire spread quickly and was soon out of control. It was later written:

Caesar ordered the whole city and the temple to be razed to the ground.... All the rest of the wall encompassing the city was so completely leveled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited

And, by the way, the Bible does tell us that Jesus ascended to heaven and became enthroned. Everything in this passage happened just as Jesus said.

There's one more question that we really need to answer:

What difference does this make for us today?

This is all very interesting, but what difference does it make in our lives today? It makes all the difference in the world.

First: Jesus could say about all that we see as permanent and awesome around us: "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." We need to hear this. That Bank of Commerce building that screams permanence: gone. The Houses of Parliament: gone. The universities, the businesses, the stock exchanges: gone. This world and everything in it will pass away. As John wrote: "The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17).

Second: Jesus does make a shift to the end of the world at the end of the chapter. We don't have to wonder how Jesus applies this to us today, because he tells us. Look at verse 37: "What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'" This is so important that he repeats it five times in different ways in this passage. Watch! Be prepared!

Like many of you, I was watching the gold medal hockey game last Sunday afternoon. In the last minute of play in regular time, the USA tied the game. Overtime started. The next goal would decide the game. Up until that point I had been multitasking. I had a newspaper in my hand and I would pick up my laptop during the game.

But when that game went into overtime, I put that newspaper and computer down and watched. The game had my undivided attention. Jesus says in this passage that this world will one day end, and that he will be returning and calling us to account. How should we respond? Not by guessing all the details of what's going to happen. He calls us to watch, just as closely as I watching that game.

Every time the Bible mentions the end, it's not to encourage speculation. It's to get us to live differently now.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. (2 Peter 3:10-12)

Finally: rejoice in the King. This passage tells us that everything will be destroyed, but we have a King who is enthroned and who will reign forever. He is gathering his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth, to the ends of the heaven. Those who trust in him will share in his power and glory.

We're going to sing to that King in a minute. No matter what's shaken in this world, or in your life, we can rejoice in that King. Heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will not pass away.

And what a King he is. He is a King who died so that we could live forever in his kingdom. Augustine said of him, "Hold fast to Christ. For you he became temporal, so that you might partake of eternity." In invite you to come to that King this morning.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.