As he was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, what beautiful buildings these are! Look at the decorated stonework on the walls.”Jesus replied, “Yes, look! For not one stone will be left upon another, except as ruins.” TLB
We do not know what stones caught the attention of the disciple, or even what feature caught the eye. Here, we read the word beautiful. Other translations use tremendous, wonderful, size, massive, grandiose, and no doubt others. The problem the translators have is that the Greek word, potapos, means, what. The literal translation would be what stones and what building. Each translator is left to make a guess, was it beauty or size?
We quickly learn that for Jesus, it does not matter. His response suggests size—Greek magnitude, greatness—but it could refer to beauty—great size, great beauty. We still have the Temple Mount in place, and they have some massive stones. The photo above does not show the largest. It seems more likely the disciple was pointing out the Temple itself. We know that all the Temple stones were pushed from the Mount in 70 CE by the conquering Roman army.
3 So while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?” NET
I had not noticed before that Mark generally listed Peter and James together. Matthew and Luke generally list Peter and Andrew, James and John. It is only a curiosity, but it lends some weight to the notion that Peter and James were the older brothers of the pairs.
This incident is another indication that the Big Four considered themselves to be superior to the rest of the disciples. As far as we know, Peter, James, and John did rise to that status, but it is possible that others outshone them, simply lacking anyone to write it up for us to read. [Do you suppose there will be a library in heaven with all the lost writings of and about the Twelve?]
In verse 4 Mark uses the Greek word semeion, meaning sign. He, Matthew, and Luke use the word sparingly and rarely in reference to miracles. John does not describe many miracles and always calls them signs. The Greek parasemos is sometimes translated as sign but means more properly a mark or label.
5 Jesus began to say to them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will mislead many. NET
How do we distinguish between those who come in the name of Jesus and those who are fakes? In this century we have the same problem on the internet. Did the President do that or not? How do we find out which is true? There are several organizations that fact-check all kinds of claims on the net. Go to factcheck.org to find out about the President.
But how do we fact check a teacher or preacher of the Gospel? One basic rule that holds true with the Gospel as with Presidents is: if it seems too good to be true, it is probably not true. That is over simplified, it is just a starting point. In many ways, Jesus seemed too good to those around him.
An easy fact check now would be to question me if I said that Mark 13:7-8 proves that the End of the World will occur March 18, 2022. Hint: see below.
7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines. These are but the beginning of birth pains. NET
Matthew and Luke include the same warnings in nearly the same words. You might notice that all the calamities mentioned—wars, earthquakes, famines—are happening today and have happened every year for the past 2,000 years. This warning has nothing to do with predicting the End Times. Based on Jesus’ words, we are still in the beginning and the birth pains will continue. Speaking of fact checking, any human who says he/she knows when the End Times will come is wrong.
All three Synoptics add to this message in other sections. In Mark it picks up again in verse 21.
21 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe him. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect. 23 Be careful! I have told you everything ahead of time. 24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man arriving in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send angels and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. NET
We have no control over any of what is described except to avoid false prophets.
Be righteous and do good.