Posted on October 22, 2014
#76: Expecting the Unexpected
Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our journey through the gospel of Mark. We’re out to learn all we can from the life and teachings of Jesus. Come along as we begin chapter 13!
Get your Bible and read Mark 13:1-2. (Luke 21:5-6 records the same account, if you’d like to read it too.)
Jesus was walking away from the temple for the last time. Keeping pace with Him, the disciples looked back at the stately structure. They called His attention to its magnificence. “Just look at it, Teacher!” they said with pride. “What huge stones! What wondrous buildings!”
The temple was built of polished white limestone, shining in the sunlight. Some of its stones were massive, as large as 70 x 18 x 12′. Adorned with ornate gold carvings and other rich designs, it took forty-six years to finish—the combined effort of some 10,000 skilled workers. (Still under construction in Jesus’ day, it wasn’t considered complete until A.D. 64.) The enormous footprint of the temple complex covered about one-sixth of the city of Jerusalem. The Jews saw the holy temple as enduring, spiritually and physically invincible.
Maybe the disciples were subtly baiting Jesus, hoping He’d reveal plans for His coming kingdom and reign. If they were envisioning a future palace for when He’d restored Jerusalem, He stopped them cold. In a statement hard for them to imagine, Jesus said, “A time is coming when not one stone here will be left on another.”
Within 40 years, Jesus’ prophecy would be fulfilled to the letter. By 70 A.D., the temple would be reduced to ruins by the emperor Vespasian and his son Titus. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple was so complete, those who visited it could hardly believe it had ever been inhabited (according to Josephus, Wars vii.1).
Expect the Unexpected
Jesus was saying to them, “Things may not be as you expect. What you think is lasting will not be. And what you think is temporary will last.”
Most of them believed Jesus would restore Israel to the majestic days of David and Solomon, a hope that still lingered after His resurrection (see Acts 1:6). Some expected him to bring down heaven. All, no doubt, had aspirations about their roles that were far from what came to be.
None of them would have imagined themselves functioning spiritually outside of the temple/synagogue system, nor helping to build an entirely new spiritual framework called the Church. None of them yet understood themselves to be heroic pioneers—let alone martyrs—in an epic heavenly adventure with eternal ramifications.
Today, we still find Him challenging our expectations, stretching us, calling us to leave the borders of our comfort zone. When it happens, it’s a little scary. Like the Twelve, we like enduring, invincible things we can count on, take pride in, relax in the strength of. When they’re threatened or—worse yet—reduced to ruins, the mettle of our faith is tested.
Then we face the hardest part of our journey: trusting Him enough to take joy in trials. James 1:2-4 defines the unexpected as a fast track to maturity. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Remember He’s already there
Dr. Larry Richards writes, “What does Christ’s lordship mean in a practical way? It means on one hand that He has the right to guide and direct us, and to claim our full allegiance. But here Mark shows us a Jesus who is Lord of history. He speaks as confidently about the future as He does the past. Tomorrow is as real to Him as today. Nothing lies ahead of us that will surprise our Lord—or that He has not already prepared for.”*
The most important key to surviving the twists and trials of our lives is keeping our confidence in Christ. He knows the whole picture. He has the best outcome already mapped out. What we see as unforeseen, He sees as the next step in His perfect plan to grow us. He is never caught off-guard. The word “unexpected” is not in His dictionary; when we truly trust Him, it’s not in ours either.
*From an excellent Bible study resource called The Bible Reader’s Companion by Lawrence O. Richards (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1991), p. 645.
© Diane McLoud 2014