Jesus gave his final discourse following his final departure from the Temple – Mark 12:41-13:4.
The ‘Olivet Discourse’ is the last recorded block of Christ’s teachings given on the Mount of Olives following a series of confrontations between him and the Temple authorities, and his final departure from the Temple itself. And his conflicts with the religious leaders set the stage for his trial and execution at the hands of the Roman governor.
Because of the treachery of the Temple authorities, and the failure of the nation to produce the required “fruit,” Jesus declared that the “kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit,” a judicial pronouncement that pointed to the coming judgment on the Temple and the Jewish nation – (Matthew 21:43-44).
From the first hour after he entered Jerusalem, Jesus experienced ever-increasing conflicts with the leaders of Second Temple Judaism.
THE WIDOW’S MITE. His last act in the Temple occurred while he was “seated over against” the Treasury. The clause translates the Greek preposition katenanti, a rare term in the New Testament that occurs once more in the next paragraph, and not coincidentally when Jesus was “sitting over against the Temple on the Mount of Olives.”
- (Mark 12:41-44) – “And taking his seat over against the treasury, he was observing how the multitude was casting in copper into the treasury, and rich men were casting in much. And there came one destitute, a widow, and she cast in two mites, which are a farthing. And calling near his disciples, he said to them: Verily, I say to you, this destitute widow more than they all has cast in, of those casting into the treasury; for they all, out of their surplus, cast in, but she, out of her deficiency, all, as much as she had, cast in, the whole of her living.”
The poor widow provides the contrast with the preceding paragraph when Jesus chastised the “scribes” who, for a pretense, “devoured widows’ houses.” From his position, sitting “over against” the Treasury, he warned that the “scribes” would receive a “more surpassing judgment,” just as later while sitting “over against” the Temple, he pronounced the destruction of the Temple.
There were thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles in the treasury for depositing offerings located near the court of women. Jesus observed this woman donating two copper coins or lepta, small coins worth about one sixty-fourth of a denarius each. A single denarius was equal to the daily wages of a day laborer. For all intents and purposes, her gift was worthless, infinitesimally small.
She gave a freewill offering that she was not obligated to contribute. She could have given half or just one of her two small coins, and still, she would have given “more” than the rich, for “they all out of their surplus gave, but she out of her deficiency, all as much as she had, the whole of her living.”
TEMPLE JUDGED. Next, Jesus left the Temple complex or the hieros for the last time. His departure symbolized his final break with the Temple. The entire complex was enormous, covering approximately one-sixth of the city.
- (Mark 13:1-4) – “And as he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Teacher, see what manner of stones and what manner of buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Are you beholding these great buildings? In nowise shall there be left here a stone upon stone, which shall in any wise not be thrown down.’ And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning him privately, ‘Tell us, when these things shall be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be concluded?’”
The disciples were admiring the great and beautiful stones used to build the complex. The irony is that Jesus had just praised the widow who gave out of her deficiency, yet the disciples were judging according to the ways of man.
He responded to their admiration of the Temple, “Do you behold these great buildings? In nowise will there be left here a stone upon stone.” In the Greek text, Jesus uses the demonstrative pronoun houtos or “these,” which here is quite emphatic.
Jesus used the very words of the disciples in his pronouncement, “buildings” and “stone.” The only antecedent in the paragraph for “these” is the Temple complex, and therefore, the only Temple to which his words can refer is the one that was standing in his day. Grammatically, it cannot refer to any other structure.
The summit of the Mount of Olives was higher than the walls of the city and would have afforded an excellent view overlooking the Temple complex, including its inner sanctuary. His posture of “sitting” as he made this pronouncement points to his authority. The prediction of the Temple’s demise prompted the disciples to ask – “When these things shall be, and what [will be] the sign when all these things are going to be concluded?”
Once again, the English term “these things” translates the Greek demonstrative pronoun houtos. As before, it can only refer to the predicted destruction of the Temple that Herod had built. Thus, at least in part, the discourse that followed concerning events that would precede the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.
The disciples asked two questions. First, when (pote) will the destruction of the Temple occur? Second, what will be the “sign” (sémeion) when all these things will be “completed.” The latter term translates the Greek suntelō, meaning “to complete, to bring to an end, to conclude, consummate.” This suggests the destruction of the Temple was a paradigm or portend for something additional, though the two events are closely related.
Regardless, in this context, his pronouncement cannot refer to any Temple other than the one standing in his day. Any attempt to make this a judicial pronouncement on a yet future Temple violates the literary context and the grammar of the Greek sentence.