“When shall these things be?” (Matthew 24:3).
by Todd Alexander
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Jesus’ disciples engaged him with three specific questions about his prophecy of the destruction of the Temple. Jesus surely relished their curiosity and their great faith! Their questions may be summarized as:
(1) When will it happen? (answered in verse 15) $ (2) How will we know when you are here? (answered in verse 21) $ (3) How will we know when the age will end? (answered in verse 22)
Perhaps the disciples asked these detailed questions because his First Advent seemed so obscure. Their understanding of the signs of Jesus’ First Advent required their faith in prophecies that did not match their expectations of a conquering Messiah (e.g., “He was despised and rejected of men … thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin” Isaiah 53). They wanted to be ready this time.
Jesus answered their three questions about his Second Presence with similar prophetic markers. While the disciples could look for them through faith, the markers would only be fully understood much later by their fellow disciples, those who would believe on their words during the seventh stage of the Church, near the end of the Gospel Age.
At this point, about one week before Jesus’ crucifixion, the landscape of the disciples’ faith was built upon their intimate view of Jesus’ righteousness, their observation of Jesus’ miracles and the many prophecies he fulfilled in their presence. They gave their lives (their all) to Jesus, and he was about to reward their growing faith with his Great Prophecy of the arrival of the Kingdom of God, the desire of all mankind.
In this interaction (verses 1-3), their desire to show Jesus the buildings of the Temple demonstrated worldly thinking; they “missed the mark” of faith. Jesus countered their invitation to “look and see” by reminding them that the true majesty of God was not earthly, but could only be comprehended with spiritual eyes. Surely this reminded them of Jesus’ earlier, wonderful admonition, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Perhaps it was the disciples’ civic pride in the majesty and beauty of the Temple with its impressive buildings that prompted them to show them to Jesus. They seemed to be impressed with the buildings as a proper inspiration to their faith, and they seemed to think that Jesus should be impressed too!
Our Lord’s Great Prophecy is his proper inspiration to their faith. Jesus had precious little time to leave his disciples with the tools
to rearrange their priorities, but he continued here by opening up their spiritual eyesight with a provocative statement of the Temple’s imminent destruction. Jesus shocked them into a potent spiritual awakening, to prompt their desire to know more.
We see that the very first lesson of our Lord’s Great Prophecy is a lesson in his understanding of the disciple’s humanity. Jesus’ expert mentoring and teaching is demonstrated in a classic five-step storytelling technique:
(1) Make his disciples overcomers in their quest for truth.
(2) Establish Jesus as their mentor (Matthew 24:4).
(3) Deliver prophecy as the tool that would forge an unbreakable faith in them (and in us).
(4) Show them how to use prophecy as a tool to overcome the difficult obstacles on the road ahead; the watching (verses 5-12), the waiting (verse 13) and the doing (verse 14).
(5) Finish his Great Prophecy by pointing them to the treasure; his promise to destroy the work of the enemy (verse 43) and to deliver the meat in due season (verse 45) that would feed the Church and usher in the Kingdom of God.
This five-step storytelling technique is used throughout modern literature and cinema with great effect. Let us not forget the seemingly effortless way Jesus used it to teach his disciples
such important truths as we craft the stories of our own faith to teach others.
The disciples had a sincere faith powered by their growing love of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus’ Great Prophecy was a pure language that would connect them to the power of God, drive their hopes and their dreams and encourage the faithfulness of others for the next 2000 years.
In contrast, the world of mankind would be lost for the next 2000 years. Mankind will only be ready to receive this same pure language from Jesus after they have been prepared by the trouble of this present evil world (Zephaniah 3:8-9). The world of mankind’s spiritual awakening will only occur after God pours upon them His Spirit and they too give their all to Jesus during God’s Kingdom — after the kingdoms of men are destroyed and mankind’s hopes are shown to be wasted and their dreams
found to be but dust in the wind.
What lessons do we learn from the disciples’ three questions? We should ask Jesus questions and consider his answers carefully! When we “open our own worldview window to look outside” and see events which contradict our expectations, this may be Jesus’ way of bringing us into a similar, intimate teaching/mentoring moment, an opportunity for Jesus to rearrange our priorities and to show us the pure language
of his prophetic truth.
Our task is very simple, but oh, so difficult! We must watch, wait, do the work of the gospel, and be ready. Our Lord’s Great Prophecy reminds us of the biblically inspired adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Jesus is there for those who are watching to see!
Blessed are our eyes for they see Jesus and our ears for they hear his words. Let us always be ready to be taught by our great teacher, even as we strive to put away the influences of the
world, our own flesh, and the Adversary.