The Horrible Thing
(Mark 13.14-23; Luke 21.20-24)
15 Someday you will see that “Horrible Thing” in the holy place, just as the prophet Daniel said. Everyone who reads this must try to understand! 16If you are living in Judea at that time, run to the mountains. 17 If you are on the roof of your house, don't go inside to get anything. 18If you are out in the field, don't go back for your coat. 19It will be a terrible time for women who are expecting babies or nursing young children. 20And pray that you won't have to escape in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 This will be the worst time of suffering since the beginning of the world, and nothing this terrible will ever happen again. 22If God doesn't make the time shorter, no one will be left alive. But because of God's chosen ones, he will make the time shorter.
23Someone may say, “Here is the Messiah!” or “There he is!” But don't believe it. 24False messiahs and false prophets will come and work great miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God's chosen ones. 25But I have warned you ahead of time.
In his masterpiece work on the history of Jerusalem, Simon Montefiore describes the destruction of Herod’s Temple in AD 70 in gruesome detail. He says this about the arrival of the Romans, under Emperor Vespasian’s son Titus, at the Holy of Holies: “Titus, unable to stop the fire and surely relieved at the prospect of final victory, proceeded through the burning Temple until he came to the Holy of Holies. Even the high priest was allowed to enter there only once a year. No foreigner had tainted its purity since the Roman soldier-statesman Pompey in 63 B.C. … As the inferno rose around the Holy of Holies, Titus was pulled to safety by his aides, and no one forbade them to set fire to it anymore.”
There can be little doubt that this horrific scene is what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 24:15 when he speaks about the “abomination that causes desolation.” With the destruction of Jerusalem and the demolition of the Temple, Jewish sacrificial worship would come to an abrupt end. Much of majestic Jerusalem would be left a pile of rubble, and the Jews would be scattered to the ends of the earth.
None of this came as a surprise to Jesus. In fact, he had told a surprised Samaritan woman, whom he met at a well that “the time is coming when you won’t worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. . . But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth (John 4:21-24).
With the death of Jesus, the Temple sacrifices were no longer needed. The Messiah had come, and now, true worship would focus on him, and his once and for ever sacrifice on the cross. Let’s worship him in the Spirit and in truth.
Dear Lord, We are grateful for your sacrificial death on the cross, through which we are forgiven and set free from our sins. In response, we offer you our hearts and minds in worship. May all we do, all we say, all we sing, present to you our gratitude for the gift of eternal life that you have provided by your death and resurrection. Amen.