JESUS FURTHER CONDEMNS THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS
THE TEMPLE WILL BE DESTROYED
A POOR WIDOW CONTRIBUTES TWO SMALL COINS
During Jesus’ last appearance at the temple, he continues to expose the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, openly calling them hypocrites. He uses illustrative language, saying: “You cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of greediness and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may also become clean.” (Matthew 23:25, 26) While the Pharisees are scrupulous when it comes to ceremonial cleanness and outward appearance, they are neglecting the inner person and are failing to purify their figurative heart.
Their hypocrisy is also manifest in their willingness to build and decorate tombs for the prophets. Yet, as Jesus mentions, they “are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” (Matthew 23:31) This they have proved in their efforts to kill Jesus.—John 5:18; 7:1, 25.
Jesus then points to what awaits these religious leaders if they do not repent: “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” (Matthew 23:33) The nearby Valley of Hinnom is used for burning garbage, a graphic image of the permanent destruction awaiting the wicked scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus’ disciples will represent him as “prophets and wise men and public instructors.” How will they be treated? Addressing the religious leaders, Jesus says: “Some of [my disciples] you will kill and execute on stakes, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah . . . whom you murdered.” He warns: “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:34-36) That proves to be the case in 70 C.E. when the Roman armies destroy Jerusalem and many thousands of Jews perish.
Contemplating this frightful situation distresses Jesus. He says with sadness: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent to her—how often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Matthew 23:37, 38) Those hearing these words must wonder what “house” he means. Could he possibly be referring to the magnificent temple there in Jerusalem, which God seems to be protecting?
Then Jesus adds: “I say to you, you will by no means see me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in Jehovah’s name!’” (Matthew 23:39) He is quoting from the prophetic words of Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of Jehovah; we bless you from the house of Jehovah.” Clearly, once this material temple is destroyed, no one will be coming to it in God’s name.
Jesus now moves to a section of the temple where there are trumpet-shaped treasury chests. People can put contributions in the small openings at the top. Jesus sees various Jews doing just that, the rich “dropping in many coins” as gifts. Then Jesus observes a poor widow who drops in “two small coins of very little value.” (Mark 12:41, 42) No doubt Jesus knows how pleased God is with her gift.
Calling his disciples over, Jesus says: “Truly I say to you that this poor widow put in more than all the others who put money into the treasury chests.” How is that so? He explains: “They all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her want, put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43, 44) How she differs in thought and deed from the religious leaders!
As Nisan 11 progresses, Jesus leaves the temple for the last time. One of his disciples exclaims: “Teacher, see! what wonderful stones and buildings!” (Mark 13:1) Indeed, some of the stones in the temple’s walls are extremely large, contributing to the impression of its strength and permanence. It certainly seems strange, then, that Jesus says: “Do you see these great buildings? By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.”—Mark 13:2.
After saying these things, Jesus and his apostles cross the Kidron Valley and climb to a spot on the Mount of Olives. At one point he is with four of the apostles—Peter, Andrew, James, and John. From that position, they can gaze down on the magnificent temple.