And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
Verses 1-4. - The widow's mite. We find this little sketch only here and in St. Mark (Mark 12:41-44). The Master was sitting - resting, probably, after the effort of the great denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees - in the covered colonnade of that part of the temple which was open to the Jewish women. Here was the treasury, with its thirteen boxes in the wall, for the reception of the alms of the people. These boxes were called shopheroth, or trumpets, because they were shaped like trumpets, swelling out beneath, and tapering upward into a narrow mouth, or opening, into which the alms were dropped. Some of these "trumpets" were marked with special inscriptions, denoting the destination of the offerings. Verse 1. - And he looked up, and saw the rich men outing their gifts into the treasury. It is not improbable that a special stream of almsgivers were just then passing through the temple court, many being specially impressed by the solemn words they had just been listening to.
And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
Verse 2. - And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. The mite (λεπτόν) was the smallest current coin. Two of these little pieces were the smallest legal offering which could be dropped into the "trumpet." But this sum, as the Heart-reader, who knew all things, tells us (ver. 4), was every particle of money she had in the world; and it was this splendid generosity on the part of the poor solitary widow which won the Lord's praise, which has touched the hearts of so many generations since, which has stirred up in so many hearts an admiration of an act so strangely beautiful, but well-nigh inimitable.
And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,
Verses 5-7. - The temple - its impending ruin. The disciples questions. Verse 5. - And as some spake of the temple. After the Lord's remark upon the alms-giving of the rich men and the poor widow to the treasury of the temple, the Master left the sacred building for his lodging outside the city walls. As far as we know, his comment upon the widow's alms was his last word of public teaching. On their way home, while crossing the Mount of Olives, they apparently halted for a brief rest. It was then that some of his friends called attention to the glorious prospect of the temple, then lit up by the setting sun. It was, no doubt, then in all its perfect beauty, a vast glittering mass of white marble, touched here and there with gold and color. Whosoever had not gazed on it, said the old rabbis, had not seen the perfection of beauty. It is possible that the bystander's remark was suggested by the memory of the last bit of Divine teaching they had listened to. "Lord, is not the house on Zion lovely? But if only such gifts as those you have just praised with such unstinting praise had been made, never had that glorious pile been raised in honor of the Eternal King." More probable, however, the sight of the great temple, then bathed in the golden glory of the fast-setting sun, recalled some of the Master's sayings of that eventful day, notably such as, "Your house is left unto you desolate," which occurred in the famous twice-spoken apostrophe, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets!" (Matthew 23:38; Luke 13:35). "What, Lord I will that house, so great, so perfect in its beauty, so loved, the joy of the whole earth, - will that house be left desolate and in shapeless ruins?" With goodly stones. The enormous size of the stones and blocks of marble with which the temple of Jerusalem was built excited the surprise of Titus when the city fell. Josephus mentions ('Bell. Jud.,' v. 5) that some of the levelled blocks of marble or stone were forty cubits long and ten high. And gifts; better rendered, sacred offerings, such as the "golden vine," with its vast clusters, the gift of Herod - which probably suggested the discourse, "I am the true Vine" (reported in John 15.) - such as crowns, shields, vessels of gold and silver, presented by princes and others who visited the holy house on Zion. The temple was rich in these votive offerings. The historian Tacitus, for instance, calls it "a temple of vast wealth" ('Hist.,' 5. 8).
As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
Verse 6. - There shall not be left one stone upon another. There is a remarkable passage in 2 Esdr. 10:54, "In the place wherein the Highest beginneth to show his city, there can no man's building be able to stand." The Lord's words were fulfilled, in spite of the strong wish of Titus to spare the temple. Josephus, writing upon the utter demolition of the city and temple, says that, with the exception of Herod's three great towers and part of the western wall, the whole circuit of the city was so thoroughly levelled and dug up that no one visiting it would believe that it had ever been inhabited ('Bell. Jud.' 7:01.1).
And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
Verse 7. - And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? St. Mark (Mark 13:3) tells us that these questioners were Peter and James, John and Andrew. They said to their Master, "When shall these things be, and what sign shall precede them?" They asked their question with mingled feelings of awe and gladness: of awe, for the ruin of their loved temple, and all that would probably accompany the catastrophe, was a dread thought; of gladness, for they associated the fall of city and temple with the manifestation of their Lord in glory. In this glory they would assuredly share. But they wished to know more respecting the times and seasons of the dread event. Of late the disciples had begun dimly to see that no Messianic restoration such as they had been taught to expect was contemplated by their Master. They were recasting their hopes, and this solemn prediction they read in the light of the late sad and gloomy words which he had spoken of himself and his fortunes. Perhaps he would leave them for a season and then return, and, amid the crash of the ruined city and temple, set up his glorious kingdom. But they longed to know when this would be; hence the question of the four. The Lord's answer treated, in its first and longer portion, exclusively of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple - the fair city and the glorious house on which they were then gazing, glorified in the light of the sunset splendor; then, as he spoke, gradually the horizon widened, and the Master touched upon the fortunes of the great world lying beyond the narrow pale of the doomed, chosen people. He closes his grand summary of the world's fortunes By a sketch of his own return in glory. The disciples' hearts must have sunk as they listened; for how many ages lay Between now and then! Yet was the great prophecy full of comfort, and in later days was of inestimable practical value to the Jerusalem Christians. The discourse, which extends from ver. 8 to ver. 36, has been well divided by Godet into four divisions.
(1) The apparent signs of the great catastrophe, which must not Be mistaken for true signs (vers. 8b-19).
(2) The true sign, and the destruction of Jerusalem, which will immediately follow it, with the time of the Gentiles, which will be connected with it (vers. 20-24).
(3) The coming of the Lord, which will bring this period to an end (vers. 25-27).
(4) The practical application (vers. 28-36).
And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
Verses 8-19. - The apparent signs which (could show themselves, but which must not be mistaken for the true signs immediately preceding the catastrophe. Verse 8b. - Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ. Many of these pretenders appeared in the lifetime of the apostles. Josephus mentions several of these impostors ('Ant.,' 20:8 §§ 6-10; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:13. § 5). Theudas, one of these pretenders, is referred to in Acts 21:38 (see, too, Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:05. § 1). Simon Magus announced that he was Messiah. His riyal Dositheus, his disciple Menander, advanced similar pretences. Mr. Greswell (quoted by Dean Manse], 'Speaker's Commentary,' on Matthew 24:5) has called attention to the remarkable fact that, while many of these false Messiahs appeared in the interval between the Lord's ascension and the Jewish war, there is no evidence that any one arose claiming this title before the beginning of his ministry. It was necessary, he infers, that the true Christ should first appear and be rejected by the great body of the nation, before they were judicially given over to the delusions of the false Christs.
But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.
Verses 9, 10. - Wars and commotions... nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. Josephus the Jewish, and Tacitus the Roman, historian - the former in his 'Jewish Wars,' and the latter in his 'Annals' - describe the period which immediately followed the Crucifixion as full of wars, crimes, violences, earthquakes. "It was a time," says Tacitus, "rich in disasters, horrible with battles, torn with seditions, savage even in peace itself."
Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
Verse 11. - Great earthquakes. These seem to have been very frequent during the period; we hear of them in Palestine, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Crete, Syria. Famines and pestilences. The Jewish and pagan historians of this time - Josephus, Suetonius, Taecitus, and others - enumerate several memorable instances of these scourges in this eventful time. Fearful sights and great signs. Among the former may be especially enumerated the foul and terrible scenes connected with the proceedings of the Zealots (see Josephus,, Bell. Jud.,' 4:03. § 7; v. 6. § 1, etc.). Among the great signs "would be the rumor of monstrous births; the cry, 'Woe! woe!' for seven and a half years of the peasant Jesus, son of Hanan; the voice and sound of departing guardian-angels; and the sudden opening of the vast brazen temple gate which required twenty men to move it" (Farrar).
But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
Verse 12. - But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you. The Master continues his prophetic picture. From speaking generally of wars, and disasters, and tumults, and awful natural phenomena, which would mark the sad age in which his hearers were living, he proceeded to tell them of things which would surely befall them. But even then, though terrible trials would be their lot, they were not to be dismayed, nor to dream that the great catastrophe he had been predicting was yet at hand. Some doubt exists as to the meaning of "before" (πρό) in this twelfth verse usually has been understood in a temporal sense, i.e. "Before all the wars, etc., I have been telling you of, you will be persecuted." A more definite sense is, however, produced by giving the word πρό (before) the signification of "before," equivalent to "more important" - "more important for you as signs will be the grave trials you will have to endure: even these signs must not dismay you, or cause you to give up your posts as teachers, for the end will not be heralded even by these personal signs." Delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my Name's sake. What may be termed instances of many of these special persecutions are detailed in the Acts (see, for instance, Acts 5:40; and portions of 6, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 21, and following).
And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
Verse 15. - For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. Instances of the splendid fulfillment of this promise are supplied in the "Acts" report of St. Stephen's speech (7.), and St. Paul's defense spoken before the Roman governor Felix (25.) and before King Agrippa (26.).
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
Verse 16. - And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends. His disciples must be prepared to pay, as the price of their friendship with him, the sacrifice of all home and domestic life and peace. How often in the records of the early Christians are these terrible sufferings added to public persecution! Literally, his own would have very often to give up mother, father, friends, for his sake. And some of you shall they cause to be put to death. This was literally true in the case of several of those then listening to him.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
Verse 17. - And ye shall be hated of all men for my Name's sake. All the records of early Christianity unite in bearing witness to the universal hatred with which the new sect were regarded by pagans as well as Jews. The words of the Roman Jews reported in Acts 28:22 well sum this up, "As concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against" (see, too, Acts 24:5 and 1 Peter 2:12). The Roman writers Tacitus, Pliny, and Suctonius, bear the same testimony.
But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
Verse 18. - But there shall not an hair of your head perish. Not, of course, to be understood literally; for comp. ver. 16. Bengel's comment accurately paraphrases it: "Not a hair of your head shall perish without the special providence of God, nor without reward, nor before the due time." The words, too, had a general fulfillment; for the Christian community of Palestine, warned by this very discourse of the Lord's, fled in time from the doomed city, and so escaped the extermination which overtook the Jewish people in the great war which ended in the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70).
In your patience possess ye your souls.
Verse 19. - In your patience possess ye your souls. Quiet, brave patience in all difficulty, perplexity, and danger, was the attitude pressed upon the believers of the first days by the inspired teachers. St. Paul constantly strikes this note.
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Verses 20-24. - The true signs which his people are to be on the watch for. Verse 20. - And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. This is to be the sign that the end has come for temple, city, and people. Wars and rumors of wars, physical portents, famine and pestilence succeeding each other with a terrible persistence, all these will, in the forthcoming years, terrify and perplex men's minds, presages of something which seems impending. But his people are to bear in mind that these were not the immediate signs of the awful ruin he was foretelling. But when the holy city was invested, when hostile armies were encamped about her - then this would surely come to pass, and some of these very bystanders would behold it - then, and not till then, let his people take alarm. Let them at once and at all cost flee from temple and city, for there would be no deliverance, God had left his house, given up the chosen people. "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles" (ver. 24). It is probable that these solemn words of the Master, becoming, as they did, at a comparatively early date, the property of the Church, saved the Christian congregations in Palestine from the fate which overtook the Jewish nation in the last great war. Clearly warned by Jesus that the gathering of the Roman armies in the neighborhood of Jerusalem was the unmistakable sign of the end of the Jewish polity, the Christian congregations fled to Pella beyond Jordan. The Jews never ceased to the last trusting that deliverance from on high would be vouchsafed to the holy city and temple. The Christians were warned by the words of the Founder of their faith - words spoken nigh forty years before the siege - that the time of mercy was hopelessly past.
Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Verse 24. - And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations. It is computed that 1,100,000 Jews perished in the terrible war when Jerusalem fell (A.D. 70). Renan writes of this awful slaughter, "that it would seem as though the whole (Jewish) race had determined upon a rendezvous for extermination." Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles. After incredible slaughter and woes, Titus, the Emperor Vespasian's son, who commanded the Roman armies, ordered the city (of Jerusalem) to be razed so completely as to look like a spot which had never been inhabited (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' v. 10. § 5). The storied city has been rebuilt on the old site - but without the temple - and since that fatal day, more than eighteen centuries ago, no Jew save on bare sufferance has dwelt in the old loved and sacred spot. In turn, Roman and Saracen, Norseman and Turk, have trodden Jerusalem down. Literally, indeed, have the sad words of Jesus been fulfilled. Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. These few words carry on the prophecy past our own time (how far past?) - carry it on close to the days of the end. "The times of the Gentiles" signify the whole period or epoch which must elapse between the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the beginning of the times of the end when the Lord will return. In other words, these "times of the Gentiles" denote the period during which they - the Gentiles - hold the Church of God in place of the Jews, deposal from that position of favor and honor. These words separate the prophecy of Jesus which belongs solely to the ruin of the cry and temple from the eschatological portion of the same prophecy. Hitherto the Lord's words referred solely to the fall of Jerusalem and the ruin of the Jewish race. Now begins a short prophetic description of the end and of the coming of the Son of man in glory.
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
Verses 25-27. - The prophecy of the coming of the Son of man in glory. The signs which shall precede this advent. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. The Lord continues his solemn prophecy respecting things to come. Now, the question of the four disciples - to Which this great discourse was the answer - was, When were they to look for that awful ruin of city and temple of which their loved Master spoke? But they, it must be remembered, in their own minds closely connected the temple's fall with some glorious epiphany of their Master, in which they should share. He answers generally their formal question as to the temple, describing to them the very signs they are to look for as heralding the temple's fall. He now proceeds to reply to their real query respecting the glorious epiphany. The temple's ruin, that belonged to the period in which they were living; but the glorious epiphany, that lay in a far distance. "See," he said, "city and temple will be destroyed; this catastrophe some of you will live to see. The ruin will be irreparable; a new epoch will set in, an epoch I call 'the times of the Gentiles.' These once despised peoples will have their turn, for I shall be their Light. Ages will pass before these 'times of the Gentiles' shall be fulfilled, but the end will come, and then, and not till then, will the Son of man come in glory. Listen; these shall be the signs which shall herald this glorious advent: Signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars." St. Matthew (Matthew 24:29) supplies more details concerning these "signs." The sun would be darkened, and the moon would not give her light; the stars would fall from heaven. These words are evidently a memory of language used by the Hebrew prophets to express figuratively the downfall of kingdoms. So Isaiah (Isaiah 13:10)speaks thus of the destruction of Babylon, and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 32:7) of the fall of Egypt (see too Isaiah 34:4). It is, however, probable that our Lord, while using language and figures familiar to Hebrew thought, foreshadowed a literal fulfillment of his words. So Godet, who picturesquely likens our globe just before the second advent to "a ship creaking in every timber at the moment of its going to pieces." He suggests that "our whole solar system shall then undergo unusual commotions. The moving forces (δυνάμεις), regular in their action tilt then, shall be, as it were, set free from their laws by an unknown power, and, at the end of this violent but short distress, the world shall see him appear" (see 2 Peter 3:10-12, where it is plainly foretold that tremendous physical disturbances shall precede the second coming of the Lord). The Son of man coming in a cloud. The same luminous cloud we read of so often in the Pentateuch: the flames of the desert-wanderings; the pillar of cloud and fire; the same bright cloud enveloped the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration; it received him as he was taken up (Acts 1:9). Nothing is said in this place as to any millennial reign of Christ on earth. The description is that of a transitory appearance destined to effect the work upon quick and dead - an appear-ante defined more particularly by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:23 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.
Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Verses 28-36. - Practical teaching arising the foregoing prophecy respecting the Jerusalem and the "last things." Verse 28. - And when these things begin to come to pan, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. There is no doubt that the first reference in this verse is to the earlier part of the prophecy - the fate of the city and the ruin of the Jewish power. "Your redemption" would then signify "your deliverance from the constant and bitter hostility of the Jewish authority." After A.D. and the fall of Jerusalem, the growth of Christianity was far more rapid than it had been the first thirty or forty years of its It had no longer to cope with the skilfully ordered, relentless opposition of its deadly Jewish foe. Yet between the lines a yet deeper meaning is discernible. In all times the earnest Christian is on the watch for the signs of the advent of his Lord, and the restless watch serves to keep hope alive, for the watcher knows that that advent will be the sure herald of his redemption from all the weariness and painfulness of this life.
And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
Verse 29. - And he spake to them a parable. "It is certain," went on the Lord to say, "that summer follows the season when the fig tree and other trees put forth their green shoots. It is no less certain that these things - the fall of Jerusalem, and later the end of the world - will follow closely on the signs I have just told you about."
When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
Verse 32. - Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pan away, till all be fulfilled. In the interpretation of this verse, a verse which has occasioned much perplexity to students, any non-natural sense for "generation" (γεμεά), such as being an equivalent for the Christian Church (Origen and Chrysostom) or the human race (Jerome) must be at once set aside. Γενέα (generation) denotes roughly a period of thirty to forty years. Thus the words of the Lord here simply asserted that within thirty or forty years all he had been particularly detailing would be fulfilled. Now, the burden of his prophecy had been the destruction of the city and temple, and the signs they were to look for as immediately preceding this great catastrophe. This was the plain and simple answer to their question of ver. 7, which asked "when these things should come to pass." The words he had added relative to the coming of the Son of man did not belong to the formal answer, but were spoken in passing. This mighty advent the Lord alluded to as probably a very remote event - an event certainly to be postponed, to use his own words, "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Not so the great catastrophe involving the ruin of Jerusalem and the temple, the prophecy concerning which occupied so much of the Lord's reply. That lay in the immediate future; that would happen in the lifetime of some of those standing by. Before forty years had elapsed the city and temple, now lying before them in all its strength and beauty, would have disappeared.
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
Verse 33. - Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. A general conclusion to the whole prophecy. "No word of mine," said the Master, "will ever pass away unfulfilled. Some of you will even live to see the terrible fulfillment of the first part of these utterances. All that mighty pile of buildings called Jerusalem will pass away, but my words which told of their coming ruin will remain. All this vast creation, earth, and stars will disappear in their turn, but these sayings of mine, which predict their future passing away into nothingness, will outlive both earth and heaven."
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
Verse 34. - And take heed to yourselves. The Master ended his discourse with an earnest practical reminder to his disciples to live ever with the sure expectation of his return to judgment. As for those who heard him then, conscious of the oncoming doom of the city, temple, and people, with the solemn procession of signs heralding the impending ruin ever before their eyes, no passions or cares of earth surely would hinder them from living the brave, pure life worthy of his servants. As for coming generations - for the warning voice of Jesus here is equally addressed to them - they too must watch for another and far more tremendous ruin falling upon their homes than ever fell upon Jerusalem. The attitude of his people in every age must be that of the "watcher" till he come.
For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
Verse 37. - And in the daytime he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives. This brief picture of the last days of public work is retrospective. This was how our Lord spent "Palm Sunday" and the Monday and Tuesday of the last week. The prophetic discourse reported in this twenty-first chapter was, most probably, spoken on the afternoon of Tuesday. After Tuesday evening he never entered the temple as a public Teacher again. Wednesday and Thursday were spent in retirement. Thursday evening he returned to the city to eat the last Passover with his own.
And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.