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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, our Lord commends the generosity of the poor widow (1–4). He foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple (5–24). He describes the precursory signs that are to usher in the Day of Judgment (25–33). He exhorts all to be watchful (34–38).

1–4. (See Mark 12:41–44.)

5. “Some saying of the Temple.” We are informed by St. Mark (13:1), that our Lord uttered the words recorded here (v. 6), “as He was going out of the Temple”—after having paid it His last visit—there is no record of His having visited it afterwards—being spoken to on the subject by “one of His disciples” (see Matthew 24:1, &c.), who pointed out to Him, with a view of averting the threatened destruction, the magnificence of the structure, its “goodly stones,” and the costly votive offerings “and gifts” with which it was adorned and enriched. These votive offerings, presented by kings and others to the Temple, were very costly and numerous (2 Machabees 3:2; 5:16; 9:16).

The Greek for gifts, αναθημα, having the penultimate long (with an η, as here), signifies a thing set apart, and as the etymology of the word conveys, hung aloft, as a gift or votive offering. This is the only place where the word is found in the New Testament. In the Old (2 Machabees 9:16), it denotes a votive offering. Having the penultimate short (with an ε), it is found in several parts of the New Testament (Rom. 9:3; 1 Cor. 12:3; 16:22; Gal. 1:8, 9). It always denotes an accused person or thing, set apart for destruction, as an object of divine malediction (see Rom. 9:3).

6. “These things which you see,” signifying, “of these things which you see” (and admire as deserving of immortality) “… there shall not be left a stone,” &c. By prefixing “of,” we would complete the sentence, which the vehemence of our Redeemer’s feelings left incomplete. Others complete it thus, by putting the words interrogatively, as they are put by Matthew and Mark—“Are these the things which you see” and admire? Others, among whom Beelen (Græc. Gram., N.T., § 28, 3) say, ταυτα, “these things,” is a nominative absolute, representing emphatically the subject of the whole sentence. It is an example of a Rhetorical Anacoluthon. For the remainder, see Matthew 24:2.

7–12. (See Matthew 24:2–14.)

13–18. (See Matthew 10:17–22.)

18. “But a hair of your head shall not perish.” This is a proverbial expression, the same as “the hairs of your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30), signifying, that no material evil or loss will befal them; that notwithstanding the number of enemies foreign and domestic, that may assail them, the providence of God will protect them, and turn all wicked attempts to their good account.

19. “In your patience.” By patiently enduring evil to the end, in the hope of future retribution, they “shall possess their souls,” shall gain and save their souls. The idea conveyed is the same as in Matthew 10:39; 16:3, 5, viz., that by suffering patiently and perseveringly for His sake, they shall gain their souls. Perseverance in patient suffering is of course implied, as in Matthew 24:13.

20–24. “And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army.” This is what St. Matthew (24:15) calls “the abomination of desolation.”

25–33. (See Matthew 24:29–35.)

34. Our Lord here points out how we are to prepare for His coming; and cautions us against the chief obstacles to due preparation; He inculcates continual vigilance, which is in several places of Sacred Scripture (see 1 Thess. 5:6, &c.), recommended as the chief means of due preparation. What is said here to those who may be alive at our Lord’s second coming, is intended for all men at all times; since, the second coming of our Lord to judgment virtually takes place at death, when each one is to be presented before the tribunal of Christ at the particular judgment, “to receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). Hence, our Lord says, speaking on this subject, “What I say to you, I say to all: Watch” (Mark 13:37).

The exhortation to vigilance, with which our Lord closes His description of His coming to judgment, is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew (24:36–42); Mark (13:32–37), as well as here, in different words. The lesson of instruction is substantially the same in the three.

“And take heed to yourselves,” be ever watchful and on the alert, “lest any time”—not alone your bodies, but—“your hearts be overcharged,” and weighed down “with surfeiting and drunkenness.” These words should be transposed, as “surfeiting,” follows, and is the effect of “drunkenness.” Excessive indulgence in drink and food, not only depresses and weighs down the body; but the soul, and renders it unfit for spiritual exercises, and prayer. Under “drunkenness,” are included all the other illicit pleasures of the body.

“And cares of this life,” excessive cares. The Greek, μεριμναὶς, denotes excessive, absorbing anxiety (see Matthew 6:25).

“And that day come upon you suddenly,” unprepared for it, while sunk in the sleep of sin, and overcharged with carnal indulgences, which prevent spiritual vigilance and prayer.

35. “For, as a snare,” &c. The day of the Lord shall insnare unto ruin and destruction, those men who “sit,” in idleness and unconcern, absorbed in the enjoyment of sensual and illicit pleasures, with all their thoughts on earth, just as a snare catches those birds, that settle on the earth when they least expect it, while the birds that are borne aloft in air escape it. Similar are the words of St. Paul (1 Thess. 5:2, 3); Isaias (24:17); Psalm 10, “Pluet super peccatores laqueos.”

36. Having refrained from these illicit enjoyments, which are an obstacle to vigilance, they should, then, be watchful (see Mark 13:33; Matthew 24:42), and in order to succeed in this, as their own weak powers are unequal to it, they should invoke aid from on high, by constant and persevering prayer. Thus, avoiding sin by practising vigilance and good works, through the help of God’s grace, which prayer will secure for them, they may escape “the snare,” and be preserved from all the evils, which God shall pour out on the wicked, and may be worthy to stand with firm confidence and hope before the tribunal of the Son of Man, to receive favourable judgment of mercy.

37. From the time of His triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, our Lord devoted the day-time to preaching and to the service of the people, who, He knew, would shortly put Him to a cruel death—and most part of the night to prayer and communication with His Father.

“In the day-time,” literally, “the days.” He was preaching on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It is not likely He went to the Temple on Thursday (see Matthew 26:2–30). For the most of the “nights,” after preaching during the day, He retired to Mount Olivet, and there spent the chief part of the night in prayer, and in communing with His Heavenly Father, in order to prepare for His coming struggle. “He abode in the Mount of Olives.” He certainly went one of the nights to Bethania (Matthew 21:17). But whether He went there the other nights, is, by no means, clear. The words of this verse could be verified even in that view, as Bethania lay quite close to the Mountain of Olives. It may be, that our Lord spent the greater part of the night in the open air.

38. All the people came early in the morning to hear Him preach in the Temple, so attracted were they by His heavenly discourses.

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