An Assault on God’s Glory
“The chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.”- Mark 11:18–19
Ezekiel 10–11, chapters that were written not long before Babylon destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C., contains a vision that revealed to Judah the inevitability of exile. For centuries, the prophets had been warning the old covenant community that their flagrant violation of God’s covenant would lead to their being taken away from the Promised Land. In 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria and the people were exiled (2 Kings 17:7–24). The southern kingdom of Judah should have learned from this and amended its ways, but history tells us it did not. The Judahites continued to believe that they could not lose their kingdom because they had the city of Jerusalem, where the temple stood. As the prophet Jeremiah tells us, the Judahites trusted in the temple, where the glory of God dwelt, for their security (Jer. 7:1–15).
As important as the old covenant temple was, however, it was merely a building. God is the omnipresent Lord of all creation, and He is not limited to one location even if He chooses to make His presence felt more strongly in some places than in others. That is the point of Ezekiel 10–11, which describes the glory of God’s departing the temple and heading east to a mountain outside the city of Jerusalem. This mountain was the Mount of Olives.
The departure of God’s glory from the temple signified that the sin of Judah had become so horrendous that the Lord could no longer dwell with the people or protect the city. But the Lord also pledged to return to His temple and purify His people. Ezekiel 43:1–5 describes the glory of God’s returning from the east and filling the temple once more. Faithful Jews who knew this prophecy, therefore, knew to look for the return of the glory of the Lord to His temple.
By the time the first century A.D. arrived, the chief priests and scribes in Jerusalem could no longer be counted among the remnant of faithful Jews. The leaders of the Jewish people sought to mount an assault on the very glory of God, as revealed in today’s passage. For Jesus indeed is “the radiance of the glory of God” (Heb. 1:3). He stood on the Mount of Olives just as the glory of God stood there in Ezekiel’s vision (Mark 11:1; see Ezek. 11:23). That means also that His triumphal entry was from the east, just as Ezekiel predicted the glory of God would return to the city from the east (Mark 11:1–10; see Ezek. 43:1–5). But the Jewish leaders were unprepared for the return of God’s glory, and they would seek to destroy Him.
That the first-century Jewish leaders were unprepared for the return of the glory of God to the temple serves as a warning to us. Christ, the glory of God, is coming again in glory to consummate His kingdom (Acts 1:6–11). Are you ready for His return, or will He find that you have been an unprofitable servant?
Passages for Further Study