Destruction by Titus of the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem
Oil on copper, 64 x 96 cm
PLATZER, Johann Georg
(b. 1704, St Paul in Eppan, d. 1761, St Michael in Eppan)
Johann Georg Platzer (1704–1761) was a prolific Austrian Rococo painter and draughtsman.
This is one of a pair of relatively large paintings on copper, the other being the Dedication of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.Considered Georg Platzer's masterpiece and greatest artistic achievement. In them the artist makes plain his extraordinary skill and dexterity in creating complicated yet minutely rendered compositions on copper.
5 “When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6 ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down’.
7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8 And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately’. 10 Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.12 But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls’”.
This Gospel reading is the last in Ordinary Time as next week we mark the end of the Liturgical Year with the Feast of Christ the King. In the first reading from the Prophet Malachi, we are warned that the Lord of the Old Testament will seek out the arrogant and evil-doers and they will be burnt up like stubble. Those who fear the Lord will not perish but will be healed in the rays of the sun. Jesus, in this passage goes further in terms of warnings. The whole passage also appears almost identically in Mark and Matthew emphasising the importance of this discourse.
Introduction to this discourse
People were admiring the splendour Temple and praising the stonework and votive offerings. The Temple was a building of enormous pride to the Jewish people. Accounts of it speak of magnificent pillars of white marble, in single blocks, 40 feet high. Solid gold castings of vines in clusters a tall as a man adored the façade, casting a fiery glow in the sun, so strong it could not be looked at. From a distance it looked like a mountain covered in snow, “as to those parts of it for those not covered with gilt, they were exceeding white”. Hearing these comments moved Jesus to prophesy.
According to Barclay, Chapter Twenty-one of Luke is best understood if divided into four different concepts. This section refers to three of them, the other relates, and the Second Coming is part of the Gospel next week.
Concept 1 – The day of the Lord
The Jewish people acknowledged that the time they were living in was bad and evil and in need of euthanasia. They waited for the Day of the Lord to come to bring the old age to a cataclysmic end. It would be a time of terrible upheaval, frightening cosmic events and destruction. Which would herald a new age, the golden age of God and the Jewish People would reign supreme.
It is referred to in several books of the Old Testament, for example in Isaiah. It also appears in the New Testament: Saint Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “About dates and times, my friends you yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘All is peaceful, all secure’, destruction is upon them, sudden as the pangs that come on a woman in childbirth; there will be no escape”.
The Day of the Lord would be the surgeon to excise the bad. Verses Nine and Eleven describe graphically the form this will take; “wars and insurrections”, “great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues”; “dreadful portents and great signs from heaven”. It sounds as familiar as the evening news to us for somewhere in the world some or all of these disasters are taking place. Are we in the Day of the Lord now?
Barclay remarks that “Jesus could read the signs of history…It is only when a man sees things through the eyes of God that he sees them clearly”.
Concept 2 – The Prophesied fall of Jerusalem
Jesus shocks the admirers of the Temple when he says “All these things you are staring at now -the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed”.
His prophesy came true. Under Titus Jerusalem fell to Rome in A.D. 70 after a desperate siege which left people resorting to cannibalism. The city was taken stone by stone. Josephus reported over one million perished and 97,000 taken captive. The Temple, the iconic symbol of Jewish power and wealth was sacked and became desolate, and the Jewish Nation was obliterated. This is graphically depicted in the painting by Platzer.
The iconic columns in the front holding up the whole structure are crumbling, there are bodies everywhere, violence, chaos and carnage reigns everywhere. Beautiful creations by God and Man are being destroyed. It must had been so frightening to hear the prophesy, but we also know that it came true.
Concept 3 – The persecution to come
We know how honest Jesus was, his honesty was transparent in recruitment of his followers, whilst He told them of rich rewards, He also graphically described the path to those rewards would be difficult and many would suffer. The end of this passage carries this warning from Jesus of the terrible persecution his followers may have to suffer for his sake. “Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment and bring you before Kings and Governors because of my name” “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name”. Then Jesus gives us his commission: “bear witness”. Such is his understanding of the enormity of this commission and his compassion He wants to reassure, support and encourage by promising we do not face these trials alone, “I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict”. “Not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives”.
Prophesy of disaster and difficult times has not been seen just once since the death of Jesus. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was a specific prophesy and did come true. Men and women have been persecuted and killed in the name of Christ and for their beliefs, and there are religious wars being fought all the time in the name of holy prophets as well as Jesus. Right now, there is the war in Ukraine and threat of a nuclear war. There is famine and drought and earthquakes and disasters.
People do amazing things to help those in need. It is 2,000 years since Jesus shared this with his Disciples, they thought it was all imminent. For God there is no time limits like there are no limits to his love. The warnings to turn to Him and give up sin and witness his message of hope and love is as fresh now as it was 2,000 years ago. Maybe Jesus will not come again until we get it righ: live on Earth the message of Eternal Life.
Prayer of Abandonment
I abandon myself into your hands;
Do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures-.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
For I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
To surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
And with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.
Charles de Foucauld
If we were in this place with Jesus, what would we ask him?
Can we spend time practising the art of seeing with the eyes of God the beauty of the natural world, mercy and compassion for others, anticipating the consequences of avarice, sin and selfishness?
Scripture presents many examples of prophesy and history reports the validity, how much influence does this knowledge inform our faith and consequently impact our behaviour?
Do we keep asking Jesus and the Father for signs instead of accepting that we do not need signs to warn us; we can simply believe in the instruction of Jesus?
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment a world in which we lived as Christ asked us, selfless, unconditional love for ourselves, our neighbour, our world and God the Father would we need anything else?
Do we have the courage to surrender ourselves, our future completely to God’s will?
 Malachi 3:19  Malachi 3: 20  Mark 13:5-37  Matthew 24:1-36  Flavius Josephus' Books of the History of the Jewish War against the Romans,  William Barclay (1954, revised 1975) The Daily Study Bible, Gospel of Luke  Isaiah 13:9: “The day of the Lord is coming, that cruel day of wrath and fierce anger, to reduce the earth to desolation and destroy all the wicked there”.  1Thessalonians 5:1-3  William Barclay (1954, revised 1975) page 259, “The Daily Study Bible, Gospel of Luke”.  Luke 21: 6  Flavius Josephus' Books of the History of the Jewish War against the Romans,  Luke 21:12  Luke 21:16-17  Luke 21:15  Luke 21:19