(1) One of his disciples.—Note St. Mark’s vivid way of giving the very words of the disciple, instead of saying with St. Matthew that they “came to show” the buildings of the Temple.
Here, again, the juxtaposition of narratives in St. Mark gives them a special point. The “stones” of Herod’s Temple (for it was to him chiefly that it owed its magnificence) were of sculptured marble. The “buildings,” or structures, included columns, chambers, porticos that were, as St. Luke tells us (Luke 21:5), the votive offerings of the faithful. The disciples gazed on these with the natural admiration of Galilean peasants. In spite of the lesson they had just received—a lesson meant, it may be, to correct the tendency which our Lord discerned—they were still measuring things by their quantity and size. They admired the “goodly stones” more than the “widow’s mite.” They were now to be taught that, while the one should be spoken of throughout the whole world, the other should be destroyed, so that not a vestige should remain. We cannot say who spoke the words, but it is at least probable that it came from one of the four who are named in Mark 13:3.
Peter and James and John and Andrew.—The list of names is noticeable (1) as being given by St. Mark only; (2) as the only instance in which the name of Andrew appears in conjunction with the three who were on other occasions within the inner circle of companionship; (3) in the position given to Andrew, though the first called of the disciples (John 1:41), as the last in the list.
Standing where it ought not.—St. Mark substitutes this for “in the holy place” of St. Matthew. Of the two, the former seems, in its enigmatic form, more likely to have been the phrase actually used; the latter to have been an explanation. The words “spoken of by Daniel the prophet” are omitted in many of the best MSS.
Neither the Son.—The addition to St. Matthew’s report is every way remarkable. It indicates the self-imposed limitation of the divine attributes which had belonged to our Lord as the eternal Son, and the acquiescence in a power and knowledge which, like that of the human nature which He assumed, were derived and therefore finite. Such a limitation is implied by St. Paul, when he says that our Lord “being in the form of God . . . made Himself of no reputation” (or better, emptied Himself), “and took upon Him the form of a servant.” (See Note on Philippians 2:6-7.) It is clear that we cannot consistently take the word “knoweth” as having a different meaning in this clause from that which it bears in the others; and we must therefore reject all interpretations which explain away the force of the words as meaning only that the Son did not declare His knowledge of the time of the far-off event.
And commanded the porter to watch.—This feature is unique in our Lord’s parables, and, as such, seems to call for a special interpretation. The “servants” we accept at once as the disciples, and we understand generally what was the authority and the work assigned to them. But who was specifically the “gate-keeper” or “porter”? The answer appears to be found in the promise of the keys of the kingdom that had been made to St. Peter (Matthew 16:19). It was his work to open the door of that kingdom wide, to be ready for his Lord’s coming in any of those manifold senses which experience would unfold to him. We may accordingly venture to trace in St. Mark’s record, here as elsewhere, the influence of the Apostle. That word “the porter” was, he felt, meant for him, and this he remembered when much that had been recorded by others had faded from his recollection. If we adopt this application of the word here, it throws light on the somewhat difficult reference to the “porter” of the sheep-fold in John 10:3.
At even, or at midnight.—The four times correspond roughly to the four watches of the night, beginning at 9 P.M., 12, 3 A.M., 6 A.M. The words may be noted as having left, and having been intended to leave, on St. Peter’s mind, the impression that the promise of the coming of his Lord was undefined as to times or seasons, which is so prominent in 2 Peter 3. Each of the seasons named has had its counterpart, we may well believe, embracing many centuries of the world’s history.