How did the people to whom Jesus addressed this statement respond? It is reported that “The chief priests and the experts in the law heard it and considered how they could assassinate Him, for they feared Him, because the whole crowd was amazed by His teaching” (11:18). Not only was He calling their role into question, Jesus was messing with their pocketbooks and their livelihood, and doing this after making His “triumphal entry” (a parousia like that which would have been enjoyed by a Caesar, while also being a re-enactment of two Jerusalem entries previously recorded in the history of the covenant people) in which He was hailed as the King of Israel and the bringer of the Kingdom of God.
A bit later in Mark, Jesus can be heard speaking about the Temple yet again. This time, his commentary is offered immediately after He has witnessed a widow putting into the Temple offering box “what she had to live on” (12:44b). Seeing as how those that served the Temple should not have let this happen, but should have been providing for this poor widow, Jesus laments what He has just seen. He comments on it, saying that she “has put more into the offering box than all the others” (12:43b), and probably doing so with a touch of sadness and anger.
Jesus’ response to what He has seen perplexed Jesus’ disciples, as they probably missed His larger point about the failure of those that were supposed to be representing the Creator God, and perhaps thought to themselves something like, “If everybody gave the same amount that this widow gave, then we would not have this beautiful and glorious Temple with which to worship our God.” They said to Jesus, “Teacher, look at these tremendous stones and buildings!” (13:1b), as if to say, “We think you’re mistaken.”
Jesus surveys the tremendous stones and buildings in full realization that the glory of God is not to be found in the Temple, but in Himself, and with the knowledge of the Temple’s redundancy says, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down” (13:2). This, of course, was fulfilled when the Roman army came and destroyed the Temple in 70AD, and it must be noted that His words about the destruction of this Temple and its system follows hard on His observation of the widow and her gift. With the knowledge that Jesus closely connects the fall of the Temple with the offering from the widow, any notion that Jesus praises the widow as a model of giving must be put aside.
It can be confidently asserted that these words of Jesus were circulated, and that they were understood as yet another affront against the Temple and those who ruled over it. As has already been noted, they had already begun to devise plans to assassinate Jesus, and things like this would only serve to cement and accelerate those plans. Ultimately, their assassination plot would take shape and be successful, as the Temple authorities would be able to turn Jesus over to the Roman governor, presenting Him as an instigator of rebellion and revolution and a self-proclaimed rival to Caesar. Accordingly, they could have Him assassinated through a state-sanctioned execution.
So what does all of this have to do with Samson? How does this compare with the way in which Samson died? When Samson died, He did so through laying down His life in a seeming defeat, doing so to defeat those that were his enemies. Jesus did the same. When Jesus went forward to His death, so as to do battle with His enemies. Though He speaks against them, His true enemies were not the Temple authorities, but the dark forces of evil that stood behind those authorities.
In his final confrontation with his enemies, Samson, standing in the temple and enduring mocking, pushed hard against the pillars and collapsed the temple upon himself and on all that were inside. Jesus, in confrontation with His enemies, also pushed hard against the pillars of the Temple (the Temple authorities). In doing this, Jesus (while also enduring the mocking crowds) metaphorically brought the Temple down upon Himself, by prompting the men that were responsible for the Temple to push hard against Him (though He was the true Temple), enabling Him to lay down His life in the process, hoping that death would not the final word. In His death, most assuredly, Jesus conquered a vast army of dark forces, and forever sealed their defeat with His glorious return to life.