End of the Beginning or Beginning of the End?

“The roar of the flames streaming far and wide mingled with the groans of the falling victims…one would have thought that the whole city was ablaze…With the cries on the hill were blended those of the multitude in the city below, and now many who were emaciated and tongue-tied from starvation, when they beheld the sanctuary on fire, gathered strength once more for lamentations and wailing…Yet more awful than the uproar were the sufferings.” Luke, David Tiede.

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Luke 21: 5-19

5When 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.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And 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.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there 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. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

What’s happening in our text

Luke bases this section on the gospel of Mark 13:v1-13 and Jesusspeaking of the destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70CE. 

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem since 9:51, as he goes he is speaking to his disciples and followers specifically, the crowd of rubberneckers in general.

Though Luke bases this teaching of Jesus on the gospel of Mark he also makes some changes

In Mark 11, Jesus rebukes a fig tree as being no good, incapable of bearing fruit. Following this Jesus makes his final trip to the temple and then leaving symbolically rejecting the temple.

Luke on the other hand doesn’t have Jesus leaving the temple. Mark has a grim view of the temple and it religiosity. Luke 21 has Jesus teaching in the temple every day during the week leading to his death.

Luke almost has Mark’s exact words in regards to the temple being destroyed. Luke’s gospel was written some 15 years following the actual destruction of the temple. The Jew‘s were abused and taken advantage of by the Roman empire. They would revolt, cause trouble and at times engage in open warfare with the Romans. Finally this resulted in the Jewish/Roman war which ended with the Jewish people getting crushed by the Romans. 

“The Roman-Jewish War lasted from AD 66-70.  In the beginning, the rebellion was widespread.  As the Romans brought military pressure to bear in the north, however, the Jews were forced back into “Fortress Jerusalem” in AD 69.

AD 69 was a very strange year.  Within Jerusalem, the Jewish defenders were divided.  In hopes of a ceasefire, some advocated for accommodation with the Romans.  Some of the more fanatical Jewish defenders, on the other hand, took an “apocalyptic” view.  If they could just hold on awhile longer, they thought, God would intervene and smite the offenders.

These more fanatical defenders gained the upper hand in the city.

Jerusalem put up a stout defense, and the Romans had a hard time subjugating the city.  When they did, it wasn’t pretty.  They destroyed everything they could destroy.  Blood ran in the streets.” Progressive Involvement Lectionary Commentary

The annihilation of Jerusalem, the temple, many of its leaders, the religious and political élite, had a huge impact of the Jewish people. Luke has some of the disciples asking what many readers at the time of Luke’s gospel being written would be wondering; when is this suffering going to be over? How long will it last?Jesus answers both the disciples and the readers of his gospel, this suffering; “will last until the proper time, until all has been fulfilled.

Jesus says in Luke 21;

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; 24 they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

In verse 7 of Luke 21 the disciples asking Jesus; “when will this be?” inquiring about the destruction of the temple. However, a reader of Luke’s gospel wouldn’t be concerned with something which happened 15 years ago but would be concerned with how long the Jewish people would be under persecution and how long until God intervened on behalf of his people.

Jesus tells them in Luke 21v8-9 …But they asked him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things be?  And what (will be) the sign when these things shall come to be?”  And he said, “See that you might not be deceived, for many will come upon my name, saying, ‘I am’ and ‘the time has come near.’  Do not go after them.

During the Jewish/Roman war some thought God would come down and rescue his people, defeating the Roman empire. Even 15 years later there were still those who wanted to engage in another “Holy War” against the dreaded Gentiles. Luke has Jesus speaking to the disciples and to the readers of his day saying “Do not go after them!

Jesus continues, Luke 21v9, “When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.”

Notice Luke edits Mark’s version with the word,immediately.” It has been 15 years since the destruction of the temple. This was not the end, but the beginning. Luke is telling the readers to be patient, there is more to come.

Jesus then says, Luke 21v10, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky.

In other words there’s going to be an increasing build up of problems, difficulties and hardships.

Added to this will be the suffering of Jesus’ followers

Luke 21v12-15 “But before any of this happens, they’ll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name. You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters. 16-19 “You’ll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. There’s no telling who will hate you because of me.”

Just as Jesus was abused so will his followers suffer at the hands of those in power.

The Greek literally says;They (those in power) will lay epiballō (throw) their hands on (seize) you and persecute you.”

When Luke is writing his gospel the Jews and Christian relations had turned sour. There were those who blamed the Christians for the Jewish/Roman war being lost.

Up until this time the Jews and the Christians coexisted but following the destruction of the temple there were some who thought the Christians were idolaters because they worshiped Jesus as God and as a result God was punishing the Jewish people for blasphemy.

Mark’s gospel has Jesus predicting they will be taken to the “synagogues but Luke adds the word “prisons” showing an increase in tension and penalties for the followers of Jesus.

Luke 21v12 “(you, the disciples, will be) “delivering up to synagogues and prisons, being brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake;”

When, not if, this happens Jesus tells them;

Luke 21v13-15 “You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters.”

Luke 21v13 “…and it shall become to you for a testimony. 14 `Settle, then, to your hearts, not to meditate beforehand to reply, 15 for I will give to you a mouth and wisdom that all your opposers shall not be able to refute or resist.”

Mark’s gospel has the Holy Spirit giving the persecuted words to speak but Luke has Jesus. Luke is writing to a new generation of Christians and he wants them to make sure they know Jesus is personally is with them. They are being persecuted, as Jesus himself was, and like him they will be able to stand strong, be a faithful witness.

Jesus comforts them;

Luke 21v17-19 “Even so, every detail of your body and soul—even the hairs of your head!—is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.”

Luke 21v17-19 The Greek reads; “You will be hated by all because of my name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.”

Remember what Jesus said to his followers in Luke 12;

4 Then Jesus said to the people, “I tell you, my friends, don’t be afraid of people. They can kill the body, but after that they can do nothing more to hurt you. 5 I will show you the one to fear. You should fear God, who has the power to kill you and also to throw you into hell. Yes, he is the one you should fear. 6 “When birds are sold, five small birds cost only two pennies. But God does not forget any of them. 7 Yes, God even knows how many hairs you have on your head. Don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many birds. Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Faith 8 “I tell you, if you stand before others and are willing to say you believe in me, then I[a] will say that you belong to me. I will say this in the presence of God’s angels.

Notice Jesus doesn’t answer their question. He didn’t give them specifics of the end times, what to look for, a code, a certain way or inside knowledge of deciphering when everything will come to an end. Jesus spoke to them about his faithfulness and their need to remain faithful, to endure. Remember Luke was written to a group of people who were being persecuted, blamed and increasingly shoved out of their community and nation.

As hard and difficult as this was Luke assures them the same Jesus was with them to turn their suffering into times of witnessing and no matter what they endured they were secure in the faith the same God who raised Jesus from the dead was the God who would be with them.

In other words, don’t be focused on what might happen tomorrow be focused on being a faithful witness today.

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Reflection

As I pause offer your prayers to God…

Psalm 118: We give thanks to you Lord, for you are good. Your steadfast love endures forever! Out of our distress and hardships today we call on the Lord; and He answers us. He sets us in a stable place. With the Lord on our side we do not fear. What can this world do to us? The Lord is on our side. He helps us. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in the things of this world. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in ourselves. Amen.” 

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Posted on November 17, 2013, in Mindfulness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wow, quite the blog. Thank you.

     “In other words, don’t be focused on what might happen tomorrow be focused on being a faithful witness today ” I worship with Protestant believers who seem to want the tribulation to start. I have wondered if they secretly have a weakness in their faith, and want the “end times” as proof of the Bible. Christian children who are subjected to this…this, future of hell on earth, what does it do to them?
    We are here and it is now. This is where God is, and this is were we live the Joy of Christ.

    I have one comment on the history. You say:
    “Up until this time the Jews and the Christians coexisted but following the destruction of the temple there were some who thought the Christians were idolaters because they worshiped Jesus as God and as a result God was punishing the Jewish people for blasphemy.”

    I don’t think there was a lot of coexisting. – And I am from a Messianic background, a background that emphasizes the persecution of the Jews by the Church in later centuries. But in the first century, it was the other way around: St Stephen was martyred in 34 CE. St Paul was going around finding believers to persecute.
    It is said that the reason the Jews were expelled from Rome in 49 CE, was Jewish infighting because of believers in the synagogues. http://www.orthodoxyouth.org/romans/print/introexpulsionjews.htm

    Like

    • thanks for the kind words.

      yes, history teaches us there was definitely persecution by the Jews upon the Christians from their inception but had settled down in the years following the initial persecutions. There are historical accounts where Christians and Jews worshipped together.

      Perhaps a better choice of words would’ve been “at times coexisted” or “had a fluctuating relationship” that turned almost completely negative following the Jewish/Roman war in 70 CE.

      Wonderful reply! You seem as though you are a student of history. Who are some of your favorite authors?

      Like

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