devotion 4-22-15

Good Morning!After a night of rain, the sun is shining on our island.

Luke 21: 5 – 11

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.

Each day during what we now call holy week, Jesus spent teaching in the temple. This temple was built by Herod “the Great”, so called because of his massive building projects. It had taken Herod many years to build, and during this, the “Second Temple Period”, the people of Israel, and especially Jerusalem, were very proud of the magnificent temple. Some of the disciples around Jesus are pointing out the beauty of the temple, the great stones, and the valuable ornaments of gold and silver dedicated to God. But Jesus says, “the day will come when not one stone will be left on another.”

At this point Jesus is speaking of the destruction of the temple, to come some 40 years later – but in the coming conversation he switches back and forth, between the actual destruction of Jerusalem in their age, and his own return on the day of judgement. (The big word for that is “eschaton”, and the study of the “end times” is called “eschatology”.) It is difficult to sort out, and some of it we are not meant to sort out.

After Jesus tells them the temple will be destroyed, they ask him, “When? Will we have any warning?” But in his answer, Jesus switches to the end times, the return of the Son of Man. He says it will not come because of or with, wars and rumors of wars (take heart today, as we see wars and rumors of wars in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and on and on); it will not come when nation rises against nation, or when there are earthquakes or famine or plague; it will not even come when there is some great sign from heaven. Notice – Jesus is saying these are NOT signs of the end-times, and yet, for at least 1000 years, people have taken them to mean exactly that, misquoting this text to claim biblical backing! All these terrible things are simply the ongoing facts of life on this earth, not signs of the end of it!

But Jesus goes on – before all of this occurs, the disciples themselves will be persecuted. They will be arrested, and brought before kings and governors on his account, because of his name. We see this fulfilled in Acts, as Peter and later Paul are brought to trial and persecuted for preaching the Good News of Christ.

Jesus tells them not to prepare a defense in advance, for he will be with them and he will give them words of wisdom for their reply. (Note: This is not a defense for pastors not to prepare their sermons! It applies to situations where the disciples were persecuted.) They will be betrayed by those whom they know best, as Jesus was to be in a few days. They would be hated because of his name. “But not a hair on your head will perish.” How can we explain that, knowing that most of those disciples would die for Jesus’ name. Yet, even though they die, yet they live – those who die in Jesus live with Jesus in glory! By their endurance, they gain their souls.

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