Category Archives: The Last Days

Luke 22:24-38

The greatest serves

Discussion Question

What is the most responsibility that you have ever had to carry?

Background

The Passover meal had been arranged and Jesus redefined this grand traditional meal as a remembrance of his death. Judas had consented to betraying Jesus and Jesus announced that his betrayer was seated at the table with them all. The disciples all questioned among themselves which of them was going to betray Jesus.

Read Luke 22:24-38

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Exercising authority in this world (24-25)
  • Exercising authority in the Kingdom of God (26-30)
  • The promise of trials ahead (31-38)

Exercising authority in this world (24-25)

“A dispute also arose among them…” Luke places this account in a different location to Mark and Matthew (Mark 10:42-45 and Matthew 20:25-28). It is difficult to know for sure why that is and the conclusion can often come down to what the interpreter would like to conclude! Two things can be said for sure: 1) that Jesus really seems to have said words about the nature of authority in this world compared to the kingdom of God and 2) that the gospel writers inserted this lesson from Jesus where they saw them fitting in the narrative. Perhaps Jesus said the same thing twice. But neither is it a new thing for accounts in the bible to care more about the message than they do about the exact chronology of the events. It seems reasonable to argue that there were two events in the account of Jesus’ ministry which suited the lesson from Jesus to be included at that point. Mark and Matthew quoted Jesus at one point but Luke placed those words in response to a different event.

Whatever the case, this dispute gives Jesus an occasion to explain how they are not behaving like children of the Kingdom of God.

“…as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” It doesn’t sound like an adult conversation. As Luke has placed this apparently at the table of the last supper, it just sounds so strikingly wrong! If this conversation flows directly out of Verse 23, however, it may have gone from a denial of betraying Jesus into something like, “I would never do that because I am most loyal to Jesus!” etc. What sounds like an immature and ridiculous conversation could well have flowed out of something smaller.

“…kings of the Gentiles…” Gentiles being non-Jews, ie, kings of the world.

“…call themselves Benefactors.” The simple stated nature of rulers in the world is that they hold authority and yet call themselves a giver of money to others. Even tyrant kings may wear a badge of honour as though they are benefiting the people. There may be a contrast beginning here between rulers who give themselves a good name and the leaders in the kingdom who will have the kingdom confered on them (Verse 29).

Exercising authority in the Kingdom of God (26-30)

“…greatest… like the youngest…” Jesus turns all hierarchies upside down. What seems to be the order of things in this world must not be the model for how we behave in the kingdom of God. See Mark 9:35

“…who is greater, the one who is at the table…? But I am among you as one who serves.” Jesus’ point is about humility, not reorganising who is in charge. His point is also directed at the kingdom of God and how that operates. That said, humility in the workforce and the home is a powerful and godly virtue. Jesus has placed his disciples at the table and is serving them. A greater illustration is found in John’s gospel Chapter 13 Verses 12-17 when he washed the disciples feet. That event took place on this same night.

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” Given that he has not been arrested yet, Jesus must be referring to the many confrontations that he has had with the teachers of the law. This sentence links to the last in that he has not been a king who lords it over people but one who undergoes trials inflicted on him by those who should be serving him. And although many chose not to follow him and many walked away, these men have stood by him. They have trusted him and persevered. Jesus is about to describe their place in the kingdom of God and it has come after his commendation that they have done well. They have been faithful with little and now they will be promised much.

“And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me…” The Father assigned the kingdom to Jesus and he is now assigning them a kingdom. The next verses will expand on what that means but here let us just acknowledge the doctrine of election. The apostles have not got lucky or paid their way to rule. Jesus has placed them in this place of authority in the kingdom. This promise must first and foremost be to the apostles specifically. Note also that this is a present tense declaration.

“…so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom…” This is Jesus’ kingdom that he is describing – my table – my kingdom. But the disciples have been chosen and elected to sit and eat and drink at the king’s table. A place of honour. Jesus has reminded us that it is those who are great who sit at tables (Verse 27).

“…and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” See also Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 3:21. Whilst the apostles are given a special place in the kingdom of God – certainly to bear witness of the One sent from heaven whom they saw with their own eyes and walked with him – whilst they do have a special place in the kingdom, it seems that this promise of judging the twelve tribes is not confined to them alone. The promise to eat with Christ and to reign with him is passed on to all who respond to Christ’s calling. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:9-10. The twelve tribes of Israel is to be understood eschatologically (in context of the way things end up). All who put their hope in the Son of God are the true Israel. Romans 9-11 cover this concept that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of promise, not of descent or special treatment of a particular nation. James 1:1 describes the scattered church of Christ as the twelve tribes in the dispersion.

The promise of trials ahead (31-38)

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” Verses 31 and 32 are amongst my favourites in all the bible. Not merely that it begins with my name repeated for emphasis and so seems quite directed to me! But more than that, this verse and the next describe two amazing truths of the scriptures (and more). Here we see the subordination of Satan to God. Satan is free but on a leash. We see in the book of Job how Satan needs to report back to God and is only allowed to do to Job what God permits. A day will come when Satan will be sent to eternal punishment. But in God’s wisdom he is permitted to tempt and sift people like wheat. The faith of the elect will be tested. Simon and the others, with God’s permission, will be put to the test. Those who stand firm to the end will be victorious. This is called the perseverance of the saints and this is the first truth that helps to put temptation and trials into perspective. James 1:2-4. God is not permitting Satan this job for his own sadistic joy. It is a means to maturity. Satan has asked permission and God has presumably permitted it. Christianity is not a life choice for the faint-hearted. But…

“…I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Such a beautiful word from Jesus to Simon. The Son of God, the King of kings has prayed for this fisherman. Note that Jesus prays to God. Remember the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that although Jesus is God, he also prays to the Father who is God. The content of the prayer is that Simon’s faith may not fail. It is not that Simon will be excused from temptation or even that Simon will remain faultless but that his faith will not fail. Jesus knows that there will be a need for Simon to turn back. And that a repentant Simon is still equipped to strengthen others. Take heart at the comfort of these words. Those who have been elected for salvation (Verse 28), will have their faith tested which ultimately produces perseverance and maturity, and we have the Son of God praying for us (see also John 17) to ensure the preservation of the saints. It is the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of the saints which come out of these verses which I love.

“…I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today…” I have often pondered why Jesus calls this man Simon at one point and Peter at the next. I can’t be sure but I have an inkling that Jesus talks to this man like he has two sides. Simon is the fisherman who is mortal and represents the person vulnerable to temptation. While Peter is the rock who is brave for the kingdom. Jesus tells this brave rock that he will fail before sunrise.

As Jesus knew the plans of Judas, He also sees how the night will unfold for Simon Peter.

“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything? “Nothing” they answered.” He refers to the time they were all sent out on mission to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-6; 10:4). Back then they were sent with nothing and lacked nothing. It was not a miracle but they were provided for when people from Jewish towns welcomed them in to hear about the kingdom of God. They received some rejection but they returned from the mission praising God for all that they were able to do in Jesus’ name. The season has changed now and working for the kingdom is going to get harder.

“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” People will be turning on the Son of Man and the nature of the mission is about to change. This is a warning passage. Satan has asked to shake them down and the people of their own villages can no longer be relied on for hospitality.

“It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’, …this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” Isaiah 53 was written about Jesus and Jesus knew that. The disciples wanted to know who was the greatest. Jesus teaches them that in the kingdom of God, there will be eating and judging but not in the next chapter. What will come next is persecution on the disciples and the King of the kingdom will be treated like a sinner. This must be fulfilled. Because it has been predetermined by God and He does not lie or change.

“See, Lord, here are two swords”…. “That’s enough!” he replied.” Later, the disciples will ask to use the sword and even strike the servant of the high priest but Jesus will rebuke them and heal the man. There are no accounts of sword wielding in the book of Acts.  The disciples have heard Jesus’ words and missed his point. They were being told a) that they will need to make provisions for themselves from now on and b) that he is about to be numbered with the transgressors! That is a big statement. In fulfilling scripture, Jesus will become the lowest. And their reply is “we have two swords boss!” Jesus reply to them seems to be a dismissal of the whole conversation or even a frustrated termination.

What did we learn?

Greatness in the kingdom of God is not fought for but bestowed on by election from the Son of God. As the King of the kingdom, he will demonstrate completely what the nature of the kingdom is: he will fulfill scripture and take on the position of a sinner. Being part of God’s kingdom is a road of trials and tests, as Jesus has demonstrated to his disciples and now they must walk the road of trials and tests. But Jesus preserves his people through prayer. Discipleship is a road hard to walk along, but we have every spiritual gift given to us and the hope of glory promised.

Now what?

Topic A: Humility as a mark of discipleship. Galatians 5:22-23 and James 3:17 list some of the fruit of the spirit which may well be summarised with the word ‘humility’. Philippians 2:3-11 describe the humility of Christ as the prime example of the humility that we ought to possess and cultivate. The nature of the kingdom of God is to put one another before ourselves. This is a true mark of godliness. How can you monitor your progress in this?

Topic B: Perseverance of the saints. All Christians are saints. When you have truly understood the grace of God in Christ and turned to Him in faith we can rest on the promises of God that a) he has called you into his kingdom and b) he promises to finish the work that he began in you (Ephesians 2:1-10). The journey is rough though. The world, the flesh and the devil will each do their darndest to knock you off the boat. James 1:5 says that if you lack wisdom on how to live in humility (James 3:13) then ask God for this wisdom that only he can give since it does not come from this world.

Topic C: Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that the Scriptures are all we need to find salvation in Christ and grow up mature in him. Jesus taught some disciples in Luke 24:25-27 that the Old Testament scriptures are filled with words concerning Jesus that had to be fulfilled. He is the missing piece that solves the great mystery of God. Ephesians 1:9-10 describe Jesus as the mystery of God finally revealed. We will never grow weary of learning more about him, to get to know him more, to understand him and even to participate in his sufferings so that somehow we shall be welcomed at his table in his kingdom to reign with him (Philippians 3:10-11). What grace that we do not deserve.

Luke 21:5-38

The end of the beginning

Discussion Question

What is something that you have had great love for and use for which one day you needed to throw away?

Background

Jesus arrival into Jerusalem after the long journey with his disciples was met with the teachers of the law being unhappy with Jesus’ actions and teaching. They had asked him for some credentials for the authority he was displaying. Jesus did not answer them directly but his interaction with the leaders of Israel throughout Chapter 20 was to underscore the lack of authority that they possessed.

He finished responding to their various questions in Chapter 20 with a harsh description of the teachers of the law loving to parade around in long robes and be recognised in public and be given special treatment. Their religion is empty as they fail to teach correctly about the Messiah and fail to care for those who are in need. Jesus watched both the wealthy and the very poor giving financially for the upkeep of the Temple and the wages of its ministers. We move now from the description of the Jewish teachers to the disciples remarking on the beauty of the Jewish Temple itself. If the Jewish leaders have lost their religion, what about the future of the central hub of the Jewish religion? What is to become of the house of God?

Read Luke 21:5-38

5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

What did you see?

Please note that this is a particularly long blog this week. The benefit of starting with the structure is to draw the eye to the flow of the passage. It may be enough just to recognise what Jesus is saying by thinking over the structure. More details are given for some moments in the passage that can cause confusion or controversy.

Structure

  • Investing in rubble (5-6)
    • Watch out for false prophecy (7-11)
    • Firstly, the Jews will reject Jesus’ ministry (12-19)
    • Secondly, the Jews will be judged by God (20-24)
    • Then, the end of days? (25-28)
    • So, live like you know what is coming (29-36)
  • So Jesus routinely taught and prayed (37-38)

This passage has parallel accounts in Matthew 24; Mark 13 and Matthew 10:17-22. They embrace the same themes and message but the sequence of Jesus’ sayings differ. While studying all of them together in order to piece a picture of the future is a worthwhile exercise, it seems that Matthew, Mark and Luke have each placed this account in the context of their own accounts of Jesus’ ministry and it is best to listen to each of them individually. The issue is not about contradiction but about order and emphasis. So, let’s listen to Luke’s narrative of Jesus answering the disciple’s question about the future of the Temple and the kingdom of God.

Investing in rubble (5-6)

“…remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.” The story of the poor widow is the immediate context of this statement. She has given her all as a dedication to God it would seem. The Temple was looking awesome! Tours across Europe and the UK can be filled with church watching and there are many buildings which look impressive and tell of a great history of people dedicated to the glory of God. Standing in some churches can literally lift your eyes up to the heavens. Many of them, however, are empty of true worship.

“…the time will come when not one stone will be left on another…” Think of all that money and effort that has gone into maintaining that Temple – a building that God Himself had designed and instructed Israel to finance and build with great precision and skill (Exodus 25-26) – and yet Jesus declares that it is going to be smashed to nothing. That poor widow is giving her livelihood to something that God is about to abandon and destroy.

The theme is now set for the rest of what Jesus is going to teach: be careful what you invest your life and faith in. God has plans for the future and it is important for us to have our hearts and minds in line with God’s plans. The age of the Temple made of stone has passed.

Watch out for false prophecy (7-11)

“Teacher…when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” A good question. Jesus is going to answer this one pretty well but also lead us all to a greater lesson and that is to always be ready. The question is specifically about the destruction of the Temple but Jesus will expand his answer to include the end of all things.

“…Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name…” I often forget how controversial Jesus is/was. He is announcing right here that his name will be used in the future as an identifier of authority. What is he insinuating when he says “in my name”? He is announcing that many will proclaim the name of Jesus and that they come in his name and have a new announcement to make – in his name! Jesus has not died or risen yet but he knows that he is the man to follow and nobody else can imitate him. So, Jesus is already announcing that his name is important – that he has authority. He is not just a prophet coming in the name of the LORD – he IS the LORD! Next, we must ask ourselves, what does it mean to be a Christian church? That is, how do we identify a true church of God versus a church that simply has Jesus in the title? Well, his following words suggest that they will speak something more than what Jesus has allowed them to know.

“…claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ One characteristic of a cult is that there is one leader who claims to be more informed and authoritative than everybody else. Even if they do not claim to be the Messiah, they will try and convince their followers that they have a unique and special revelation from God. Having a certain knowledge of the future is a notable clue that someone is not speaking the word of God but simply scaring others with false knowledge. Jesus continues to expand on such knowledge.

“…do not be frightened. These must happen first, but the end will not come right away…There will be…great signs from heaven.” Scary events will come and go and have come and gone and while they do communicate something to the world, it is not that the end is necessarily at the door. Verses 10 and 11 list international conflicts and natural disasters across the world which are signs from heaven but none of them are a signpost that the end is coming right away. The Black Death came and went about 1,000 years ago. It wiped out 1/3rd of Europe. We’ve had 2 World Wars and yet the world is still spinning. Tsunamis, draughts, ice-caps melting or Aids have all been international news for some time. Which of these is telling us that the world is about to end? None of them and yet all of them. They all signal that the kingdom of this world is under the curse of sin. They all signal that this world is broken. None of them have announced that this is the final end. International conflict and natural disasters all communicate that the end is coming – none of them specifically tell us that it is time now.

Jesus does have insight into the future, however, and he goes on to describe a few things to look out for AND what response to make to each…

Firstly, the Jews will reject Jesus’ ministry (12-19)

“But before all this…” Jesus does communicate an order of events here. Prior to nations rising against nations and prior to earthquakes and famines and fearful events and great signs from heaven. Before we get to those things, Jesus informs his disciples of something to look out for.

“…they will seize you and persecute you.” On the day that the disciples talked with Jesus, admiring the beauty of the Temple, Jesus told them that they would be seized and persecuted. The Jewish people from the synagogues (local places of Jewish worship like a church) would put them in prison and have to stand in front of kings and governors as ministers of the gospel. Because they speak in Jesus’ name, they will be persecuted. Ironic that Jesus says not to be deceived by people who claim to come in Jesus’ name and that they will be rejected themselves because they speak in Jesus’ name. As they look and admire the Temple of God, Jesus prepares them not to expect to be doing ministry in that Temple. Perhaps they even expected that they would move in there with Jesus and establish that Kingdom of God with him. Jesus instructs them to put that out of their minds completely.

But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words…” They have been told now that they will be persecuted. What they are to do with that info now is to decide not to be concerned about how to respond since Jesus’ words will be with them. At this point I am hearing this as a promise from Jesus to those disciples. It is not given as a promise specifically and globally to all followers of Christ. The apostles will be equipped to testify about Christ in a way that cannot be resisted or contradicted.

“Everyone will hate you because of me.” Jesus is speaking in extremes. His speech to the disciples is in the context of admiring this great Temple. His response to them is a warning about what is to come. When they choose to speak in his name, they will receive negative reactions. While Jesus is speaking directly to his 12 students, we can nod to this ourselves. The message is not that every single person that you meet will hate you because you are a Christian. But there will be great strain on relationships on account of Him. Jesus will be the source of great division in the world.

“Stand firm and you will win life.” What a great sentence! “Winning at life” is a humorous phrase someone might say when they have a small win or discover a new habit that is and works etc. Jesus is perhaps the first to coin the phrase. It may seem odd or quirky and a bit of an afterthought in the whole speech from Jesus but I wonder if this phrase is really the key to it all. The disciples were in awe over the Temple. Jesus tells them straight that the Temple has no future. Don’t look to that and don’t look for the praise of people. In fact, even your own parents will turn away from you. But stand firm testifying in the name of Jesus and you will have life. Gain life. Win life. This ends the first phase of Jesus’ answer to them. His point: know where to direct your attention – the authentic testimony about Jesus. It will be distorted by others and rejected by the rest. But when you stand firm, you win.

Secondly, the Jews will be judged by God (20-24)

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies…” Jesus begins to describe something that takes place in 70AD. The content of his description here in Luke and the fact that the intense event is not even alluded to in the book of Acts gives a lot of weight to the book of Acts being finished before 70 AD and therefore the book of Luke completed much earlier than that again! It is one significant key to the early authorship of the gospels. I will not go into the detail further here but thought it right to mention.

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies…” (part 2) Perhaps think like one of the disciples for a second. They might be still holding out hope that Jesus will stand up in Jerusalem one day and declare himself to be the true heir of the kingdom of David and it is time to take over. So what might they expect Jesus to say about armies surrounding Jerusalem? To trust God that he will fight for them? No. In fact, Jesus continues to inform them now that the destruction of Jerusalem is in God’s plans.

“…and let those in the country not enter the city.” When Jerusalem was taken, it began at the time of the Passover when people living outside the city would visit. They were allowed to enter but not allowed to leave.

“For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” Leviticus 26:31-33 and Deuteronomy 28:49-57 will be enough to scratch any itches over what has been written. They are to be taken as both specific and general. The blessing of God on Israel was on the basis that they would be His people and He would be their God. There general rejection of God over the generations and especially in this generation that has met the Messiah is to be fulfilled. It is not a coincidence that the destruction of Israel after the rejection of the Son of God has been continued to this day! Luke wrote of Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem on other occasions too. See Luke 11:49-51; 19:41-44; 20:9-16 and 23:28-31.

“How dreadful it will be in those days…” The graphic scenes of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD are documented by historians. It was ugly. Terrible. Horrifying in fact. Jesus’ first forecast for the disciples to hear is of something that will happen in their very generation.

“Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” He then transitions from this event fulfilled in 70 AD to the next phase of the future. The age of the Gentiles where there will be no focus from God on a people group like the Jews. But that age will come to an end – its’ purpose will be complete also.

Then, the end of days? (25-28)

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars…for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Jesus’ language becomes slightly apocalyptic. His attention moves from 70 AD to the end of time and he alludes to imagery depicted in the Old Testament such as Isaiah 13:9-10 and Joel 2:30-31. The apostle John describes the same imagery in Revelation 6:12-13. Whether this is an actual description of the future (sun stops, moon turns red and the stars fall) or simply the familiar imagery that the bible has used to point to the end – it doesn’t matter. It is describing the end of things before the Son returns.

“…will see the Son of Man…lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus speaks to the disciples now knowing that he really speaks to all future disciples of Christ. In this life, we will find sorrow and hardship – all are reminders of a broken and aching world. But there will come a day, which all of this brokenness points us to, when we will see the Son of Man and we will lift up our heads because he will come to take what he has purchased.

We live in the age of the now but not yet. Jesus’ words here encourage us to not think of the world as we know it as the true reality of eternity. We live for the kingdom to come. Jesus warns us to look at the world around us and choose to stand firm rather than run around confused and scared.

The Son of Man is a title that Jesus often used of himself. It finds a neat Old Testament reference in Daniel 7 but even that reference is an allusion to the idea of a true human that lives and reigns as humans were truly made to. Adam failed. But Jesus wins life and has won it for us who stand firm.

So, live like you know what is coming (29-36)

“…when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Jesus has warned us before not to get scared by people claiming that the time has come! What he means now is that we will see things that our anxious minds will want to be fearful of, but they are all signs that the kingdom is near. The plans of God will not be stopped. Use the signs to affirm you faith rather than crush your spirit.

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” While ‘generation’ can be interpreted to mean something like ‘the age of this earth’ or something like that, it seems reasonable to think that Jesus is referring to the destruction of the Temple as definitely happening in the very generation of the disciples. His second sentence about his words not passing away fit neatly with his prediction of the end of all things.

“Be careful…be always on the watch, and pray…” Jesus prescribes the right approach to waiting. It is not to load up baggage in our life with things that put this life on a pedestal. Jesus lists carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life. Are these not good illustrations of a person who is putting an emphasis on this life? Making the most of this life as if it is the one chance we have for fun? When it is not working out for us then we get all anxious and worried. But our concern ought to be about standing firm until the end. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and all who practice it gain understanding. It is an act of grace and dependance on God that enables us to stand firm and so we watch and pray.

So Jesus routinely taught and prayed (37-38)

“Each day Jesus was teaching…and each evening he went out to…the Mount of Olives…” Rather than entering Jerusalem to take a seat on David’s throne, Jesus continued his mission to teach people about the kingdom of God. He left the Temple area by evening to stay on the Mount of Olives. We read in Luke 22:39ff of him praying there and it seemed like a common thing for him to have done. The Mount of Olives was his base for the week he stayed in Judea prior to his arrest. Jesus watched and prayed.

“…and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.” His habit was established early and he committed himself to teaching the people. While the teachers of the law were not happy with him, the people in general were.

What did we learn?

God’s plans for the future will centre around the return of His Son. Those who follow Jesus are not to expect warm receptions by others nor a life on this earth that will bring satisfaction and joy. The joy will be found in knowing that we are included in God’s plans for the future as his redeemed people. The rest of the world will not be ready. We are warned to watch and pray. The age of the Temple is past, the age of the Gentiles is present but the age of the Son is near.

Now what?

Topic A: Beware of being deceived about the times. It is tempting to conclude that the end must be really soon because of the great rejection of God going on around us. Or because of global warming. Or because of floods and droughts and heatwaves etc. Evil has been in the world since before Cain was a boy. Natural disasters are nothing new. Some are drawn toward certain parts of the bible that seem to describe the end of days and pour their minds into the interpretation of them. Jesus’ warning here is to not be deceived by such talk. The end will come one day. That is a certainty. We can get blindsided by the real purpose of life, however, when we are drawn toward conspiracy theories or to church leaders who preach too specifically about the future.

Topic B: Turn the calamity of life into clarity about the future. The other way of being deceived is to think that this life is where meaning is to be found. When we have bought that lie, then every moment of suffering, every relationship breakdown, every unfulfilled dream can seem like the end of the world. Our prayers can be nothing more than “please God get me out of this one.” But knowing that we live in a world just waiting for the second coming, will keep us clear headed when disasters big or small come. International conflict and a small child’s broken leg are all signs that we do not live in God’s house yet. When our focus is on getting this life right, then we take our eyes off living for the kingdom above. When we focus on this age as the best there will be, then we will be crushed when we find out that it is not that good. When we know that the best is yet to come and that the crumbling state of this world are just labour pains then it can direct our thoughts to prayer and being thankful that God will one day take home what he has already purchased through His Son.

Topic C: Stand before the throne of God today. Jesus applied this passage by saying, “Be always on the watch, and pray.” We can put this into practice now. Pray with your Growth Group right now about the broken nature of this world and the promise of redemption. We can also pray every day that we shall live our life ready to stand before the Son of Man. Perhaps today will be the day!

Luke 20:27-47

The Lord who lives

Discussion Question

What would you do if convinced that there was no resurrection?

Background

Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem and has been in conflict with the Jewish leaders. He hadn’t even reached the gates of the city before being approached by the religious leaders and questioned (Luke 19:39). And his first act on arriving, according to Luke, was to disrupt the corrupt behaviour in the Temple (Luke 19:45). In Chapter 20, the authority of Jesus was questioned but Jesus silenced the people wanting to trap him.

While the mouths of the teachers of Israel have been silenced (Luke 20:26), a sub-group within the Jewish leadership, known as the Sadducees, sought to prove themselves right before Jesus. Luke tells us in Verse 27 (see also Acts 23:8) that they do not believe in the resurrection from the dead – that is, that there is no afterlife. They also denied the existence of angels, and they adhered only to the Torah (meaning ‘the law’), being the first five books of the Bible (AKA the Pentateuch).

Read Luke 20:27-47

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’d 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

41 Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.” ’g

44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

What did you see?

Structure

  • The Sadducees raise a good question (27-33)
  • Jesus corrects the Sadducees (34-38)
  • Jesus teaches us to read (39-44)
  • Jesus warns us of the real issue here (45-47)

The Sadducees raise a good question (27-33)

“Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection…” See the Background above. Acts 23:6-10 gives us some insight into how firmly the Sadducees refuted the resurrection (of anybody) and how opposed the Pharisees were to this point of view. This story opens with an internal doctrinal dispute. We will see how this story shows Jesus interact with the dispute, not to take sides, but to show that both groups allow their passionate points of view to get in the way of just good reading of the Scriptures.

“…came to Jesus with a question.” We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus was a person worth knowing. Even though he will be rejected by most of these leaders and crucified, he was not a nobody. Quite the contrary, he was a threat and person to investigate. The Pharisees and Sadducees had established credibility as “teachers of the law” etc. They were coming to Jesus with questions. If Jesus was just a weirdo, crazy want-to-be-messiah or prophet figure, then they could just ignore him and get on with the business of Jewish leadership. But Jesus had something to say and they knew it. It is apparent that they wanted either Jesus to support their point of view or say something that would discredit himself – either way they win – but Jesus shows himself to be impartial (Luke 20:21).

“Teacher”, they said…” See the last point on how they viewed Jesus! He was not obviously a crazy person or someone rambling some new cult. The people knew that he taught the things of God. He was a player.

“Moses wrote for us…” Remember that the Sadducees only regarded the writings of Moses as worth anything. Beautifully, Jesus will use the text of Moses to answer their question!

“…if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.” See Deut 25:5ff; Ruth 4:1-12. This was the duty of a brother-in-law in the Old Testament.  It can be hard in our Western culture of individuality to swallow a command like this. It might be hard in any culture. One narrative of the bible is the story of family, of first-borns, of inheritance and of duty to something greater than yourself. I don’t wish to justify the laws of Moses as if they each have a pragmatic reason lying behind them. The unmarried brother-in-law can carry on the name of his brother through that woman. This was the law, which had an out-clause which resulted in shame for the brother-in-law. But it was the law and the Sadducees see this as creating a great problem in the theology of the resurrection. This was their slam down argument for winning the dispute.

Application note: when division happens in the Christian church over doctrine, it is often because the greater picture of God’s grace is misunderstood or misapplied. The greatest unity in the church comes when we celebrate the absolute truths of the gospel and carry with us an epistemological humility (or remaining humble in our knowledge of things).

“…now there were seven brothers…finally the woman died too…at the resurrection whose wife will she be…?” The Sadducees lay out their argument. Sounds like 9 seasons of ‘Married without children!’ This lady either married into the wrong family or she should have her house checked for arsenic! Anyway, this is the scenario played out for Jesus to reflect on. Even though it is a very specific kind of scenario, it does play out as a legit question. We can find a similar type of question asked in relation to the gospel: “If you’re saying I can be forgiven for any sin then I’ll just keep sinning and Jesus will just forgive me! Brilliant! Makes no sense.” But Paul tackles that problem in Romans 6. And his answer is something similar to Jesus: you don’t really get the point if you’re asking that question.

Jesus corrects the Sadducees (34-38)

“Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.” Jesus decides to respond to their question rather than push back (see his response to a previous challenge in Luke 20:3). The phrase ‘this age’ can mean this generation or people this side of the cross or people of the world or people who are not part of the kingdom of God or simply people on this side of death! As always, it is context that gives us the meaning. Surely Jesus is referring to people who are still alive. We may wonder what he means by ‘those who are considered worthy’, but it will become clear that Jesus is referring to those who enter eternal life. The first point of Jesus is to say that marriage is a thing for this age. Just because marriage happens here does not mean that it has the same meaning in the next life.

But, marriage is for this age. God created men and women to leave their parents and to come together as one (Gen 1-2), the scriptures uphold marriage as a beautiful thing (Song of Songs) and as a great image or illustration for God’s uniting himself to his people. Marriage is about two ‘differents’ being united under a promise to be one with a mutual love and other-person centredness. Although that is the picture, it is very much not like that in reality. Sin (introduced after the marriage covenant of Genesis 1 and 2), means that men and women together in marriage will live in conflict (Gen 3:16). As we’ve seen in previous studies in 1 Corinthians 7, the curse of sin and the cure which is Christ makes the age that we live in unique. We live in the age of Christian mission when the message of the Spirit (which is the gospel) is to go to all nations. This is our mission. To make disciples of all nations. We are not commanded to settle down and make homes here but to have kingdom minds. However, we still live in the age where people of this world marry and are given in marriage.

“But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” In the age to come, at the resurrection, there will be no more marriage. That seems to be the clear teaching of our LORD here. Who is worthy of eternal life? That answer is clearly given elsewhere (Matt 19:29; Hebrews 9:15; James 2:5; Rev 21:7). That list of New Testament promises regarding eternal life give us the two sided coin of grace and perseverance. We are saved by no merit of our own but on Christ’s merit but we are saved because we cling to him as our only hope. We have heard the true gospel and responded from truly understanding the grace of God.

“…and they can no longer die…” Jesus has answered their question but he’s not done with them yet. To his audience who do not believe in the resurrection nor in angels, Jesus wants them to listen further and learn.

“…for they are like the angels.” I can imagine Jesus looking them in the eyes and simply stating that angels are real. The God who created all things, including the angels, has no issues setting the record straight. Angels, it appears, do not die because they are not suffering under the curse of mankind. Of course, the rebellious angels will receive their punishment in full at the end of time.

“They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.” Will that be your title one day: child of the resurrection? A description of the children of the resurrection can be read in Revelation 21:1-8 and also 7:13-17. Surely none of the Sadducees who deny the resurrection can take part in it? Entrance into the kingdom of God, as a norm, requires knowledge and belief whenever and wherever it is made available.

“…even Moses showed that the dead rise…” Jesus has moved from stating facts that only he would know to pointing now to the scriptures that even the Sadducees accept and showing from the text that the resurrection is taught even by Moses.

“…for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’” Exodus 3:6. In this part of the story, Jesus begins to use the Scriptures in a very technical way. What do the words say? What do they mean? Now, I’ll confess that I would have read that account in Exodus a thousand times before it would dawn on me that God is talking about being the God of the living. He doesn’t say that he was their God but that he is their God.

“…for to him all are alive.” The context would suggest that ‘all’ refers to all who have been worthy to take part in the age to come.

Jesus teaches us to read (39-44)

“Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” This lot are pleased that Jesus set the Sadducees straight. But look out for the way that Luke transitions now into a lesson from Jesus to the teachers of the law on how to read the scriptures too.

“Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David?” The teaching of the Messiah was well established by the arrival of Jesus. Some texts that were likely key to the Jew’s understanding included, 2 Samuel 7; Ps 89; Isa 9:5-7; 11:1-10; Jer 23:5-8; 33:14-26; Micah 5:2; Ezek 34:23-24. The theme that crosses most of these is that God will raise someone up who will be a righteous king of the line of David, Jesse’s boy from Bethlehem. We can, from Jesus’ words, conclude that the teachers taught that the Messiah would be a son of David (descendant) and this is fair theology given the texts above.

“David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:” Now, this may be a boring point for some but there are commentators who question whether the Psalms of David (as they say in the title of the Psalms) mean that David wrote them or that they are rather Psalms for David. The language can work like that but Jesus happily tributes the penwork to David.

“David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” Psalm 110 describes a figure who David regards as his Lord being given the right handed seat to the Lord. That is, God is allowing this Lord of David’s to sit at his right hand. It seems that Jesus is drawing people’s attention to the idea that Psalm 110 is actually a Messianic Psalm. Who could be more important than the David, great King of Israel? This is a prophecy of Jesus, the descendant of David who is not just an ancestor but who is before David and Lord of him also. He is seated at the right hand of God until all enemies are subdued. 1 Corinthians 15 names the last enemy as death itself. Jesus wants the teachers of the Law to see what the scriptures actually say and to process it. The Messiah is someone greater than David, and who precedes David.

Jesus warns us of the real issue here (45-47)

“While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law.”” Jesus has been directly challenged by the teachers of the law, then challenged secretly by spies and then challenged by another party within the Jewish leadership and all of them have failed to trap, outsmart or trip Jesus in his ability to teach and know the word of God and the nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus concludes this whole chapter with a warning to watch out for such teachers who think, presume and act like they have all the answers and yet they are far from the kingdom themselves.

“They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at the banquets.” Nobody likes that guy. Some people, even me and you, can get misplaced in our need to be needed and our want to be wanted. One’s identity can get trapped inside a need to be important – to be called when a crisis happens, to be at the table when decisions are being made, and to be thanked whenever a function has gone well. No teacher of God’s word should get trapped in this. If a brilliant and well educated man or woman never writes a popular book, will they still not be known by God?

“They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” Such a person is all show and no glow. In the right culture and setting they can dominate others like bullies. Big words baffle others and can make the simple believe that they are closer to God. They look and sound like the know the bible well. They speak confidently about their belief and can sound as though the rest of the world do not understand the bible like they do. They are needed in other people’s lives if they are to be right with God! They take money, time and power from others in the name of God.

“These men will be punished most severely.” Forgiveness is available to all but if someone maintains a boastful knowledge of God and yet has not grasped the grace of God then they will be punished for their sin and severely punished for destroying others in their ministry.

What did we learn?

Some people will stand firmly on doctrine that they believe is true because they have been raised to believe it and are just absolutley sure that their arguments from the scriptures are true. Divisions arise from such hard headedness. Jesus has confidence in the scriptures too which point to God’s Messiah preceding David and reigning at his right hand until death itself is killed and has called all who have saluted the Messiah to the resurrection. Eternal life is surer than death for those who turn to Christ.

Now what?

Topic A: What are you living for? This world is passing by. Jesus has taught us here that the resurrection is real, and that those who have inherited eternal life will be called children of the resurrection – never again to die. It is difficult to imagine what exactly it will all look like, feel like and be like. But there will come a day when the day will not end (so to speak). The burdens and troubles of this world will be no more. To quote a preacher I heard recently, “just 15 minutes ‘there’ and anything we are going through now will be forgotten.” Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Topic B: Do you stand for things you think are true or do you stand for truth? The art of reading the bible begins with surrendering our assumptions and being ready to listen to the words in the book. Noticing small things in the bible can open up great revelations. So, reading great chunks of the bible will give us the benefit of context and understanding the overarching story of the bible, while reading slowly and meditating on every word will help us to see the glorious details that the bible has to offer. It really has been written by a genius.

Topic C: Seeking good teachers to lead. Jesus does not condemn all teachers but those he described as proud, seeking glory here on earth and misleading others by their own lies. What we need are good leaders who watch their life and doctrine closely. Who teach people to read the bible well for themselves. Bible teachers who fixate on particular doctrines that subdue the glory of God displayed through the gospel make me nervous.  Teachers who spend more time pulling down other people’s theology rather than teaching what is true, that too makes me nervous. However, a church that is keen to raise up leaders for the gospel for the glory of God and without the leadership feeling threatened by upcoming leaders – that sounds like a healthy church obeying the great commission.