Luke 22:1-23

The betrayer revealed

Discussion Quote

“A man is like a novel: until the very last page you don’t know how it will end. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth reading.” Yevgeny Zamyatin


We’ve said all along that Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem back in Luke 9:50, then he walked to Jerusalem for the following 10 chapters. We can read the four gospels knowing that each of them ends with the death and resurrection of Jesus – as if that is obviously how it is all meant to end. But as the disciples lived that out and as Jesus headed toward Jerusalem and then toward the Passover meal, he has not lived that event before – and yet he knows exactly how it will be played out. We are reading a story that we’ve read many times before and yet at one time it had never been told before. This week we will explore the relationship between what God has planned from ages past and how He and the disciples participate in it by their own free will.

Read Luke 22:1-23

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

What did you see?


  • A narrative on consenting to evil (1-6)
  • Preparing for the pre-prepared (7-13)
  • As it has been decreed (14-23)

A narrative on consenting to evil (1-6)

“…the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching…” The Passover originates and is described in the book of Exodus and was to be a lasting festival for all generations. The unleavened bread was to remind the people how they were redeemed suddenly and had to exit Egypt quickly.

“…and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus…” John 11:55 describes this as a time when people would come to Jerusalem in order to prepare themselves for the festival – making themselves clean. The priests should have had better things on their minds rather than getting rid of Jesus.

“…for they were afraid of the people.” The method of removing Jesus was tricky because they feared the people. They should rather be fearing God!

“Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.” The bible is consistent in teaching that evil is everywhere and there is no society exempt from corruption and lies. Even one of Jesus’ closest 12 were open to wickedness. Why does it seem so surprising when we hear of ‘good’ people doing bad things. NB there were two disciples named Judas and so his name is given more detail to distinguish him. The word Iscariot has no particular sinister meaning. Not then anyway! It is likely related to where he was from.

What is meant by Satan entered Judas? The answer to that can range from a spectacular hollywood possession sequence where he was once timid like Dr Jekyll but became hunched and sneering like Mr Hyde – or as subtle as described by CS Lewis in his famous book The Screwtape Letters where it only takes a silent whisper to make Judas, the ‘patient’, decide to do the worst. Luke has previously described demons entering a person (Luke 8:30) as well as Jesus having a conversation with Satan (Luke 4:1-13). So, Luke is not suggesting it is merely a metaphor. But he neither expresses how others perceived this to be happening. The least and perhaps most we can say is that the betrayal of Jesus had the attention of Satan. What follows is a perfectly boring description of what being possessed by Satan looks like.

“And Judas went…and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity…” Quite boring really. But when people discuss things in private that have the destructive effect on those not present, that is when evil is in action. The fact that this is really quite dull and normal highlights how frequent sin can be at work. Judas went, they discussed, an agreement was made and, most importantly, Judas consented. Perhaps that describable event is a little narrative about what it was like for Judas to listen to Satan. The Adversary entered Judas, there was, perhaps, a silent discussion and then Judas consented – and so he went and talked with the chief priests. We must not think of Satan as an omnipresent creature who is able to speak to all of us all of the time, but we should take the warning that he or his messengers may suggest things to any one of us. Judas was not being possessed by Satan to the extent that he was no longer himself. Judas had entertained the idea by Satan and had consented to going to talk to the priests. Full blown sin does not just happen. It begins with a temptation. A thought develops. A plan manifests. Consent. Wait for the opportunity. Take it. Although Satan is not included, James offers a pathway from temptation worth noting (James 1:14-15).

Ironically, while the chief priests should have been preparing for the Passover festival, they were focused on how to get rid of Jesus who, we now celebrate as the true Passover Lamb. They were neglecting their duties and at the same time doing exactly as God had prepared in order for The Passover to truly take place.

Preparing for the pre-prepared Passover(7-13)

“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed…“Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”” The Festival was a week long festival with one of the days dedicated for the killing of the Passover Lamb. On the very first Passover, a lamb was killed and its blood painted on the doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over that home and the firstborn child was saved. This event had two levels (as did roughly all the narratives of the Old Testament). Firstly, it describes God’s grace and mercy and saving power to rescue a people who were once slaves to become the very special and chosen people of God. It is a historical picture of how Israel came to be God’s redeemed people. Secondly, it setup Israel with a message to be repeated annually for them to one day see the death of Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of that Exodus event. God had been preparing Israel and all future Bible readers to the idea of salvation from slavery, by means of a sacrificial lamb with only the call to believe and act out that faith.

“He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” The words that Jesus uses leading up to that sentence is like something from a secret spy movie or something. Whether Jesus had arranged this on a previous visit to Jerusalem, or by talking to someone during the day or whether he somehow used his powers of divine sovereignty to accomplish this – who knows? It adds more flavour to the narrative that Luke is giving us in this entire section of the pre-arranged ordained events that all the characters believe they are living out for the very first time. Judas is acting out on his own desires and yet God knew that this would happen. The Passover has been reenacted every year for centuries and yet it has been a strange recital of an event yet to take place at the cross. And here is a meal that needs to be prepared and yet Jesus already knows exactly where it is meant to happen. The disciples are to prepare something for the first time that has already been prepared by God.

“They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” Everything was prepared just as Jesus had foretold it. So the Passover meal which is a foretelling of the death of the Son of God will be prepared by the disciples just as the Son of God had described. Good. Is it like living out a story that has already been written?

As it has been decreed (14-23)

“When the hour came…” Luke keeps using these time indicators to move the story along like the clock is ticking. Like the time is counting down to an end.

“For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Jesus states plainly here that the Passover is not a meal that looks back to an old historical event but one that looks forward to the death of God’s firstborn Son. And that death is not something that points forward to another thing but is the fulfillment. The Exodus of Israel under Moses was a shadow of the true exodus in Christ.

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” This Passover meal was a pointer to the real fulfilling event and the meal is to become, after that event, a reminder of Jesus and his body given for “you”. So, neither is the bread ever actually his body, nor is the meal without meaning. It is a helpful gift from God to help us focus our minds on the act of salvation that has come at the cost of Jesus’ body.

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” See Exodus 24:8; Jer 31:31-34; Hebrews 9:15. Jesus’ blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. The Old Testament sacrificial system taught us of the purpose of this but only Christ could truly provide for the wrath of God to be averted from us forever.

“But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” Both the hands of the lamb (Jesus) and of the sinner (Judas) and of the true High Priest (Jesus) are present at the table. Note that when the sacrifice was made at the altar, the sinner would bring the animal to the tabernacle, kill the animal himself and bring the dead lamb to the priest for the sprinkling of the blood. At this ceremonial Passover, in preparation for the actual death of Christ, all parties are present with their hands at the table. Leviticus 3:2 for example. This is not to suggest, however, that Judas is forgiven for this betrayal as Jesus indicates next.

“The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” This whole narrative has been demonstrating the dance between influence, sovereignty and free will. Judas consented to betray Jesus. He is to blame. Both Satan and God were aware of who would betray Jesus. The room for the Passover had been prepared somehow and yet the disciples were asked to go and make final preparations for the meal. The death of Christ was forecast from the beginning of the Bible and yet is being played out right in front of the disciples and they are all participating in the event. Satan and the evil suggestion of others provide the influences in this story. So does the signal from Jesus to make preparations for the Passover. These are all examples of how we are influenced. God is fully aware and able to interact with the events, all the while remaining innocent of evil. Judas and the disciples are all able to make decisions at any time to do good or evil. Mind=Blown.

“They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.” Even after this discussion at the table of how bad it would be for the betrayal to happen, Judas will still go and do it. Sin has a tight grip on the human will. It is a difficult thing to be tempted, to entertain the idea, consider how it could be carried out in secret and then to repent of the thoughts and choose to say no. That takes great will power. But by the grace of God, we are able to do it! Only because of the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit living in us, we are able to participate with Him and say no to all ungodliness. It remains difficult. Even Jesus is described in Hebrews 5 as being obedient to the Father with cries for help!

What did we learn?

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover story who stepped through the sequence of events with his eyes wide open. The God of righteousness will act in order to pour out righteousness on all who believe. Judas acted in fulfillment of what was required and stepped through the sequence of events in full control and awareness of what he was doing. He most likely did not understand Jesus to be the Passover lamb, but he did know that he was about to betray an innocent person. The Sovereignty of God is on display here as His plans unfold despite the evil actions of others. Romans 8:28 does come to mind.

Now what?

Topic A: Grasping the will of God and participating in it. Free will is a tricky topic. Did Judas choose to betray Jesus? Did the disciples really prepare the Passover meal? Yes and yes. Was God surprised by these events? Not at all. God has created us with the freedom to choose minute by minute what we will do, say and think. And yet He is in complete command of the events of history. Perhaps He knows how every decision will play out in this complex universe of relationships. Perhaps He has orchestrated all things for His own glory even despite allowing sin. Perhaps both. We can trust that God has the whole world in His hands even when we feel like it is in the hands of others. We can trust that today we are to make every free decision choosing to obey the King rather than listen to our own evil desires and consenting to sin. Whether we buy free range eggs or not is a matter of free choice within a universe Sovereignly overseen by an all powerful and all caring God.

Topic B: Understand the progression of temptation through to sin and of temptation through to repentance. I think it was JC Ryle who said that you cannot stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest! We live in a world of temptation. If it isn’t the devil or the world then it’s our own evil desires that spark with ideas of sin. Temptations come but it’s what we do with them that matter. Because of repentance that leads to salvation through Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are now invited to put on the armour of God and fight. It is not a battle of nations. It is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. There is a description of Jesus, in Hebrews 5:7-10, fighting hard to resist temptation and to keep on choosing righteousness. Another person once said that it is impossible to both pray and sin at the same time. I take it that means that when we are communing with God, we are actively turning from the temptations of this world. It’s not a scriptural promise, but it does work as good medicine when temptation comes knocking. Get that bird out of here!

Topic C: Jesus is the Passover Lamb – do you understand that? Understanding what that means on a technical level is one thing. The Old Testament comes to us Christians as a template preparing us for and explaining the language of sacrifice. He dies in our place. We are rescued because he lay down his life. And so, understanding the deep implications of this will influence how we think about our own godliness and holiness. We can sit at the table of God in heaven only because Jesus laid down his life for us. I did not get noticed by God because of my goodness or talents but because I was a sinner that needed saving. Because Jesus gave himself, by his own free will, in accordance with the will of the Father, I am able to be forgiven. The Lord’s Supper is a time of remembering and embracing and thanking God that He provided the sacrifice for me.

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?


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.


  • 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 21:1-4

The truth about generosity

Discussion Question

What is the smallest coin that you would stop and pick up off the ground as you past by? This question opens up the discussion of wealth and value if some say that anything below, say, 20c (or $1) is not worth picking up.


When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in Chapter 19 he was surrounded by a crowd who praised God for him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were not happy with the crowd’s reception of him nor the way that Jesus rebuked the practices in the temple. The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus gone but feared the many who loved and respected him.

The church leaders approached Jesus three times in Chapter 19 to challenge him, trap him or mock his theology. Jesus responded to each confrontation with wisdom that was not refuted. He closed Chapter 20 with a description of the teachers of the law as those who like to strut like beautiful birds, loved and praised and respected by all and yet they devour widows’ houses. They are not to be trusted.

Read Luke 20:45-21:4

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.”


21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

What did you see?


  • Jesus describes the evil of the teachers of the law (20:45-47)
  • What Jesus saw (21:1-2)
  • What Jesus said about it (21:3-4)

Jesus describes the evil of the teachers of the law (20:45-47)

See the notes from the previous section which both concludes the challenges to Jesus of Chapter 20 and connects us directly to the topic of Luke 21:1-4. Note especially Jesus’ description of their flowing robes and of devouring widows’ houses. Exodus 39 describes the detail of the clothing that was to be worn by those who ministered in the sanctuary, and the robe is mentioned in Verses 22-26. Exodus 35:4-29 describes the instruction for all of Israel who are willing to give, to bring an offering for the construction (and maintenance) of the tabernacle and priestly garments. What the teachers of the law wore, was the byproduct of the free-will gifts of faithful believers.

What ought the teachers of Israel be like? The opposite of course! Their prayers ought to be genuine, an act of faith rather than for show. They ought to be an example of godliness for others to imitate and follow. They ought to love and take care of the widows rather than devouring the vulnerable.

The reason for including these verses are to provide the context for the next 4 Verses. It is not a story in isolation and therefore we need to examine what we are being taught in its context.

What Jesus saw (21:1-2)

“As Jesus looked up, he saw…” It is significant that what follows in these verses is not a parable that Jesus told in order to make a point, but a narrative description of what Jesus actually saw following his dark description of the teachers of the law.

“…he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.” The first question might be, what was the temple treasury and what were the guidelines for giving to it. What was the giving spent on? Luke and the other gospel writers do not expand much on details of the giving. In the earliest years of Israel, taxes or tithes were required for the upkeep of the temple (or tabernacle) and for the Levites since they did not have a land inheritance but were dependant on the produce of the 11 other tribes of Israel. See Deut 18:1-5; 14:22-27, also Neh 10:32-39. We should conclude as little as the text suggests for us to come away with. There was a receptacle (perhaps 13 according to Josephus the Jewish historian) intended for free will offerings going into the temple funds. See Exodus 35 and 39 as mentioned in the previous section. The gifts were meant to be free-will gifts.

What we should not miss is the continuing theme of paying tribute which began in Luke 20:9-16, continued in Luke 20:21 and completes its journey in this passage. God the Father has sent his son who is being rejected by the teachers of the law. These teachers are not working for God’s kingdom but are walking around with flowing robes and devouring widows. While a poor widow is giving all that she has to God.

Note that Jesus is not condemning the rich for giving gifts. They will simply be used as a comparison to the poor widow’s giving later. The fact that the gifts are going into the temple treasury is significant and we’ll reflect more on that later.

“He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.” The key features of this sentence is the emphasis on poor and the very small amount of money that was offered. It is plain to see in the english but ought to be emphasised. They are two lekma which, guess what, are two very small insignificant coins.

So, before we move to what Jesus has to say about this, let’s consider the THREE things that Jesus has seen. 1) a poor widow giving money to the temple treasury, 2) rich people also giving to the same account and 3) the teachers of the law (the priests) strutting around in flowing robes, looking praiseworthy but all the while ripping off widows.

What Jesus said about it (21:3-4)

“Truly I tell you…” Whenever Jesus starts a sentence like this, he means something like, ‘I kid you not’ or ‘let me be quite frank about this.’ He really means for us to listen to what he says and pay attention.

“…this poor widow has put in more than all the others…she [gave] out of her poverty…” This statement from Jesus leads many to conclude that the point of this passage is to encourage generous giving. Giving is not about the actual amount but about the sacrifice made by the giver. This lady represents someone who puts more value in the kingdom of God than she does in her own stomach. In this case, she certainly stands as a mascot for sacrificial giving. In support of this conclusion we recall the teaching of Jesus to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. We can see that she is denying herself.

In contrast, we see, not only the rich who are giving (and presumably only enough to still be referred to as rich), but those who are walking around in their flowing robes because of the generosity of people like this widow. Where is the kingdom heart of the teachers of the law? Jesus has accused them of devouring widows. Is this what he has in mind? Exodus 22:22; Deut 10:18; 14:29; 24:17, 19-21; 26:12-13 – these verses highlight the importance of looking after widows at the same time as looking after the Levites. This widow ought not to have only two mites to her name. The Law of Moses does not prescribe a system where the poor give their last money to the temple. This is the perfect illustration of how the teachers of the law had no right to be in such positions of power. They were not seeking the kingdom of God and ought to look at that poor widow with shame. She has done infinitely better than any of them.

What did we learn?

The teachers of the law had seen Jesus of Nazareth and made every attempt to derail him, rather than give him the honour he is due. The poor widow demonstrates how corrupt the whole system had become, how unlike the kingdom of God the leaders were behaving and how hypocritical they were for happily taking from the rich and oppressed alike while failing to do their task in humility and justice – especially the task of seeing Jesus as Lord.

Now what?

Topic A: Why do we give? Surely we give because we see a need and believe it to be worth supporting. If it is not something that the world needs, unless by law you are required to give anyway, then perhaps we ought not give to it. In the Old Testament, God instructed Israel to build the tabernacle and described how it would be furnished and how the ministers would be clothed. The centre of the Old Testament faith was obeying God when he knew where and how the forgiveness of sins would take place. The Levites had no means for self-funding and so the community were to provide for them. Widows and orphans and foreigners lacked any land ownership and so they were to be provided for also. The New Testament teaches us that we no longer require a specially furnished place or priests for the forgiveness of sins since Christ is the Temple and the sacrifice! In Galatians 6:1-10, Paul describes the importance of carrying your own load as well as helping others with their load. He draws together the burden of sin and of the cost of living as if it is all part of the same bucket. We are in it together. But not like a commune where everybody shares the wealth. More like an other-person-centred community where we honestly care about one another’s spiritual walk and daily needs. If you see something necessary in this world which does not have the means to support itself, then get behind it.

Topic B: How much should we give? Putting a figure on this is a-kin to declaring that your money is yours except for the bit that you give to God. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” These two verses go hand in hand. Living for God and being content with that decision is great gain – we surrender everything knowing that the kingdom of God is greater than anything we have acquired on this earth between cradle and grave.

Topic C: Are we the poor or the wealthy? With so much ‘stuff’ we have all around us, it is easy to feel the weight of money-trouble. We can feel poor because we have debt! Perhaps we gather and own so much because we a) worry about tomorrow as if God is not really in control of it or b) we do not have the resurrection hope in our minds when we live day to day. Luke 21:1-4 does not teach us how much we ought to give but it does illustrate a woman who invested in the kingdom of God over her own kingdom. Jesus spoke clearly about choosing which kingdom to live for in Matthew 6:19-24. The widow may not have seen herself as poor in kingdom currency.