Category Archives: The Last Days

2 Samuel 14 – A King’s Plans

Discussion Question

Have you ever been banished from somewhere?

Background (Context)

Previously, we read of David’s sons: the wickedness of Amnon and the revenge from Absalom. One son committed sexual immorality and lust while the other, the eldest, committed murder. Instead of David’s children being wiser than he, they revealed their own kind of wickedness. We also watched as David stood at a distance and failed to get involved. He failed to intervene, or disciple, or discipline, or rebuke. As Chapter 13 closed, we heard of Absalom putting distance between himself and the kingdom as David wept for the loss of his son Amnon. Absalom was banished from the kingdom without the king even ordering it. We continue to see the story unfold as our beloved king is slow to reconcile.

Read 2 Samuel 14

Read 2 Samuel 14 online here

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Joab’s scheme to return Absalom to the kingdom (1-24)
  • Absalom’s scheme to return to the kingdom (25-33)

Joab’s scheme to return Absalom to the kingdom (1-24)

“Joab son of Zeruiah…” Remember him from earlier chapters? He was David’s nephew (1 Chronicles 2:16) but the chief of the army (2 Samuel 8:16). He seems to be keen for the kingdom of David even if he’s not keen on the kingdom of God. In this chapter we’ll watch as he acts on what he thinks would be best for the kingdom of David.

“…knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom.” This is a tricky verse to digest. See, if David longed for Absalom then why does Joab need to go to such lengths to ‘trick’ David into bringing Absalom back and then, when Absalom returns, the king forbids him to see the king face to face. If David longed for Absalom then it would only take a nudge from Joab to go out and get him. This is a translation issue and 2 Samuel 14:1 should read something like, the king’s heart was against Absalom or the king’s heart was upon Absalom (meaning that he thought on him a lot and could just as easily be a negative thought). The reason for the english translations to go the way they do is because of the confusing 2 Samuel 13:39. That verse is a lot trickier (so says John Woodhouse and Dale Ralph Davis in their commentaries. The relationship between Davie and Absalom makes more sense when we see that David did not long to see him but was very mindful of him.

“So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there.” It is reasonable to imagine that Joab saw the absence of Absalom as a problem for the future of the kingdom. He was the next heir to the throne and so being absent created a weakness in succession. Plus, as we’ll see later in the chapter, Absalom was much liked by the people and so if Absalom remains an outcast (which was really self inflicted) then the kingdom of David has a serious crack in it that needs fixing. So Joab takes charge to trick the king into a decision. He invites a woman from a town about 16km south of Jerusalem. His plan could not be accomplished by anybody but by somebody who could think on their feet, follow the plan and know how to close the deal.

“He said to her, “Pretend…go to the king and speak these words…”” We can recall when Nathan wanted to convict David of sin and needed him to repent. He came to the king with the word of the LORD in his mouth. This woman will go to the king with the ‘words of Joab in her mouth.’ Nathan’s story was quite brief and effective while the plan of Joab’s had three phases involving a dress up performance by the woman. It seems to me like a tip to us that Joab is not doing something that is wise and worthy but something cunning and wise in Joab’s eyes but not perhaps the king’s or God’s. 

“She said, “I am a widow; my husband is dead…two sons…one struck the other and killed him.” Like Nathan’s story about the man who had a precious sheep which paralleled secretly the story of David and Uriah’s wife, this story has been manufactured to parallel the death of Amnon by the hand of his brother. The woman is reciting to the king and to the reader the words that were given to her by Joab. We may also recall the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 which resulted in God protecting the murdering brother. That kind of mercy and protection is what the woman will try to get from the king.

“They would put out the only burning coal I have left…” The story hinges on mercy being extended on compassionate grounds. If the woman loses her guilty son then the family name will come to an end.

“The king said…Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.” The story has not pulled the king in emotionally and we might hear the king here simpy asking the woman to go and leave it with him. Perhaps he’ll then get someone in charge to go and make it known that this woman and her son should be left alone. End of story. The king can get on with his day and this stranger can leave his room now. But the woman, in her cunningness, wants the king to give her his decision…

“Let my lord the king pardon me and my family, and let the king and his throne be without guilt.” The woman is pushing to get the king’s response right there and then. Remember that it is fake news and she just wants to corner the king into showing mercy in this situation. She may be suggesting that there will be no repercussions coming back to the king with regard to this or she may be suggesting that if he answers now, then he will not be tempted to forget her and not fulfill his word to issue an order.

“As surely as the LORD lives…not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.” The woman has three attempts to get the king to come to a final declaration that the murdering son will be kept safe from all repercussions. He first said something like ‘leave it with me’ (V8). Then he said to the effect of, ‘if you run into problems, let me know about it’ (V10). But finally he declares by an oath to God that the son is safe from punishment. See Numbers 35:12 and 21 on what the ‘avenger of blood’ refers to.

“Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” I reckon it’s touch and go whether the king’s patience is getting tested by now. The woman was no doubt introduced to the king by Joab and so the king is being gracious with the meeting. Perhaps the king has come to enjoy this interaction.

“Why then have you devised a thing like this…” Not quite the same power as Nathan saying ‘You are the man!’ But the vibe is the same. The king has not brought back his banished son. Absalom was banished by his own means but the fact remains that David has not sought his return.

“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.” Cool illustration of death. There is a perminance to death like water spilled on the ground. I recall the proverb that a bent metal cannot be straightened (Eccles 1:15; 7:13). Some things can only travel in one direction. Death is a one way street. 

“But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” God could have resorted to the death penalty for all who have fallen short of his glory but he has devised ways for people to return to him. The sacrificial system communicates to the people that with God there is forgiveness. Even Cain was given protection in the world to not face death before his days were numbered. God’s nature is always to have mercy. This woman speaks a truth that is perhaps beyond her own understanding. Verse 14 is highlighted in my bible. We can talk forever about who is right and wrong but it is great to learn the lesson that God seeks restoration. We have no greater vision of this than the cross of Christ. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. Christ came into the world to save sinners.

“…for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil…” For some reason, the woman returns to her story that she is really there to get pardon for her son but used the occasion to push David to restore Absalom also. But she pushes on the king’s ambition to be full of wisdom and discerning between right and wrong, good and evil. This, by the way, is the challenge to all mankind. In the garden we were tested to choose between good and evil. Stupidly we took the fruit thinking that it would teach us the difference between good and evil but it really just gave us the experience of what happens when we choose evil. See also Phil 1:9-11.

“Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?” David has seen through this fiscade now and wants the woman to come out of her disguise so they can talk about the true issue: Absalom.

“…Joab did this to change the present situation.” We get insight into Joab a little here. He is not content with the situation of David’s oldest son living as an outcast to the kingdom. In all of the drama with Amnon and Absalom, we would have loved David to step in and teach Amnon a better way, to send Amnon away for his sin, and so on. The delay in acting has created this situation.

“The king said to Joab…” We see that Joab has been present this whole time. It explains how she was brought to the king’s ear, why he entertained her so long and I can imagine that David looked at Joab when he asked the woman ‘is the hand of Joab in this?’ The woman in the story now disappears and is not mentioned again.

“Joab fell with his face to the ground…the king has granted his servant’s request.” Joab has got what he wanted out of this story – at least he thinks he has. Joab has manipulated David and, instead of being wise coucel and rebuke like Nathan to the king, it was foolish methods and lies in order to coerce the king into doing what seemed wise in Joab’s eyes.

“…he must go to his own house; he must not see my face.” He is allowed back to Jerusalem but he is forbidden from seeing the king’s face. The son of the king remains in a banished state. Joab has not actually got what he wanted. And, we see that David is not actually keen to see Absalom or that he heart longed for him. David is not happy that Absalom killed his brother. There are not good guys and bad guys in the bible. Only those who turn their face to righteousness, failing but trying, and those who do not. People are not two-dimensional. We are all complex and the people in the bible are no different. David and Absalom’s relationship will go through more before the end. But for now, David wants his son to return but not fully. 

Absalom’s scheme to return to the kingdom (25-33)

“In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom.” There is a change in scene and mood at Verse 25 so that we have a new episode or sequel to the events of Verses 1-24. We are reminded, though, of what the world and Israel look out for – outward beauty, strength, might and accomplishment. The people once loved Saul because he truly looked the part of a mighty king. But God chose David because he looks at the heart of a person. While Absalom is exiled from seeing the king, his reputation is of one that people like to look at!

“…his hair…was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.” This is about 2.6kg. The exact weight is probably not the emphasis but the vanity of the man. This description of Absalom’s hair will be more significant in chapter 18 but brings irony to 2 Sam 14:11!

“…His daughter’s name was Tamar…” Informs us of how much Absalom loved his sister who’s reputation had been taken from her.

“Then he said to his servants…” While Absalom was banished from the king’s presence, he did not live in a dungeon. He had servants. Absalom could not see the king and his attempts to see the king’s chief officer were denied. So he forces Joab to come to him by setting fire to Joab’s field. It seems that Joab has been proactive in this chapter to get his way but was blindsided by David sending Absalom to an isolated part of the kingdom and by Absalom setting fire to his field.

“…Why have I come from Geshur?…I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.” It seems that Absalom finds himself in a bit of limbo. He’s not free of the king to live wherever he wants (like Geshur) but he is not found guilty of a crime. He demands this nowhere-man kinda life to end. Be set free or be condemned. Joab had failed to get Absalom to the king, but Absalom has demanded an ultimatum and it appears that it has put David in the position of making a decision about his son: will he put him to death or will he release him?

“…Absalom…cam in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king.” Absalom’s only grief with the king has been that Amnon’s crime was not dealt with. Absalom is now ready to receive what the king would have for him. Will the king do as he had said to the ‘fake’ woman? Will any hair on this man’s head fall to the ground over this matter?

“And the king kissed Absalom.” The response of the father to the prodigal son comes to mind: Luke 15:20. But David has not been standing on the verandah waiting for the son to come home. Through Chapters 13 and 14 we have seen that David is not in the driver’s seat. But the resolution has finally been that the matter is over. Absalom is back in the kingdom.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

David’s attention has been on the loss of his son, Amnon. His failure to deal with Amnon’s sin has continued over to his failure to deal with the vengeance of Absalom. So, a man of the sword, Joab, acts like the voice of God to direct David by trickery. Absalom, likewise, reverts to trickery in order to get a hearing from Joab and David. The key to understanding this passage is to hear the words of the woman in Verse 14. God’s ways are to seek restoration of relationship. God’s desire is for the sinner to come home and he devises ways so that this can happen. The prodigal son makes a good New Testament improvement on this story. And the restoration of sinners open to us through Christ is where we see God devising the only way for us to be right with him before it is too late – like water spilled on the ground.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: God has devised a plan so that a person does not remain banished. The cross of Christ means that God has made provision for the forgiveness of sins. John 1:12 (a favourite verse of Leanne’s) teaches us that all who receive Christ and believe in his name, they are given the right to become children of God. Absalom had become an alienated son of the king – unpermitted to see the king’s face again. But, by human means and clumsy trickery, David kissed his son and received him home. Not so with God! We are made sons of the living God by his eternal plan to deliver us from evil. God is not distantly waiting for us to live out our days and then see what happens after that. Hebrews 1:3 says that after he had provided purification for sins, then he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Topic B: We must die. The illustration of water being poured out on the ground that cannot be picked up again – that is a vivid picture of finality. Death is (in the common sense of the word without speaking of clinical deaths) a one way trip. Verse 14 reminds us to work out what needs to be done before that event occurs for us. Psalm 2 says, kiss [the] son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction (Ps 2:12). Ecclesiastes instructs us not to avoid thinking of death, “it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecc 7:2). And, in passing, Habakuk reminds us that the grave is greedy and death is never satisfied (Habakuk 2:5). We may all have eternity in our hearts (Ecc 3:11) but death awaits all of us and we must be ready for what comes next.Topic C: We will not be sent to purgatory. Absalom was neither cast out nor drawn near. 2 Samuel 14 pictures this as unsatisfactory. The unethical theology of purgatory looks a little like this. Not good enough for the kingdom but not condemned to hell either. The bible does not teach of any such circumstances. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that we all must face death and then, after that, face judgment. Revelation 20 declares that on judgment day anybody whose name is not written in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire (meaning hell). “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Many people in this life ignore the warning to make peace with God through Christ and leave their eternity up to chance. There is only one way to be right with God and that is to repent and love the LORD now. After death, it is too late.

Luke 22:24-38

The greatest serves

Discussion Question

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


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?


  • 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?


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!