Monday, January 14, 2013



NOW, Jesus seems to move toward the subject of the end of the world. NOTE the cataclysmic nature of the signs:

"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. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Jesus uses the parable of the fig tree. He is saying that just as leaves on a fig tree signify that summer is near, so, too, when you see these signs happening, you can know that the Kingdom of God in all its fullness is near.

As we have been discussing, most everything Jesus teaches and is concerned about is about the Kingdom. We have come to believe that Jesus introduced the Kingdom when He came saying, "The Kingdom is here, near and among you." He instructed His disciples to pray, "Thy Kingdom come." However, even though the Kingdom is present through Jesus, the King of kings, we are seeing the Kingdom and its effects emerging gradually. And, someday we will experience the Kingdom in its fullness. This is what Jesus is referring to here.
"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."

What does Jesus mean "this generation" will not pass away until all of these signs have happened? Well, "generation" could mean several things. It could mean simply descendants, a group of people born at the same time, or a period of time. So, "this generation" could mean the people living in Jesus' day and they will see the fulfillment of the tragic fall of Jerusalem. Another popular view is that "this generation" means the Jewish people will not be destroyed and will exist right to the end.

The answer to "this generation" is certainly not clear. I tend to think Jesus is saying that the generation that sees these cataclysmic signs will also see the end of the world. And, He goes on to point out that the heavens and the earth will pass away but His word would endure forever.
"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 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."
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, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

Jesus ends His remarks about the signs of the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end of the world. He warns BE CAREFUL. It's so easy to slip into the world system and have no thought that this will all come to an end. And, if you do, you will not be ready for the coming of the King and His Kingdom in all of its fullness. All of a sudden these events could come upon us and we get caught by surprise. I'm reminded about 9/11 and how quickly all commerce and virtually all of life in the USA came to a screeching halt.

The application here for us is that no one knows when the end of the world will come. It will come like a thief in the night and many will be shocked and surprised. So, He says, be prayerful that you will be able to escape all of these disasters and you will be able to stand before the Son of Man when He comes.

It seems to me to be watchful and prayerful means to be aware of what God is doing among us in this world. Through this awareness we will be ready for whatever may come at the end of the world. This is why it's so critical for us to continue walking with Jesus and with one another as we learn what it means to love one another and to walk the Kingdom lifestyle. So, how about you? How's it going? Would you say that you are ready-watching and praying?



In chapter 22 of Luke we come to a controversial passage regarding things prophetic:  
Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, "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."
"Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"
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. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."

The question, "When will these things happen?" and, "What will be the sign that they are about to take place?" both speak of the end of the world. The Temple was magnificent, so anything that would be coming into Jerusalem to destroy it would be massive. And, the destruction of Jerusalem is like the end of the world.
Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me."

First, Jesus makes it clear that the initial concern ought to be how to handle the religious system of the day that will be threatened and will treat you badly. Then, there will be several cataclysmic events that will indicate the end is near and the Temple will be destroyed. There will be a world war where nations will rise up against nations throughout the world. There will be earthquakes, famines and pestilences along with other fearful events.
"But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life."

Jesus wants His followers to know that worrying about the end times will not be helpful. However, He will give the words and wisdom necessary to withstand whatever comes at you. His protection will be extensive, so stand firm and you will win life.

Now, after dealing with the signs of the end of the world, He finally gives an answer to when this will happen and what to look for as a sign of the destruction of the Temple:
"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 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. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 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. 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."

This is exactly how the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Temple occurred. The Roman army, headed up by Titus, set siege to the city and surrounded it. That was the sign. Then Jesus says something curious. He says to get out of the city once you have seen this sign. Well, now how can you get out of the city, if the city is surrounded by the Roman troops? Titus underestimated what it would take to overtake Jerusalem, so the Roman army went into a mini-retreat in order to re-supply. During this break in the action of setting siege to Jerusalem, it is reported that the followers of Jesus did heed Jesus' words and were able to get out of the city safely.

Jesus goes on to say that the city of Jerusalem would be trampled under foot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There are lots of ways to understand His words here. I think this refers to the city of Jerusalem and even the nation of Israel being under the domination of the Gentiles for some pre-determined time. The Jews and their city of Jerusalem at this time had been run by Gentiles until Israeli independence in May of 1948.

So, what Jesus said would happen did happen, just as He said it would. There is a powerful lesson here. We've talked about this repeatedly. "Whatever Jesus says to do, do it." His accuracy, even in prophetic things is incredible.

I'm slowly getting it! Jesus is looking for someone, anyone, who will stubbornly follow Him and ruthlessly trust Him. I like what He says earlier, "For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." His strength and power-His words and wisdom are all I need.

We who are following Jesus are in a boat. There are two ways to handle our boat. We can row like crazy to get where we want to go. Or, we can put up our sail and He will send the right wind at the right time to send us in the right direction. I'm tired of rowing. How about you?



We come now to chapter 21 of Luke to a most familiar scene in the life of Jesus-the widow's mite. I've collected ancient Greek and Hebrew coins over the years. All of the coins are filled with meaning, but few more than the widow's mite. It is the least value of all of the coins of that time. Let's take a look:

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

Remember the Pharisee and the publican whose prayers became the subject of one of Jesus' parables? Well, here is another comparison with the same ingredients-those who seemingly have it together and those who don't.

This time it is the comparison of the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury and the poor widow. There is known to be 13 trumpet-like receptacles in the Temple where people gave their gifts. If you were to give lots of coins, the clanging sound of the coins in that receptacle would be loud. There was no maximum cap placed on how much you could give, but there was a minimum and that was precisely what she gave. It amounted to less than our pennies today.

Jesus' comments regarding her gift are revealing in many ways. First, Jesus says that with her gift of two coins she gave more than all of the others. Second, Jesus says the others gave out of their wealth; she gave out of her poverty and gave all she had to live on.

Three observations come to mind for me here: FIRST-The gift of the widow must have been from her heart. She is a faith-giver. She doesn't have any guarantee where her next meal or next day's wages will come from. She must believe that God will be faithful to take care of her. It seems we have lost this sense of giving to God and His Kingdom, and it's because we have lost that sense of ruthless trust.

It's also true that the widow's actions speak of what is called sacrificial giving. She gave to the point of giving up a meal or something else. She gave sacrificially. Jesus is impressed with what she did and how she did it.

SECOND-The proportion of her giving impressed Jesus. According to Jesus the widow gave more than all the rest. The widow was a proportional giver.

Remember what Jesus taught earlier in Luke 12? "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." We are also told to give as we are prospered. I believe God holds us accountable for the proportion we give. And, you can be encouraged that giving a very little still matters to God as long as it's proportional.

THIRD-When you give out of your wealth, it's easy to view your giving as another bill to be paid without it ever passing through your heart.

The challenge here is to re-evaluate your own giving. Certainly it's not to be a show for anyone. Three questions are obvious here: 1. Are you giving by faith? 2. Are you giving sacrificially? 3. Are you giving out of your wealth, paying another bill, or are you giving from your heart response to God?

ONE MORE THING: Your regular giving or "tithing" has little to do with some project or a special pledge. Your giving is to be regular, giving as you are prospered, giving to the needs of believers and giving into the treasury of the local fellowship where you are being taught or spiritually nurtured.

When you give in this way, God will bless your heart and bless your life in a special way. Give like the others in the story and you may end up resenting that you gave anything at all.

For years I have loved the saying, "God loves a cheerful giver and He also accepteth from a grouch." Whether you are cheerful or a little grouchy about it, make it a discipline to be a giver. You will receive the most out of it, for sure.



Jesus' primary enemies were not the non-religious, but the religious. In the last three verses of Luke 20 Jesus warns His disciples about these religious scholars.

While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, "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. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely."

I can't help but think of the most complete expression of Jesus regarding these teachers of the Law. It is found in Matthew 23 and is just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of trying to explain what these teachers are all about, I want to read you Jesus' fullest criticism of these teachers of the Law in Matthew 23. And, I want to read you the version of this incident found in The Message:
"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned."
"You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, 'If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that's nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that's serious.' What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: 'If you shake hands on a promise, that's nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that's serious'? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment-the absolute basics!-you carelessly take it or leave it. 

"Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?"
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You're cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count."
"Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It's on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation-and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse."
"You can't squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah's son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I'm telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation."

Jesus is livid about how these teachers of the Law behave, yet Jesus still had a heart of compassion for these people. His heart was broken over their attitudes and behaviors. NOTE how Jesus expresses His heart over the brokenness He sees in Jerusalem:
"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me. And now you're so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I'm out of here soon. The next time you see me you'll say, 'Oh, God has blessed him! He's come, bringing God's rule!'"

So, Jesus' warning to His disciples is, "Don't be like these teachers of the Law." You must be different. You must be salt and light in the world. The best way to do that is to "Follow Me!" and not the well-known, well-established teachers of the Law.

Does this have any application for us today? I think so. Don't try to pattern yourself after the "teachers of the Law" today, even if they are good and seemingly successful. The closer you get to some ministries, you uncover the underbelly of what's really going on in the name of the Lord. And, too many times, it's disgusting and disheartening. Jesus' solution is clear. You must be diligent to pattern your life after Jesus and Jesus only. He is the one who calls you to Himself and then He will give you orders and opportunities that are directly from Him. Jesus isn't kidding when He says, "I AM the way, the truth and the life". What He is looking for is someone to FOLLOW His way, His truth and His life. Will you be that SOMEONE?