13 November 2016Luke 21:5-19
“By your endurance you will gain your souls.” (v. 19)
Psalm: Psalm 98
Jesus appears to have spent a lot of his time teaching in the temple since his triumphal entry to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40) and he would have been familiar with its history and importance. Following the return of the Jewish exiles (Ezra 1:1-4) the temple was rebuilt and stood for 500 years before being significantly extended by King Herod. All those who visited it must have been struck by its size and splendour. Not only was it central to their Jewish faith, the sheer scale of the building would have given a sense of permanence and a reasonable belief that it would last for centuries to come.
The words of Jesus about the utter destruction of the temple must therefore have been beyond belief to those who heard him. People were admiring the temple's decoration, not unlike the tourists of today stood outside Westminster Abbey or another great cathedral. They can't have been expecting to be told by a visiting Galilean rabbi that what they were so impressed by was soon to be torn down. Such a suggestion must have seemed to be ridiculously far-fetched.
However those who listened to this story in Luke's Gospel would have had no such surprise. They would have had fresh memories of the horror of the Jewish-Roman war which began in AD66 and led to the siege of Jerusalem and ultimately the destruction of the temple four years later. Many of those hearing this account may have had direct experience of the hardships resulting from the war and also suffered from the persecution that had then begun of women and men who declared that they were followers of Jesus Christ.
Today, on Remembrance Sunday, it is worth reflecting on the fact that many of the things that give us security through their solidity and apparent indestructibility can be rapidly taken away in the midst of war. This is the very real experience for millions of people around the world today, as it was for those who faced the horrors of wars in years past. But Jesus told his listeners and those who were prepared to follow him not to be afraid when they hear of wars and insurrections (verse 9), for whilst they may face persecution, betrayal and even death, they will in the end endure (verse 19).
- Passages such as the one today, describing events leading up to the end of times, can often be misused and misunderstood. What would you say to those first-century Christians who genuinely thought 'the end of the world was nigh'?
- What things provide you with a sense of security? And how much does your faith play a part in this?
- Pray for people around the world living in places where war and persecution is a daily reality, that they may know the peace of God's presence.