Future Times and the Destruction of the Temple (Luke 21:5-38)

We have a very long passage and unit of thought to cover today, one about which are numerous interpretive issues and about which countless books have been written. As well, being Good Friday, this is a rather significant day of the year. So let me be a bit brief …

Returning to the mountain theme that I mentioned yesterday, an illustration I have used over the years to explain some interpretive issues will be helpful to review here. Say that you are in a mountainous region and you look off into the distance at a mountain peak. There you see a pair of communication towers, with one looking to be possibly just a bit behind the other. Then, when you drive up the hill and get to the first tower, you realize that there was a second, larger mountain well beyond the first that you saw; and this second tower is in fact on a second range rather far beyond, with a huge valley in between that was originally out of sight. What at first glance looked to be close together and on the same ridge … in fact, they were miles apart.

This is how we should understand certain Bible passages. For example, Old Testament writers would look forward to the Messiah, and they would pen words about both a suffering and a ruling Christ. From their view, these Messianic manifestations were on the same visual line. We now know that the suffering Messiah was the Jesus of the cross, whereas the reigning Messiah is the one to return in the future. We live in the valley – call it the age of the CHURCH.

Our passage today looks forward from the time of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem. This would have both near and far fulfillments, not just one event. The near destruction would be by the Romans under Titus in A.D. 70 – this is what verses 20-24 are talking about. The far destruction is that which will happen during the seven-year period of the Tribulation, just prior to the second coming of Christ. This is the material in verses 8-19 and 25-28. Again, we are living in the valley in between those events (though there is strong reason to believe we are getting rather close to the latter!).

Jesus also mentions the phrase “the time of the Gentiles.”  What does this mean?  This would be the total period of time that Gentiles will dominate Jerusalem. This began in the Babylonian Captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, and it continues through today, and into the Tribulation period to come.

There is SO MUCH more we could write about all of this.

In verses 34ff, there is the practical admonition to “be on guard … keep on the alert …”  And surely here is practical advice for us. We don’t know the exact times of the big events on God’s calendar. But we know they are certain; we know that this world does not last forever. And so we need to live with that knowledge in the front of our minds, guiding our every decision and priority.

Luke 21:5 – 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.

David’s Son, The Widow’s Mite (Luke 20:41—21:4)

I have a problem with my imagination. It is almost always bigger than the reality of something supports. For example, we went on an extended trip out west about 12 years ago, visiting some of the most well-known sites. We went through the Dakotas and into the Colorado Rockies, seeing such places as Yellowstone.

Along the way, we also visited Mount Rushmore. While looking at it from the visitor’s center, I was really disappointed. “That’s it?” I thought to myself. “It isn’t any bigger than that?”  In my imagination, I expected it to be about three times the size that it really is. And most of the Rockies disappointed me, as did the size of Old Faithful. Hey, it’s all beautiful stuff, I just thought it was going to be even larger than it was.

The religious leaders had some problems with calibration. In our text today, we’ll see that they underestimated the nature of the Messiah, and they overestimated their own position, importance and generosity.

After being the subject of probing questions by the religious leaders, Jesus takes the offensive with a rhetorical question of his own. It was rightly and clearly understood that the Christ would be a descendant of David. So Jesus asks how it could be that David in Psalm 110 called his Messianic son by the name of “his Lord?”  The inference is that the Messiah had to be more than they imagined, he would have to be divine to fulfill this description. And the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans essentially answers this by clarifying the nature of the person of Christ (1:3,4) … “the gospel … regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The expectation of the Jewish leaders at the time was not very accurate, not nearly as expansive as needed, and not near the top of their minds or close to the passions of their hearts. And why would it be? They were filled with themselves … as the next paragraph goes on to record Jesus speaking to the disciples in warning about the grandiose views the teachers of the law had of themselves.

They liked being seen in high places and in a prominent light, both personally and in public service. Think of it as a first century Jewish priest with a grandiose attitude like the little guy in North Korea.

Putting them into clearer perspective was Jesus’ observation of the widow who put her two “mites” (coins representing a small fraction of a day’s wages) into the temple offering. Though small, it represented all she had, whereas the large and announced gifts of the leaders were but a portion of their wealth. The widow was expressing her total dependence upon God, whereas the leaders were expressing their dependence upon themselves by managing their public reputation.

Our role is to be faithful and responsible with what we have been given. We should see ourselves in humble ways, recognizing any gifts or accolades that accrue to us are only because the Lord has first given us those abilities and resources. And we should never underestimate the person of Christ and the immensity of his love and grace.

Luke 20:41 – Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ [Psalm 110:1]

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

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

Luke 21:1 – 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.”

The Resurrection and Marriage (Luke 20:27-40)

Just as we have Democrats and Republicans who don’t like each other very much, and liberals and conservatives who don’t get along well either in politics or in matters of faith, there were the two sides of Jewish leadership. The Pharisees (teachers of the Law) and the Sadducees had differing views on a number of topics, with the Pharisees being the more conservative party. The Sadducees were more of an elite group, and among the items they rejected was any sort of afterlife or resurrection. And that made them sad, you see?  (Sorry, couldn’t resist … no extra charge.)

Again, looking to trip Jesus in his words, they come up with a wild scenario. It involves what was known as Levirate marriage – that if a married man died childless, a younger brother would gain the wife to generate offspring in the name of the deceased.

Their convoluted story involved not just one man dying, but a whole line of successive brothers as well … therefore leading to the question as to whom she was married in the resurrection (which they didn’t believe in).

Jesus answers by saying, “That has to be the most stupid and ridiculous question I’ve ever been asked!”  No, he did not say that, but he could have correctly done so. Rather, he points out that marriage does not exist in the resurrection, being unnecessary for procreation in a realm of eternal beings such as the angels.

Beyond that, Jesus affirms the resurrection. He points to the words of Moses in Exodus 3:6, Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  These patriarchs had been dead for several hundred years at this point, so speaking of them in this manner proves that they lived on beyond this world.

Seeing the smack-down that the Sadducees got, some of the teachers of the Law could not help but have a moment of pleasure with this sight – not that they really liked Jesus. And Jesus was just not cooperating with any of their plans to get rid of him easily.

Though obviously still a very young man, I’ve lived more than long enough to have had one lifetime’s worth of stupid theological debates on stupid questions – especially, as in this story, from people who do not believe in the most basic truths. The gospel is not complicated. Nor was the obvious reality that Jesus was the promised one who was sent from God.

Luke 20:27 – Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ [Exodus 3:6] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

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

Taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:20-26)  

The old saying is that there is nothing certain in life other than death and taxes. Another certainty, however, is that there will always be a substantial faction of people opposed to God’s authority and the person of Jesus Christ.

Wanting to catch Jesus in some verbal remark that could be used against him with the Romans, the Jewish authorities sent spies to question him. We can surely imagine that there was a meeting in advance of this action, with ideas and suggestions being bantered about as to what sort of question could be most incriminating.

Taxes!  Yes, that’s the ticket!  It’s a universal truth that everyone hates them (except those collecting them) and is a subject that will get folks wound up. This is especially true when some may think that others are not paying what they should be (like certain public officials).

Beyond being a most common irritant, it was a subject of such controversy that any answer Jesus would give would put him in an incriminating light. If he answered that not paying taxes was correct (as might be imagined with all of his “kingdom talk”), he could be brought before the Romans as seditious. If he answered that taxes should be appropriately paid, this would offend the Jewish element of the Zealots who despised Roman domination. Yep, win-win.

But Jesus had this unique, unparalleled ability to find the invisible middle ground that rendered accusers speechless, or as the British would say, “gob-smacked.”  Getting a coin and noting the image of Caesar upon it, he says, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

We often speak of the Christian life in terms of living between two worlds, and this is true. We have obligations to the material world and the authorities that have their granted role of governance under God’s providence, but we know that our greater citizenship is in an eternal, spiritual realm. We deal appropriately with the material world, while also always knowing that it is the true and lasting kingdom toward which our highest and most ardent affections and energies belong.

This we do by giving to God what is God’s; and what is that?  What is in His image?  Of course, it is we ourselves who are created in that image, and in faith renewed to grow into and express God’s image to others around us.

Let us daily remember that it is so, so easy to get so, so involved in the former – the material – that we short-change the latter – the spiritual.

Luke 20:20 – Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

The Parable of the Tenants (Luke 20:9-19)

We have all had experiences where we have done something for someone else or for some group of people, only to have our kind and gracious efforts go unappreciated, even rejected. Try as I might, I cannot come up with any illustration or word picture that comes at all close to capturing the extent of rejection exhibited by the Jewish nation toward God.

God had chosen Abraham and his family, sustaining them through years of bondage in Egypt, bringing them miraculously back to the Promised Land. They were a chosen people out of all the nations. Over and over they rebelled against God, and over and over after requisite judgments, He renewed them by His grace.

Coming through the prophets were many great promises of a messiah. The descriptions of his person and his deeds were not lacking in clarity. God was ready to bless them and fulfill His many prophetic words of national blessing. Yet they rejected the Promised One – Jesus.

The parable of the tenants that we look at today was a most pointed communication to the teachers of the law and the chief priests in particular. There was no misunderstanding that it was a shot between the eyes.

The elements of the parable are clear: God is the vineyard owner, the tenants are the spiritual leaders, the servants sent to the tenants are the prophets, and the beloved son is Jesus himself. The others who will be given the vineyard are the Gentiles.

“God forbid!” was the response. It is the same, powerful expression as is used multiple times in the writings of Paul. But such a cataclysmic overturning of the accepted order of things is exactly what was happening. And the religious leadership, along with the masses of the nation, simply did not have a category of consideration that they might be outside of the plan of God. Hence, they wished to be rid of him immediately, though still at this moment there were too many in the crowd who were captivated by his teaching. That would change.

As the master plan of God would unfold, we today are among the multitudes who are the beneficiaries of God’s grace extended to the world. We as the church of Christ are the new people of God. And it behooves us to be ever mindful of our position of grace, to be thankful of it and thoughtful as to being rightly a part of God’s plan in our generation. And this plan is to be His witnesses and agents to take the gospel to a lost and needy world.

Luke 20:9 – He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a se rvant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’

14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?’ [from Psalm 118:22]

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Questioning the Authority of Jesus (Luke 20:1-8)

To some extent (though I do weary of it) I enjoy watching political talk shows. From both sides of the spectrum, hosts will often have a guest to be interviewed that clearly holds a viewpoint that is antithetical to both the host and his or her network. The goal of the host is to trap the guest with a “gotcha” question, while the guest is attempting to answer in a way that that entirely thwarts the question and silences the hometown, prevailing perspective. I always find some admiration for anyone who can escape such entrapment on the hot seat with a well-worded response that takes the air out of the room.

Did you ever have an argument with someone where you drop a perspective on them that you think will silence them, only to have them come back with a counter statement you don’t know how to answer?  You still think they’re wrong, but you don’t know what to say. How did that feel?

Jesus was the ultimate master at answering a probing question with a response that flipped the entire scene upside-down. He especially was good at dropping the chief priests and Pharisees on their collective head!

The religious leaders had delegated authority from the Romans to supervise what went on around the temple. And to some extent, we can understand why they would not be excited about Jesus just taking the initiative to teach in the courts without their blessing. I would be upset if some of you came into church one Sunday and told me there was a liberal universalist preaching in our parking lot telling people they could get to heaven by simply being good and following him.

Of course, the difference in our story is that the Jewish leadership, beyond the masses of the people, should have recognized the preaching and the miracles as the fulfillment of Scripture in the person of the Messiah.

Jesus stumps them by answering a question with a question, positioning them where any response was, from their perspective, a bad response. We can only imagine how they went back to their conference room and ranted about how the time had surely come that Jesus must be eliminated. With every paragraph, every teaching, every event now as we approach the culmination of the life of Jesus, we can feel the temperature rising.

(Speaking of our 2018 calendar…)  We have arrived at the beginning of Holy Week. Our studies in Luke will continue for another three weeks, so the sequence of these writings will quickly fall behind our Palm Sunday / Good Friday / Easter calendar this year.

But the feelings of this passage (and the several that follow) are such a part of the story that gets Christ to the cross. And these emotions will be on display in our upcoming drama at church on the nights of the 28th-30th.  This weekend, make plans to be with us and experience the program. It is a sign-up event for a reserved time (as we walk groups of about 15 each through the building, every 10 minutes, covering 8 scenes). And beyond coming yourself, how about praying about who God might put upon your mind to invite to come with you. Be an attender / be a bringer.

Luke 20:1 – One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”

7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”

8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Entry into Jerusalem as King (Luke 19:28-48)

Are we able to know the exact historical date of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crucifixion, the resurrection? Though there are a couple of criticisms in the scholarly world about the following, certainly the best-ever attempt is that which I’ll share with you today.

One of the great blessings of my life was to go to Dallas Theological Seminary from 1978-1982 (for my master’s education … the doctoral portion at “The Sem” was a decade later). There I chose to major in New Testament Literature and Exegesis (more simply stated, I majored in N.T. Greek). The head of that academic department was a man named Dr. Harold Hoehner.

At the same time, another great privilege in my early life was to be the Minister of Music at Grace Bible Church in Dallas. One of the elders at the church was the same Harold Hoehner. He was a great personal encourager to me, and it is a treasure in my office to have his name on my ordination certificate.

Dr. Hoehner was indeed one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever known. Having a doctorate from Dallas, he also went on for a second Ph.D. at Cambridge University. Truly he was one of the foremost Greek language scholars ever. His doctoral dissertation at Cambridge was later published under the title “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ.”  A portion of this book was to take ancient calendars, working them together in a way to make an attempt at an exact date of events such as in in our passage today.

As the saying goes … It’s complicated!

But to arrive at the date of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, one must go back to a variety of Old Testament passages, including the first 69 weeks as described in Daniel 9:24-27 (as we believe the 70th week – a week speaking of a period of seven years – as being the tribulation period, yet in the future … a topic for another time … it’s complicated!).  So the 69 “weeks” of seven years = 483 years (of 360 days each – Jewish calendar reckoning).

The beginning of the 69 weeks is when a decree in given to rebuild Jerusalem – spoken of in the beginning of the book of Nehemiah. This was done by a king named Artaxerxes. The year was 444 BC.

The end of the 69 weeks would be when Christ was presented to the nation at the King, yet not accepted (“cut off”). So, the 483 years are actually 476 solar years, and by multiplying 476 by 365.24219879 days, it comes to 173,855 days. Then Hoehner writes …

This leaves only 25 days to be accounted for between 444 B.C. and A.D. 33. By adding the 25 days to Nisan 1 or March 5 (of 444 B.C.), one comes to March 30 (of A.D. 33) which was Nisan 10 in A.D. 33. This is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. . . . The terminus ad quem of the sixty-ninth week was on the day of Christ’s triumphal entry on March 30, A.D. 33.

As predicted in Zechariah 9:9, Christ presented Himself to Israel as Messiah the king for the last time and the multitude of the disciples shouted loudly by quoting from a messianic psalm: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps. 118:26; Matt.21:9; Mark 11:10; Luke 19:38; John 12:13). This occurred on Monday, Nisan 10 (March 30) and only four days later on Friday, Nisan 14, April 3, A.D. 33, Jesus was cut off or crucified.

See, it is complicated!

Can we know this for sure?  Not 100% … but it really could be true. In any event, at the very worst, this accounting has to be extremely close.

The Scriptures are amazing. What are the chances that something like this is the mere imaginations of people putting together a miscellaneous collection of ancient writings, only to somehow have interpretive details such as these just accidentally fall together?

But for our purposes of this current series, as we reflect on this passage for this coming Palm Sunday, we entitle it “The Pinnacle Moment.”  This is the moment when Christ is presenting himself as the Messiah King to the nation of Israel. Though a glorious moment, soon these same crowds would shout to have him crucified, and the religious leaders would believe they had conquered the annoyance of this trouble-making preacher from Galilee.

But as Peter would preach on the Day of Pentecost, what they all had rather done was to crucify the Messiah, thus providing the payment for sin in the broader plan of God. Peter finished his sermon in Acts 2:36 by saying, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Is it not an awesome thing to look back on all of this, and to know that through our union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, we inherit eternal life and a forever connection to God!

Luke 19:28 – After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

The Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27)

Politicians have what are called “stump speeches.”  These are repeated messages to crowds that get across a basic platform of ideas upon which he is seeking office. And at the risk of an illustration failing because of the odious nature of politicians in our day, bear with the analogy for a moment. Jesus had “stump speech teachings.”  There is nothing wrong with that. As he went from place to place, surely he repeated the same messages and told the same parables … or similar stories.

Here today we have a parable of 10 servants who are given one mina each (a mina being equal to about three months of wages). In Matthew 25:14-30, a similar parable is recorded of the eight bags of gold given to three servants – five to the first, two to the second, and one to third servant.

Which of these parables actually happened?  Both of them … on different occasions. But the basic teaching from each is the same, including three points and three applications. First, let’s read the passage …

Luke 19:11 – While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Point 1 – Everything that the master/king possessed belonged ultimately to the master/king.

Point 2 – During the period that the master/king was gone, the servants were entrusted with a responsibility and expectation of multiplying those resources through wise thought and extensive effort.

Point 3 – There was the certainty of a day of accounting when the master/king would reappear, with generous reward for those who were faithful in their work, and loss of reward for those who were irresponsible.

Application 1 – Do we really believe that all we have belongs to God?  God not only gives us what we have, but whatever abilities, talents and skills we have toward material gain have also come from him. Beyond that, God sustains us with all we possess; he could choose to remove it all from us at any time.

Application 2 – Do we choose to be faithful to use the resources God has graciously given us?  Are we being Kingdom-minded with what we have?  Those gifts could be more than mere treasures, it includes also time and talents. We all know how easy it is to get tight-fisted and fearful that we should cling to resources for personal pleasure or security.

Application 3 – Do we truly believe that our master/king Jesus is coming back and that we will have a day of accounting?  It is rather clear from more than merely a few Scriptures that our use of material resources is building eternal treasure and reward … or, sadly, the lack thereof.

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector (Luke 19:1-10)

Zacchaeus is one of the more interesting people we encounter in the Scriptures. As we wrote previously about tax collectors, they were known for committing fraud and extortion. The Romans didn’t mind – farming out the job of tax collector to private citizens meant they could reduce overhead expenses while always being able to expect a fixed sum of taxes.

The Greek term (architelones) for “chief tax collector” indicated that Zacchaeus was in a position of authority.

The descriptive item we remember most about Zaccheus (from our memories of singing the “wee little man” song as children in Sunday School) is his diminutive stature, having to climb a tree to see Jesus.  Perhaps he also wished to remain unseen.

It was surely his experience to know social ostracism, isolation, and contempt. And just as surely he had heard that Jesus received sinners and tax collectors (5:27-32; 15:1-2).  We may certainly speculate that he had heard about Jesus somehow, wished to see him and to ponder if perhaps this man could provide some answers for the deficits he felt within his own soul.

Jesus spots him and says that He “must” stay at his home. The “must” is explained in the conclusion in verse 10 – that seeking the lost is all part of God’s mission.

But this means that Jesus now joins Zacchaeus in being a social outcast.  The crowds react against Jesus’ desire to go the Zacchaeus’ home, because he is a “sinner.”  It is likely that they have been the victims of this tax collector’s corruption.

In today’s world, it might be like Tim Tebow coming to Hagerstown, and in front of a downtown crowd and the Herald-Mail reporter and the NBC 25 camera crew, going to lunch at the Broad Axe with the director of the abortion clinic and a porn shop owner.

Zacchaeus responds with a statement of complete repentance, illustrated by a fourfold restitution. Jesus responds by saying that “salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham” … not because of physical birth, but because of spiritual relationship, trusting God in faith.

This incident and the stories preceding are the exclamation point to Christ’s messianic mission in Luke’s gospel.  Those who we expect to be present in God’s kingdom (the rich young ruler) are absent, and those we expect to be absent (tax collectors and sinners) are present.  This would have meant a great deal to Luke and Theophilus, Gentiles who were formerly far off but had been brought near by the blood of Jesus.

How do these stories make you feel?  How do you relate to them?

I suspect there is a twofold response…

Positively – there is abundant encouragement to know that such a vile person as Zacchaeus could be targeted by God for grace in spite of the magnitude of his sin. That means there is every reason for every one of us to have hope for salvation first, and beyond that a hope for a vital relationship with God in spite of our ongoing sinful condition.

But negatively – there is reason for us to have introspective concern, isn’t there?  If not for salvation itself – if you have never really come to trust in Christ – but likely also for our ongoing life of faith and trust.  Could we do without things we possess?  Could we lose it all and be sufficiently content in Christ alone?

“Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’ while really it is finding its place in him.”   < C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Screwtape Letters, 1946 >

It has often been said that a misplaced focus upon owning things and valuing them excessively means that they ultimately own you!

Technology, clothing, cars … The list goes on and on. Every year we hear stories of mobs at stores during the holidays looking for the newest toys for their kids. But the truth is that, in many cases, we are often looking for hot new toys for ourselves. Objects keep changing, getting updated and modified all the time, and the masses run to the stores looking for the next big thing.

Everybody is looking for something more clever, more fast, more unique, more difficult to find, more desirable. The old things just aren’t looking as good anymore. They no longer have the same shine.

Even more dangerously, sometimes the “finding the next best thing” game spills over outside of the commercial realm, and people become the object we are looking to upgrade. Friends and romantic endeavors get used and passed on, while on a search for the next best thing.

The root problem with this “finding the next big thing” phenomena is that we are confusing want and need. Just because we want something doesn’t mean we need it. And just because we want it, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to get it. We really have very few needs to survive and these needs can quite honestly be obtained living a very simple life.

“There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more.  The other is to desire less.”   < G.K. Chesterton >

There really is but one need, and that is Christ. As in the earlier story in Luke’s Gospel, Mary is applauded over the sister Martha because Mary had chosen the better thing – she had chosen Christ as the priority.

Choose wisely.

Luke 19:1 – Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight (Luke 18:35-43)

In my travels in Europe, and more particularly in Central Asia, one of the saddest sights ever is that of the preponderance of destitute people who are beggars. Of all ages and health conditions, they are sometimes predominantly in abundance along busy thoroughfares surrounding popular sites and locations.

The gospel accounts make it rather clear that there was no shortage of destitute people in the time of Jesus, folks who were squeezing out a minimal living through begging. And it very imaginable that their plight was often quite deleterious, given the lack of social systems to render basic aid, along with primitive medical understanding.

Without the caring support of a family member, a blind person such as we encounter in today’s passage was destined to have a terribly difficult life. Sitting along the roadside coming into Jericho, the blind beggar is able to audibly discern that a sizeable crowd was passing by. We can image him reaching out and grabbing the first person he gets a hand upon, asking what is happening.

Being told that Jesus of Nazareth was just then passing by, he yells loudly, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Though a simple statement, we can surmise several things from it.

There was no need for this beggar to ask for a clarification as to the identity of the featured person in the passing crowd. He not saying, “Jesus who?”  He has somewhere, somehow heard about Jesus.

Beyond having heard of the Nazarene preacher, he had come to believe that Jesus is the messiah – the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Though unable to see physically, he had great spiritual sight. His response was what the nation was to have believed, but the religious leadership and the masses of the people were blind. They were content with their lives and with the systems in place.

John summarized this in 1:11-12 … “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

This statement of his faith evidenced his spiritual sight, with Jesus then giving him his physical sight as well.

The crowds told the beggar to shut up, to quietly drop back into the shadows. But the man would have none of this. Here was his opportunity to connect with the messiah, seeking divine mercy.

This man stands as a model for those who have little in this life, yet who have come to have everything of eternal importance is finding Christ. From my experiences and exposure to the minority churches, this story is a favorite scriptural passage. They particularly relate to this man, quoting him often in sermons, etc.

But we should all find ourselves drawn to this individual in terms of spiritual identification. We are, by the curse of original sin, a blind beggar. It is only by the divine “fortune” of God coming across our path that we have the ability to call out to him in faith for salvation.

Luke 18:35 – As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.