It would have been nice to be a little further on in Luke by today since it is Good Friday but sadly that level of planning is a bit beyond me. I’m sure most of us will take a moment today to give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ.
The passage for today can be read here.
The passage for the next few days is known as the Olivet Discourse, that is, it’s a session of teaching given by Jesus from the Mount of Olives, and it is also to be found in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. The Mount of Olives is the hill just outside Jerusalem that is a great spot to view the city. It is not an easy passage but it is vital to remember that for the most part, Jesus was responding to a question or to be precise, two or even three questions;
“When will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” (21:7)
Or as Matthew puts it;
“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
So the questions are;
- When will this happen? – the destruction of the temple which happened in AD70
- What will be the sign of your coming? – still to take place
- And of the end of the age? – obviously yet to take place
Sadly, Jesus didn’t tell us which question he was answering at any given point.
Jesus had finished his public teaching in the temple, it was late on Tuesday and Jesus and the disciples were leaving Jerusalem to spend the night in Bethany, a village just outside the city. From the Mount of Olives, the perfect place to see the city, the disciples are taken by the beauty of the temple. It was hardly surprising since the temple was a truly beautiful thing; building had begun in 19BC and wasn’t completed until 63AD, some thirty years after this incident. It was covered with gold and what wasn’t gold was white marble so the whole building would have glowed in the afternoon sunlight. The disciples were even trying to get Jesus to admire the temple (Matthew 24:1) when he dropped in the information that would have astounded them – the whole thing will be completely destroyed. Jesus words were fulfilled thirty-eight years later in 70AD when the Roman army smashed it to pieces. It’s strange to us that the disciples could be so taken in by a building, even a beautiful building, when they spent their time in the company of the Lord Jesus. There are two obvious lessons here; Jesus’ words are reliable – he said it and it happened and believers have to keep looking to Jesus.
For me, this section refers to the end times and Jesus spoke of three things; firstly, deception – a rise in false messiahs (v8). We know that when Jesus returns there will be no doubt, everyone will know. It follows then that when we see men claiming to be Jesus or the messiah, we should not be deceived.
Secondly, Jesus spoke of great signs amongst the nations and in the environment. If I can take just one; Jesus said; ‘There will be great earthquakes’. Of the twelve biggest earthquakes in history, five have occurred since 1950 and two of the top four this century.
Finally, before all of these things there will be persecutions. It’s been the story of the church from the time of the apostles and it remains the story today. Even in places like the UK the freedom we have has come at great cost; many have given their lives to make it possible. In other parts of the world it isn’t a fact of history – it’s a present reality. Jesus words are clear; ‘By standing firm you will gain life.’
“As we bring our songs of love today
Do you hear a sound more glorious?
Like the mighty roar of ocean waves
Many witnesses surround us
It’s a harmony of costly praise
From the lips of those who suffer
Of sighs and tears and martyrs’ prayers
Until this age is over.” (How Long? – Graham Kendrick)