Eyes on Jesus: Luke 21.5-38

Falling stock market … Coronavirus … political polarization … general unrest. That’s been our week in this world, hasn’t it? Do these indicate the end, if not of the world, at least of something?

In Luke 21.5-38 Jesus adjusts His disciples’ vision—and our vision too. It’s scant days before Jesus will pay for sin with His death. He’s been in the temple during these days; He leaves to spend nights on the Mount of Olives. As as He and His disciples were leaving the temple complex after one day of teaching, His band of mostly provincial disciples begin admiring the temple—massive, white granite stones, tapestries, golden plates that reflected the light of the sun like mirrors. Don’t get so excited about this, Jesus says, … the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down (:6).

Questions about the end (:5-7). The disciples then ask Jesus two questions: When will this be? And, What will be the sign when these things are about to take place? 

Events that DON’T mean the end (:8-26). The majority of what follows consists of Jesus’ description of eight events (by my count) that DON’T indicate that the end of the age is at hand. Here they are: false claims about the Christ (:8), social chaos (:9), kingdoms rising and falling (:10), natural disasters, famines and pandemics (:11), persecution of God’s people (:12-15), family hatred (:16), the fall of Jerusalem (:20-24), and cosmic upheaval (:25-26).

While Jesus’ disciples likely thought the fullness of the kingdom (and Jesus’ return) would occur within their own lifetimes, Jesus is preparing them for the long age (by our reckoning) between His two comings. He’s preparing them for the time in which you and I are living now. This in-between time will include a pattern of intensifying unrest, leading toward, but not immediately resulting in the return of Christ and the end of the age. In the words of Romans 8.22, For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now … This time will also include the worldwide preaching of the Gospel (Matt 24.14; Mk 13.10).

The sign of the end (:27-28). Then comes the beautiful part of the passage (for those trusting in Jesus). And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. This is Jesus, the head of redeemed humanity, cast in the language of Daniel 7. Just as sure as He died a physical death, was raised to physical and bodily life, and ascended physically and bodily (Acts 1.10), He will return. And, He won’t be here until He’s here—though He won’t be late.

Jesus Himself is our glorious hope! In admiring the temple the disciples were in danger of distraction. In becoming mired in the business of life, we’re in danger of taking our eyes off Jesus.

How do we prepare for the end? To prepare for the end, keep your eyes on Jesus!

Preparing for the end (:28-38). The remainder of the passage includes a command, an illustration, and some built-in application.

Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (:28). I take “these things” to refer to the entire pattern of fallen-world events stretching back to verse 8. When  I see the world in trouble, I’m to keep my eyes on Jesus. Like the flowering fig tree (:29-33) means the coming of summer (or dripping sap means the coming of spring in the Northwoods), times of trouble mean Jesus is coming.

And while I’m enduring “these things” I’m to “watch [myself]” and “stay awake” (:34-38). This is practical application. There’s lots of things that would keep us mired down in this life and not thinking of Jesus and His return. Engine lights … kids not working well in school … bathroom pipes breaking … breakups with boyfriends or girlfriends … marriages coming apart … losing jobs … and so on, etc. If I lose sight of Jesus, the Day will come on me like a trap.

May it not be! May we, rather, be like the Apostle John who, in the last line of the last book in our New Testament finished by saying, Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22.20).

And may that thought encourage each of us this week.

Questions to discuss with others:

  1. This passage ends with a warning not to be consumed with the stuff of this life. What are some things that keep you from drawing your hope from Jesus?
  2. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know WHEN? and WHAT SIGN? Did Jesus answer these questions? Or did He answer other questions that we all need to know about Him? What are those questions?
  3. What are some unhelpful ways that we ought NOT to read this passage of prophetic Scripture?
  4. How does this passage ease or trouble your mind? What still bothers you? How does thinking about Jesus’ visible and glorious return help you?

Now, have a great week in the Lord …

Living on Jesus: Luke 20.45-21.4

Jesus is all I’ve got to live on …!

Does that statement ring true to you? In Luke 20.45-21.4 we have a short, powerful passage that isn’t hard to explain, but will become for us (if we accept its challenge) bottomless in its application potential.

Jesus has just put down a combined attack from those who oppose Him—Pharisees, scribes, priests, Sadducees. Now He and His disciples are camped in the Temple’s Court of Women. In observing what comes to pass around Him Jesus will turn from theology to the practical matters of serving God. Three kinds of people appear in this passage.

Those who live on self-dependance (20.45-47). Beware the scribes … Jesus will warn (:45). These establishment theologians and professors liked to walk around in the stolea—the long, tassled robes of their station; they liked the special greeting of “Rabbi”; they liked the best seats at synagogue, sitting near the ark where the scrolls were kept; they liked to devour the estates of widows who, destitute, had thrown themselves on the mercy of the Temple establishment; and, they liked to pray long for show.

Don’t be like them! Jesus warns. They will receive their greater condemnation. They’re living in dependence on themselves.

Those who live on their own abundance (21.1a). As Jesus speaks the disciples’ attention is drawn to the rich, who enter the Court of Women and unburden themselves of a year’s worth of offering (it being the annual Passover). The coins must have made a clatter as they were thrown into any of the 13 trumpet-shaped offering receptacles!

These rich aren’t exactly a new group of people. They are, in fact, the outward expression of the same group to which the scribes belonged. Both groups—the professional scribes and the rich laymen—give out of their excess. Both keep plenty back for themselves. And, doubtless, when the rich have made their offering, they’ve done their bit for God. Nothing more is said of them.

But then, a new figure enters the scene.

Those who live on what they lack (21.1b-4). A solitary woman approaches one offering receptacle. She’s recognized as one of the destitute widows who probably lives in the Temple, at the mercy of the scribes. She’s “very poor”. She casts two coins into one of the receptacles—two leptas, worth 1/100th of a day’s wages; both copper, soft metal, neither weighing enough to make a sound. Except for those keenly watching, she attracts no attention. Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them, Jesus says. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on (:4).

What has this woman done? She’s put in MORE. And what is MORE? MORE, according to Jesus, is “all she had to live on.”She’ll now subsist on what she lacks, her scarcity, her poverty. Or, will she? Won’t she be trusting in God?

Two points from the wider plan of redemption help us understand why this solitary widow is so dear to Jesus.

  1. In a matter of days Jesus (like the widow, but more profoundly) will throw Himself by faith on God’s mercy, and for God’s provision. Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done (22.42). At this offering of MORE in the garden, Jesus doesn’t yet know what it will take to satisfy the Father, but He throws Himself on God’s mercy. This is what He’s all about in His incarnation. He’s taken on flesh. Now He’ll humble Himself on the cross. And, we know the story, God will accept the perfect life and sacrifice of Jesus! The widow, in casting herself on God, becomes a picture of living on Jesus!
  2. Jesus’ sacrifice becomes the pattern in which all His followers will live the Christian life. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness, God will tell Paul the Apostle (2 Cor 12.9).  Paul will become a picture of living on Jesus! Then Paul will tell the Romans … present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Rm 12.1). In other words, you’re to become a picture of living on Jesus, you Romans!

What do we do with this? My feeling is that we fall far short of Jesus’ intended application, if we only use this passage to think about giving and money. As it turns out, there’s LOTS of scarcities that help us “live on Jesus,” trusting in God’s provision to make up for our weakness and different poverties. There’s scarcities of physical ability, when our bodies don’t work anymore, but we give what we have to Jesus. There’s scarcities of natural ability, when we feel charged to step up, but must trust in spiritual gifting and equipping from God. There’s mental and emotional energy scarcity when we haven’t got more in the tank, but we trust Jesus for the strength to go on. And then there’s time scarcity, when we place our time at God’s disposal, trusting it will be redeemed for Jesus’ purposes.

Each of these scarcities gives us opportunity to remember that … Jesus is all I’ve got to live on! 

Questions to discuss with others

  1. How about you? What “scarcities” are you dealing with? What does it look like to give Jesus MORE in those areas?
  2. Who are some people you know who have modeled “living on Jesus” for you?
  3. How about you again? What are the tell-tale signs that you’re, however slightly, falling into the pattern of the scribes, or those who “gave from abundance”?
  4. When we “live on Jesus” we don’t get to actually decide how things will turn out in this life, short of Jesus’ coming. Why still trust Jesus this way?

Now, have a great week, in the LORD.

Hope in this Life: Luke 20.19-40

I love it when Jesus does this!

In Luke 20.19-40 He’s being attacked by enemies who dispute His authority. First, the scribes and chief priests come after Him: Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, or not? they ask (:22). Jesus asks them to produce a coin with Caesar’s image on it. Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s, He says (:25).

Jesus’ answer has the following strokes of genius:

  1. In pressing them to pull out the image and likeness of Caesar, Jesus is forcing them to recognize that they already live in Caesar’s currency, for now;
  2. Jesus recognized a place for government within God’s order;
  3. Jesus recognized a BOTH/AND where others saw only an EITHER/OR.

Without falling into anybody’s trap, Jesus has made the point that God owns Caesar! And the day is coming when there will be no more Caesar. Until then, honor the emperor (See also 1 Pet 2.13-17; 1 Tim 2.1-2), and live life in light of everlasting life with God.

The trap has sprung, and Jesus isn’t in it!

Then come the Sadducees. These guys didn’t believe in the resurrection, and they hope to take down Jesus (and their enemies!) with a conundrum. Reaching back to the practice of levirate marriage (best known from the Book of Ruth) they spin a ridiculous question involving a woman who had seven husbands and now must live in a monogamous marriage in the afterlife.

Jesus goes after their assumptions:

  1. He challenges the assumption that everyone will know life with God. This is important, since His questioners were rejecting Him right at that moment!
  2. He overturns the idea that everlasting life is perpetuated the same way bodily life is here. God gives us marriage and childbirth in this life, because we’re dying. This will not be necessary in eternity, since we will be “like the angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage”.
  3. He rejects the Sadducees’ idea that God’s promises die with us. To make the point, He quotes Ex 3, the passage about the burning bush. Now He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live in Him (:38).

God promised to deliver His people, and He did. Now, Jesus is standing right in front of them, offering them everlasting life with God. God is alive … the patriarchs are alive … God’s promises are alive, too! The benefits of knowing God go beyond this life.

Jesus has taken pointed, limited, even obscure and ridiculous questions and answered a major question we’re still talking about today:


My HOPE IN THIS LIFE is that I have everlasting life with God received by faith in Jesus. That’s my hope. My hope isn’t in prosperity and political freedom (like in the first passage). My hope isn’t in anything I can experience in this life apart from everlasting life in God.

My hope is in the God of promise. And focusing on Him and my life to come gives meaning to my present life as well …

Here’s a few questions to consider:

  1. Where do we (like the scribes and chief priests) see ourselves placing our hope in prosperity and political freedom? How does the first half of the passage challenge us on that?
  2. What might be some action steps in praying for leaders, in light of our own time in history, between Jesus’ two comings?
  3. Where do we (like the Sadducees) see ourselves placing our hope in immediate pleasures and benefits of this life? How does the second half of the passage challenge me on that?
  4. How does my present life take on meaning when I contemplate everlasting life with God through Christ, after my own resurrection?
  5. Is my hope in this life really that I have everlasting life with God through faith in Christ? How can I know if this is true?

Rejected from Blessing: Luke 20.9-19

What’s your mental image of Jesus? Do you think of His kindness or love? Do you see Him hating sin and rebellion against His Father?

In Luke 20 we find Jesus in Jerusalem, after entering the city as the rightful king of the Nation of Israel and the whole earth. He’s cleansed the Temple (19:45-48). He’s rebuffed a challenge to His authority (20.1-8). Now, He tells a parable, in 20.9-19. Set against a Old Testament parable from Isaiah 5.1-7, in which God removes Israel, which is likened to an unproductive vineyard, Jesus tells The Parable of the Wicked Tenants. 

The Nation rejected, because of rejection of God’s authority in JESUS (:9-16a). Jesus is up to something here. In Jesus’ retelling of this parable the land-owning farmer represents God. But we have the addition of tenants. Who are they? And who are the servants sent to them? And what is the vineyard?

The parable unfolds in six scenes. They aren’t hard to follow. The land-owning farmer, having left his vineyard for an appropriately long period of time, sends servants to collect produce. Each is treated badly by the tenants, disrespected, and turned out. Finally, the land-owner sends his own son (:13). The idea is that he has no one more important to send! The tenants, however, reserve their worst treatment for the son, casting him out and killing him outside the vineyard. “Reasoning among themselves” they expect the vineyard will become theirs, if the landowner and his son are dead, which they now believe to be true for both.

The parable ends with Jesus asking an obvious question. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them. He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others?” (:15b-16).

All others rejected, who reject God’s authority in JESUS (:16b-19). At this point in the passage the parable ends. The crowd Jesus addressed exclaims, “Surely not!” And Jesus looks at them (with compassion, I believe).

It’s clear at this juncture who the tenants are, and who are represented by the servants. The Old Testament is replete with passages condemning the Nation for its rejection of the prophets, sent from God. From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers (Jeremiah 7.25-26; and many other passages).

But what is the vineyard? It can’t be Israel, as in the Isaiah parable, since Israel is already represented by the tenants. And who are “the others” who will receive the vineyard?

The vineyard in this parable should be seen as the place of God’s blessing. It’s bigger than Israel, and includes others besides the physical descendants of Abraham. It is the Kingdom of God Jesus will rule over at His coming. It includes a remnant of the physical descendants of Abraham (Rm 11), thus fulfilling Gods promises to Abraham. But, it also includes anyone else who receives Jesus. God is not rejecting one people and bringing in another. He’s adding to the existing people who love God (Rm 11.11-12). God is a multiplying God, not a subtracting or dividing God.

And Jesus is so important that to reject Jesus is to reject everything God is and does. To receive Jesus is to receive God and find blessing. That’s why Jesus quotes Ps 118.22, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” … Everyone who falls on that stone will broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him (:17-18).

How’s your mental picture of Jesus now? Does it allow you to conceive of Jesus as one who will crush God’s enemies?

Before you answer, consider one more thing: Jesus’ death will be the supreme expression of His love. Romans 3.23-25 makes the point: … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show the righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 

Yes, JESUS will crush God’s enemies at His return. But first, JESUS took their sin on Himself and was Himself crushed for them. In this way, JESUS expressed the holiness and love of God at the same time. Now, those who depend on JESUS by faith enter God’s blessing.

Peter will soon preach to the leaders of the Nation, after Jesus’ resurrection: This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in on one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4.11-12).

No JESUS, no blessing … Know JESUS, know blessing. 


Here’s a couple of questions to ask with others:

  1. What are the dangers of casting Jesus in our own image? In other words, what aspects of Jesus’ person do we tend to emphasize and what aspects are we inclined to leave out? (In still other words, how do we relate to this parable where Jesus will bring judgment from God?)
  2. What does this parable teach about the important of urgency in taking refuge in Jesus?
  3. What are the dangers of merely behaving religiously and drifting with Gods people? How do we know that we aren’t doing that?

Who’s in Charge?: Luke 19.28-44

Who’s in charge?

To be legitimately IN CHARGE isn’t the same as being in power. Really being IN CHARGE means you have authority from God and the responsibility to represent God.

The importance of the question underlies the news cycle this week—as different groups in our American government balance the desire to hold power with the need to govern justly. And the importance of the question lies front-and-center in our passage.

Who’s in charge? Who has the right from God to rule? 

Luke 19.28-44 begins the final section of Luke’s gospel. As Jesus moves toward Jerusalem creation itself recognizes that Jesus is IN CHARGE (:28-44). As Luke lays out the account, He shows Jesus demonstrating that He’s in charge through His all-knowingness (:28-34). Two disciples are sent ahead to fetch a donkey-colt who’s never been ridden. The owner, Jesus tells the disciples, will ask why they’re taking the animal. They’re to tell him that the “Lord has need of it”. Everything takes place, just as Jesus said.

Then, Jesus fulfills Scripture (:35-38). After entering Jerusalem in a manner that would have reminded the thoughtful follower of Zechariah 9.9, Jesus rides the unbroken colt into the city to the singing of His true followers. There’s not nearly as many of them as there should be, but their praise from Ps 118 describes the rightful king leading pilgrims to the temple and receiving welcome.

Then, Jesus dismisses political fears (:39-40). And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

The Romans claimed imperium, the right to rule. The Jews recognized Roman imperium, and in exchange received a degree of freedom, including the temple where they worshipped. The Pharisees feared Jesus, because worship of Jesus’ true imperium would certainly result in the loss of political peace with Rome.

Jesus responds that creation knows He’s IN CHARGE, even if His own people didn’t. The rocks will cry out, if need be. As Darrell Bock has said, “That which is lifeless knows life when it sees it, even though that which is living does not.”

The Nation did not recognize that JESUS is IN CHARGE (:41-44). In the final section Jesus mourns the Nation’s rejection. The “stones” which, in verse 40, threatened to shout out their praise will be cast down. The city will be leveled by Titus in 70 A.D. (as recorded in Josephus in his War of the Jews). Nothing was gained by rejecting Jesus. In trading Jesus for peace with the Romans, peace with the Romans was lost. The Nation found itself on both the wrong side of history and of eternity.

True followers of JESUS recognize that JESUS is in charge. 

This is true at the level of nations—though God permits different forms of government that ultimately find their authority in Him. This is true in churches. It’s true in families. It’s true in our private lives.

And, our lives will be transformed to the degree that we recognize JESUS is IN CHARGE.

The Good News is that we can embrace Him by faith. And then, we recognize His imperium in every area of our lives.

Jesus is in charge when … the MRI report turns up something … you lose your job … you’re taking care of an elderly parent who won’t get better … you’re a student athlete and you injure yourself and your season is over … you’re not invited to the prom … you want to get married but you’re not encouraged by the prospects … you get robbed or experience injustice … you’re a kid and your parents make a decision you don’t like.

JESUS reigns today! His rule will be established soon. While we press toward His return, let’s join His true followers throughout the ages in living our lives while knowing that JESUS is IN CHARGE.

Here’s some questions to consider with others: 

  1. Where in your life is it most difficult to recognize that JESUS is IN CHARGE?
  2. How would government, business deals, buying and selling, and our daily lives in our workplaces be different, if we consistently believed and applied the truth that JESUS is IN CHARGE?
  3. How does knowing that JESUS is IN CHARGE change the way we respond when we experience injustice?

Have a great week!