“Prediction of the Temple’s destruction, future suffering, and how to live during suffering”.

By Rev Dr William Loader

Our passage begins with that prediction of destruction. The temple renowned in the ancient world for its beauty (Mark had emphasised the size of the stones) will be destroyed [which it was later, in 70ACE]. … For Luke’s hearers [around 80ACE] the destruction of the temple was an event which had reverberated around their world with foreboding. …

Luke links the past and prospective sufferings together. Together they generate the cry: how long? When will deliverance come? People today who are pushed to the extremes of despair are perhaps best able to connect with our passage. We need to walk in their shoes.

Mark alerts his readers to religious delusion (13:5-6; Luke 21:8). During the years of the revolt of 66-70 CE and before, there had been messianic claims, people asserting super knowledge from God about events to come, and religious fanaticism.

The following verses (21:9-11) use a standard description of future woes, which draws upon biblical imagery (eg. Isa 19:2; Ezek 38).  … The point [Luke’s Jesus] is making … is that we should not be panicked by such events.

The passage continues with reports of harassment and victimisation of the minority Christian movement both in Jewish contexts (‘synagogues’) and broader Gentile contexts (‘governors’) (21:12-15). Neither Jesus’ own trial nor those in Acts suggest such ‘success’. Rather Luke is suggesting that if you speak with this wisdom it will be an irresistible force.

At one level Luke’s appeal is that we live out of the wisdom which God gives in the Spirit, and not out of fear. It is a way of saying: … the Spirit who, to use John’s terms, advocates what Jesus was about. There is indeed something irresistible about love, even when it is crucified. Luke is realistic: he and his readers will know of family conflicts and betrayals; they will have experienced hate. Anyone who advocates the way of Jesus should expect to land some of it.

… our future is in God’s hands … therefore, even in the worst adversity, we can set our faith in God.

Trust in God has profoundly personal implications. It also has important political, social and religious ramifications. Luke has not withdrawn into individualism. He (or his text) still weeps for Jerusalem and longs for its liberation. He is prepared to be inventive to tackle the madness of fear and hate and the fanatical theologies it also generates. He keeps our feet on the ground about abuse and oppression. He stands in a tradition which tackles enmity in a way that is not off-centred by hate or fear, but informed by the stillness and wisdom of the Spirit.