Red Letter Year: 9/6

Luke 21.10-28

10 Then he added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.

12 But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. 17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish! 19 By standing firm, you will win your souls.

20 And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. 21 Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. 22 For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled. 23 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. 24 They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.

25 And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”


Luke shares this text with both Mark and Matthew, but he edits out the strongest apocalyptic language (birth-pangs, abomination of desolation), and orders the teaching so that Jesus prophesies about the destruction of the Temple (v. 10-11), gives a prophetic aside about what his followers will experience leading up to that (v. 12-19), and then returns to sharing about the coming destruction. As I mentioned yesterday, what Jesus says here tracks very closely with what Josephus reported – literally – he was on the scene for the entire war. He even mentioned a star and a comet that hung over Jerusalem for a year leading up to the city’s defeat.

The middle part about what the disciples were also about to experience also tracks very closely with what Luke recorded in Acts. It is interesting that Jesus said they will kill “some” of you. Of the Twelve, only Judas (suicide) and John (old age?) were not executed for preaching the Gospel. Jesus must have been addressing more of his followers, since some doesn’t work with 10 out of 12.

What is most interesting to me is the juxtaposition of v. 16 and v. 18.

16: They will even kill some of you.

18: But not a hair of your head will perish.

These two create the paradox at the center of the Gospel – losing life to gain life. We understand that v. 18 is talking about our soul and by extension our own resurrection destiny. A friend had this posted on her Facebook profile the other day: “I have two questions for you. What would you do if you knew you were going to die? What ever convinced you that you’re not going to?” We have such a brief spin on this planet and there are so many ways we can choose to connect with people, build real relationships, put ourselves in positions where the Spirit has to show up and give us what to say. We don’t see more divine intervention because we don’t take more risks. The people in and around Jerusalem thought the safe thing to do was to stay in the city, even hide near the Temple. Surely, it would be safe. No sense taking a big risk like fleeing to the hills. Even the ‘prophets’ were confirming their choice to play safe. But in trying to save themselves, they put themselves right in the path of complete destruction.

We do the same thing. We think we can play it safe, keep our heads down, don’t take risks – and then what? Die anyway. The more you are willing to risk for God, the more you give God an opportunity to show up big in your life, which will benefit you and everyone around you. You might still die (okay, you definitely will), but you won’t lose a single hair, not a scratch on you. Jesus promised the Spirit would give us what to say when we needed it. But we don’t put ourselves in a position very often to need the Spirit to speak through us. And we rarely let the Spirit get a word in edgewise when we are in such positions. We need to take more risks and be less chatty in the process. Give the Spirit a chance. As my friend Pastor Maggie Mraz said yesterday, “Pick a place and give it your all.” You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.