Thursday, June 7, 2012

Occupy the Temple 3 - Prophecy and Fulfillment - Luke 21 - Jesus' Final Week part 3

Occupy the Temple part 3 - Occupy the Temple part 2 - Occupy the Temple part 1  
(Click here to read Luke 21)

Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)
Devon at Occupy Edmonton. Credit - AMVanimere
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Jesus and his followers are Occupying the temple courtyard after a dramatic "housecleaning" when Jesus removed the corrupt bankers and businessmen who had previously used the space (click here to read more about this event from Luke 19).

The powers that be haven't appreciated the community building and teaching that have taken the place of the buying and selling. They've been challenging Jesus' authority to be in the space with the huddled crowds teaching what he does (click here to read more about these challenges and Jesus' response from Luke 20). They are afraid of the people, so for now their only tactic has been increased surveillance combined with these challenges, and hoping for an opportunity to have a legal reason to remove Jesus by force.

The first passage in Luke 21 shows that the new occupants of the temple are not hindering the coming and going of the worshipers and religious faithful who have come to visit.

Jesus' observation of the widow reminds us again of the message he's carried consistently since the beginning of his ministry. Jesus preaches the good news of the Kingdom of God, in which there will be a Great Reversal in the order of the entire world, as the Kingdom planted in the hearts of people by the Holy Spirit is demonstrated in their lives in radical love and justice. It also reminds us of the parable of the self-righteous Pharisee and the repentant tax collector in Luke 18:9-14 (see notes).

The new Kingdom is different. It is alive and growing. It is demonstrative and powerful. And it is coming.

Jesus warns his followers that the change will be hard. They are resisting authorities that will not give up their power easily. But the hope for the faithful is that the change will be fulfilled and completed one day at his return. On that day, the wicked who refused to lay down their crowns will be judged, and the good news for the poor, the blind, the oppressed, and the imprisoned will be completely realized.

The poor widow giving her last two pennies in her faith is juxtaposed by the fifteen story tall stone temple and surrounding buildings built by a puppet ruler to impress the people. The beauty and riches of the temple will be destroyed in an attempted revolution gone bad forty years in the future (vv5-7). When Jesus prophesies its destruction, the people ask when it will happen.

For the rest of the chapter, Jesus speaks of the consummation of the Kingdom of God that will occur at his return (vv8-9). Instead of giving times and dates, he describes the signs by which they will know it is coming. He also warns them to be patient. The Kingdom will come slowly.

Luke 21:8-9 (ESV)
8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

Jesus says the temple destruction is the beginning of the end. But the end will not come at once (v9). There will be bad times In the future. (cheer up, it'll get worse), but God will be faithful. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will give them the word when brought before the authorities for their resistance (repeating Luke 12:11-12).

Luke 21:12-15 (ESV)
12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13  This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.

Jesus demonstrates this kind of wisdom and faith in the way he answers his challengers in Luke 20 (see notes).
This is exactly what happens to Paul, and many of the other early Christians as well. The story of Acts is a progression of the gospel through persecution.

Jesus answers their question of "when will these things be?" in verses 20-24. The defensive reaction of the empire to the violent uprising of 70AD will be swift and terrible.

But this symbol of the end of the old order is not the final coming of the Kingdom of God (vv25-28). His followers will continue to resist the old world and live on the earth as ambassadors and symbols of the Kingdom Come. And he will come. We have a hope.

Keep on watch look for the signs, Jesus tells the people. Watch for coming persecutions and difficulties, including the fall of Jerusalem, which will happen in this generation (v32). The fulfillment of this prophecy would confirm the promise of Jesus' return. As bad as it may seem at any time, his followers have hope that there will be an end to the resistance. Jesus will not abandon us (v33). We should remain vigilant, and not lose hope or become apathetic in our resistance or our proclamation (vv34-36).

The Mount of Olives

The chapter ends by saying that Jesus spent his nights on the Mount of Olives. He needed alone time.

On the night of his betrayal and arrest, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives with his disciples to pray. I imagine this may have been the scene every night of this final week spent teaching at the temple, as he felt the wait of his coming execution increase with each passing day. He was filled every night by time spent with his Father, giving him the strength to minister all day under the watchful eye of the corrupt authorities.

Probably some of the crowd stayed at the temple, or Luke wouldn't have considered Jesus' leaving notable. At least enough to keep the occupation going must have remained, or else the powers would have been able to remove them.

(Luke 22:2 - they feared the people... There were enough of them to make them afraid. They were losing control of this situation.)

Verse 38 says that the people returned "early in the morning". This may have been like our experience with the Occupy Edmonton camp, and many others of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Very few people knew how many or how few were actually there at night. The powers are more constrained by schedules and timing. The poor and dispossessed have more free time to demonstrate.

But for Jesus, his time in the temple with the crowds is coming to an end. It is almost time for the Passover. Just as he takes his nights alone, he also must take his leave to spend this significant night with his closest disciples.

It will be his last meal with them before his betrayal and arrest.

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