Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 14, 2010 (Lectionary 33)
Malachi 4:1-2a Psalm 98 (9) 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19 Semicontinuous Series
Isaiah 65:17-25 Isaiah 12:2-6 (6) 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19 Prayer of the Day O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Gospel Acclamation Alleluia. Stand up and | raise your heads, because your redemption is | drawing near. Alleluia. (Luke 21:28) Color: Green
1a.CONTEXT: Luke 21:5-19
This pericope is framed by the story of the Widow's mite and Satan entering Judas. The setting is the Temple where Jesus continues his daily teaching. He is speaking to the disciples while all the people about them listen. Jesus had the support of the populace, which was enthusiastic about his teaching.
Verses 5-7 may be one of the hardest parts of the gospel tradition to interpret. There are many interpretations to choose from, so many that it tends to bewilder the serious student. Part of the problem is that these texts are often called Jesus' "eschatological discourse," for it is concerned with the eschata, "last things," of the world and Jerusalem. Others refer to this pericope as the Synoptic "apocalyptic discourse" as it presents the aforementioned eschata in apocalyptic garb. These words, "apocalyptic" and "eschatological", are problematic in themselves. We can say that "eschatological" describes a body of teachings about the last times which for the Lucan writer meant the end of Jerusalem, whereas "apocalyptic" is a form of writing about these end times. This Lucan discourse can be called "eschatalogical" in that it seeks to encourage its readers, as well as urge them to vigilance and prayer during times of persecution. Thus it can be regarded as apocalyptic writing.
This Lucan material has its parallels in Mark 13:5-37 and Matt. 24:1-36 and echoes material already used in chapter 17 (vv. 23-24, 26-27, 33, 34-35, 37).
In his Gospel Luke appears to have two primary aims. He has a special interest in ordering his story geographically, and he presents Jesus as bringing God's salvation to the publicans, sinners, Gentiles, and Samaritans, those whose need for the "Good News" is greatest. Also the Lucan Jesus deals gently with the outcast and the poor. Jesus is portrayed as a man of prayer and women have a special role in his ministry.
Although tradition holds for the authorship of Luke, the traveling companion of Paul and the "beloved physician," there is room for doubt. We find inconsistencies with the Pauline Letters and wonder whether his traveling companion would have been guilty of such monumental errors. There is, however, much support for a common author of Luke and Acts.
But in no case can the author be an eyewitness to events, rather he depends upon others who "were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word." (1:2) Nonetheless the writer of this gospel was an able and learned historian with a profound faith. The political situation during the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96) fits neatly into the situation of the church reflected in Luke's gospel; hence a date of AD 85 to 95 is likely. Since the evangelist's gospel contains such a highly developed style of Greek and where readers such as Theophilus (Acts 1-1) would have been at home_a locale where cultured Greek was the primary language_is about as much as we can ascertain about the church's locus. Persecution was a major problem for the disciples and would increase after Jesus' departure. The city of Jerusalem and the magnificent Temple would be totally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Lucan church suffered greatly under Domitian. Hence, one would do well to study these terrible times before attempting to preach on this pericope.
It should be noted that Luke does not introduce the word parousia ; it is not a Lucan word. In any event, it should not enter into a discussion of the Lucan pericope. Luke has his own way of referring to future events, and to use the Holy Spirit in this case would not be respecting Luke's gospel. This is problematic when this text is assigned to Pentecost.
1b. TEXT: Luke 21:5-19
5 f And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, g the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, h when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And he said, i “See that you are not led astray. For j many will come in my name, saying, k ‘I am he!’ and, l ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be m terrified, for these things n must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution
10 Then he said to them, o “Nation will rise against nation, and p kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great q earthquakes, and in various places r famines and pestilences. And there will be s terrors and great t signs from heaven. 12 But before all this u they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to v the synagogues and w prisons, and you x will be brought before y kings and z governors for my name's sake. 13 a This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds b not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for c I will give you a mouth and d wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or e contradict. 16 You will be delivered up f even by parents and brothers  and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 g You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But h not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your i endurance you will gain your lives.
 21:16 Or parents and brothers and sisters
5Καί τινων λεγόντων περὶ τοῦ ἱεροῦ, ὅτι λίθοις καλοῖς καὶ ἀναθήμασιν κεκόσμηται, εἶπεν,
6Ταῦτα ἃ θεωρεῖτε, ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι ἐν αἷς οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται λίθος ἐπὶ λίθῳ ὃς οὐ καταλυθήσεται.
7Ἐπηρώτησαν δὲ αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, πότε οὖν ταῦτα ἔσται, καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον ὅταν μέλλῃ ταῦτα γίνεσθαι;
8ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Βλέπετε μὴ πλανηθῆτε: πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐλεύσονται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου λέγοντες, Ἐγώ εἰμι: καί, Ὁ καιρὸς ἤγγικεν: μὴ πορευθῆτε ὀπίσω αὐτῶν.
9ὅταν δὲ ἀκούσητε πολέμους καὶ ἀκαταστασίας, μὴ πτοηθῆτε: δεῖ γὰρ ταῦτα γενέσθαι πρῶτον, ἀλλ' οὐκ εὐθέως τὸ τέλος.
10Τότε ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Ἐγερθήσεται ἔθνος ἐπ' ἔθνος καὶ βασιλεία ἐπὶ βασιλείαν, 11σεισμοί τε μεγάλοι καὶ κατὰ τόπους λιμοὶ καὶ λοιμοὶ ἔσονται, φόβητρά τε καὶ ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἔσται.
12πρὸ δὲ τούτων πάντων ἐπιβαλοῦσιν ἐφ' ὑμᾶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν καὶ διώξουσιν, παραδιδόντες εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς καὶ φυλακάς, ἀπαγομένους ἐπὶ βασιλεῖς καὶ ἡγεμόνας ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου:
13ἀποβήσεται ὑμῖν εἰς μαρτύριον.
14θέτε οὖν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν μὴ προμελετᾶν ἀπολογηθῆναι,
15ἐγὼ γὰρ δώσω ὑμῖν στόμα καὶ σοφίαν ἧ οὐ δυνήσονται ἀντιστῆναι ἢ ἀντειπεῖν ἅπαντες οἱ ἀντικείμενοι ὑμῖν.
16παραδοθήσεσθε δὲ καὶ ὑπὸ γονέων καὶ ἀδελφῶν καὶ συγγενῶν καὶ φίλων, καὶ θανατώσουσιν ἐξ ὑμῶν,
17καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.
18καὶ θρὶξ ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν οὐ μὴ ἀπόληται.
19ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσασθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: Luke 21:5-19
Luke 21: 5-7 - These verses constitute the first pericope of this text. It is concerned with the fate of Jerusalem's glorious temple. Because of Luke's concern to keep Jesus in the temple, he doesn't go to the Mount of Olives and speak only to his disciples as he does in Mark 13:1-3. Jesus' reply to those commenting on the Herodian temple is not a warning, but a prophetic pronouncement, a terrifying prediction. The clarity of his words saw their fulfillment in late August and early September A.D. 70 when the Temple was utterly destroyed.
21:7 when will this happen? Here and later in the verse, "these things"
(tauta) refers clearly to the destruction of the Temple.
There is no mention of "the last things" for there is no mention of such in the Lucan gospel. Luke is concerned directly with events in history and shows Jesus as one who prophesies about coming events. This "when" question launches the reader into the monologue of terrible events to come.
21:8-11 - These verses are a collection of prophetic, threatening, terrifying sayings of Jesus. He uses apocalyptic language of wars, revolts and of natural disasters, yet they are not to be understood as referring to anything other than the devastation of the Temple and Jerusalem. This is a negative episode replete with horrifying images meant to warn the reader-hearer to remain true despite earth- shattering events. Jesus uses OT allusions in his discourse.(Isa 19:2, 2 Chr 15:6, Ezek. 38:19-22). The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem with many horrifying details. Included in his story are references to charlatans and would-be messengers of god, as well as strange stars and the appearance of a comet. When considering such details as these, which accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it is not implausible to conclude that this was the destruction or "the end" to which Luke was referring. Thus importing references to the end of the world at this point, although tempting, seems inappropriate, for this would be importing a Marcan or Matthean nuance into the context of Luke.
21:8 - Make sure that you are not led astray. The verb planao "led astray" is found only here; it connotes a departure from truth or fidelity. Such false prophets are not to be trusted. do not run after them, i.e. do not be taken in by their rhetoric and flair.
21:9 - The use of first of all (proton) and at once (eutheos) lead the way to the next pericope where Jesus warns his disciples that they will face persecutions before the "end" of Jerusalem.
21:12-19 - As background for this pericope it might be helpful to read Acts 4:16-18, 8:1b-3, 12:1-5, where actual persecutions are described. (Cf. I Thess 2:14, Gal 1:13). This part of the discourse describes the church under stressful conditions. Jesus recounts the coming persecutions which will come from all sorts of Jewish and Gentile sources. Families and friends, all will turn against them because they bear his name.
In addition, persecutions will consist not only of imprisonment but even death. And the reason will always be hatred because of "my name". Yet the evangelist's Jesus encourages his followers, "not a hair of your head will be lost" (an echo of Luke 12:7). By their endurance they will gain life, for they can never lose their souls even if their lives are lost. Here we see Luke at his finest, giving hope to the persecuted, truly Good News.
21:12 - will persecute you. The verb "pursue" (dioko) has a religious connotation here. Harassment takes place because of religious affiliation. hand you over to synagogues and prisons...kings and prefects. Luke alone adds "prisons" (phulakas). Synagogues and prisons refer to Jewish persecutions and kings and prefects refers to Gentile persecutions. because of my name
(eneken tou onomatos nou). Here Luke rewords Mark 13:9 in accordance with the Lucan emphasis on the name of Jesus in Acts.
21:13 - It will lead to your having to testify - you will be called on to act in a way that testifies to your fidelity, to what you truly are.
21:14 - not to rehearse your defense in advance. The verb (promeletao) is a technical expression for memorizing a speech in advance.
21:15 - I myself shall supply you with lips and with a wisdom. Literally this means "I shall give you a mouth and wisdom." Luke places the "I" (ego) at the beginning of the sentence as he substitutes Jesus as the giver of the needed gifts to his persecuted followers for the "holy Spirit" of the Markan gospel. In Acts 2:33 the Lucan writer has the risen Jesus saying that he will supply the wisdom and dispense the Father's promise.
21:16 - be handed over by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends. Conflict in families is part of the situation of persecution.
The disciples are not merely being given information but Jesus' words require difficult decisions for they conflict with loyalties both for the disciples in Luke's gospel as well as for its readers. The disciples are portrayed as persons who desire and expect the promise of salvation without suffering and rejection. This is Jesus' direct attack upon false expectations.
they will put some of you to death. A prophecy fulfilled in the deaths of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) and James, son of Zebedee(Acts 12:1-2).
21:18 - not a hair of your head will be lost. The inference is that God will be protecting his own during the times of persecution. This is a doublet with Luke 12:7 "Even the hairs of your head are all numbered". Therefore, the disciples need not fear. Since this follows the statement that "they will put some of you to death," it refers metaphorically to a preservation beyond death. The Lucan narrator is suggesting that Jesus is dealing with weighty matters of lasting importance.
21:19 - by your endurance...you will make your lives secure. Literally this means "in your persistence win your souls." The condition for salvation is not simply patience (hyptomoei) but persistent endurance. So one will acquire, "procure," (chtaomai) "inner life" (psyche).
3. STRATEGY: Luke 21:5-19
Although this text is difficult, due to verse 15, "For I will give you words and wisdom..." with no mention of the Holy Spirit and with Pentecost being the celebration of the coming of the Spirit, there are ways that one can handle this. One should stay true to the Lucan emphasis and not mention the Holy Spirit directly but place emphasis upon how Jesus Christ is with us as he promised, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18) Jesus was honest with his hearers, he told them they could expect hard times, even death. We who preach his Gospel must also be honest. Although such persecutions are not afflicting us in our land, this is not true in all of Christendom. One way to address this might be to use a first person account of persecution in the sermon. This could be done by recounting an incident from the time of the Emperor Domitian. These are readily available in Tacitus, Josephus, and other histories of Christianity. For example: "I was five years old when they tied pig skins to my parents backs and set the dogs upon them...6,000 people starved to death in one week, my baby sister was one of those who died" etc.
Something along these lines can be an effective start for a sermon and give modern people a sense of the persecution suffered in the early church. Many parishioners have little sense of their Christian history. Although this may appear extreme, extreme measures are often required to bring the Bible to life. The Lucan church suffered severely. That is why his Jesus spoke so eloquently and gave such reassurance.
In addition, there are false teachers in America who beguile us with their rhetoric and flair. They preach false expectations, promise their hearers riches, and breed Christians who desire and expect the promise of salvation without suffering and rejection. Hence when people don't prosper, or when illness, drought, family problems, etc. befall them, they blame God or lose faith, and spend time in endless questioning. Either way life is lost, the inner life of zest which ends our text for today.
This text easily lends itself to this theme. Although our people are not starving, who knows what may come. Certainly we all struggle in one way or another. When Jesus spoke of a safety that went beyond the threats of this earth, "Not a hair of your head will be harmed," he assured us that although lives may be lost, our souls can never be lost. This makes an excellent message for today's blais_ generation, which so desperately needs something of substance.
It has been said that Jesus afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. This text certainly lends itself well to this concept. Most of our pews are full of the comfortable and we all know the afflicted. This text speaks a powerful word of hope, as well as warning those who glory in their tidy and comfortable little niche.
Ole Borgen, a Bishop of the Northern Europe Area since 1970 and a Norwegian by birth, residing in Sweden, is responsible for United Methodists in these two countries as well as those in Denmark, Finnland and Estonia. His leadership became especially important in recent years during the gradual decline and fall of communism in Eastern Europe. He has warned the European church against being complacent in the face of a critical lack of growth. Ironically, h is European churches fit the profile of many of our American churches.
Borgen believes they die because their small communities with one-industry economies have died; because materialism and hedonism are the principles guiding people's lives; and because the laity have a tendency to be consumers of faith rather than producers of faith. "A comfortable church will never grow," says this Bishop. "Life must never follow a set pattern. We must never be afraid of the Holy Spirit." How about a sermon on church growth to our very "set" congregations?
4.REFERENCES: Luke 21:5-19
Robert C. Tannehill. THE NARRATIVE UNITY OF LUKE-ACTS, A LITERARY INTERPRETATION Volume One: The Gospel According to Luke. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.
5.Music & Worship : Luke 21:5-19
Gathering: Come, Ye Thankful People Come - ELW 693
Hymn of the Day: On Jordan’s stormy bank – ELW 437
Offertory: Come to the Table - ELW 481
Communion: We Come to the Hungry Feast - ELW 479
Sending: God, Whose Giving Know no Ending - ELW 678
(Tune “Hymn to Joy” # 836, ELW )
Exegete: Saundra Craig
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