March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

Author: Pastor Mark Bauer
March 22, 2023

“And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones ad offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 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. 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.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 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. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For here will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming to the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer I already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Luke 21:5-38

We read that Jesus is responding to some who are speaking of the beauty and the grandeur of the temple in Jerusalem. Then from the account in Matthew 24 we find that those people to whom Jesus is speaking are his disciples. So Jesus then tells his disciples a number of future events that will take place; he foretells of the destruction of the temple. He tells his disciples in verse 6, “As for these things, that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Jesus then goes on to tell of wars and disaster and disease and of great suffering. In verse 9 he tells them that when you hear of wars and tumults, and in verse 10, he says, “Nations will rise against nation, kingdoms against kingdom, and in verse 11 he tells that there will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilence.”

Then he goes on to warn his disciples, of the persecution, that will come. He says in verse 12, “They will lay their hands on you, and they will persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake.” Then dropping down in verse 16 he says you will be delivered up even by parents, and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. Then in verse 17, “You will be hated by all, for my name's sake.” Then dropping to verse 24, Jesus tells of a great destruction, including the destruction of Jerusalem. In verse 24 we read that Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles. Then next he tells of this coming of the Son of Man, that there will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars, and on earth distress. It'll be distress of the nations and perplexity. People will be fainting with fear and with foreboding for that which is coming. In verse 27, “And they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

With this backdrop, with all of these warnings that he just tells his disciples of all these coming events that will cause destruction and suffering; the wars, the natural disasters, the disease, the fear, and the foreboding that many will experience, what then does Jesus tell his disciples in terms of how should they respond to all of this? How should they prepare for these things?

So I take us now back to verse 34 and then also in verse 36. Jesus gives his disciples exhortations, directions on how the things that they should do, what they should do. Essentially he tells them in these verses to watch and to pray. First in verse 34 he says, “Be watchful, but watch yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. He tells them that they need to guard against a wrong response to these things that are coming. They need to watch their hearts, they need to guard their hearts against a worldly attitude I might suggest, to guard against temptation to sin, the sins that might weigh them down with drunkenness, indulging themselves, perhaps, in the pleasures of this world, perhaps adopting an attitude of the world to eat and drink for tomorrow they will die.

But they also may have to guard themselves against being weighed down or consumed by the cares of this life that they may be caught up in chasing after things, things of the world, whether it's riches or financial security that you're trying to get, or worldly accomplishments, or careers or fame, thinking that these things can satisfy, perhaps thinking that these things provide them safety or security. So they need to be watchful.

But then in verse 36 they're told that the right response to the things which Jesus has spoken, “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.” In another translation it reads this way, “Watch therefore, and pray always.” So Jesus tells them that they need to stay awake; they need to be watchful, they need to be alert at all times.

And then added to this, he says that they are to pray always, that they need to pray for strength to escape. They need to cry out to the Lord, recognizing their own weakness, and pray that God would be merciful to spare them from the pain and the sorrows, the suffering, the destruction that may come with all these things that Jesus has warned of: these wars and natural disasters and pestilence. But even more so to protect them against those that would persecute them or personally attack them. Also, not only to escape, but to pray for strength to stand, particularly in times of persecution, that they would remain faithful, that God would help them to keep themselves from sin, to flee from temptations, to be preserved from the evil one, but also to give them help in those times of persecution, that their lives would be a testimony to their faith in Christ, and that they would be bold to speak, to even be witnesses for Christ, that they would ultimately endure to the end, so that on that final day when they stand before Christ, that they would hear these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your rest.”

So as we look at these exhortations to the disciples, and the time in that day, how do these apply to us today? And so my view this says, well, maybe it only applies to the disciples at that time, but I believe that these two exhortations to watch and to pray still apply to the Church, to us today. I think we all see that it's needful for us to watch, to guard our hearts. Temptation to sin. It's a reality for all of God's people.

Therefore we need to be watchful, for we have an adversary, the devil. He goes around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. Satan’s desire is to destroy God's people, and therefore Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 5:8 to be sober minded, and to be watchful. Again, that sense of we need to be on watch. Commenting on Luke 21:34 J.C. Ryle writes this, “We are to watch, we are to live on our guard like men in an enemy's country. We are to remember that evil is about us, near us and in us, and that we have to contend daily with a treacherous heart and ensnaring world, and a busy devil.

In connection with being watchful, certainly we also need to pray. How desperately do we need God's help each and every day? Paul has letters to the church, exhorts us, and continues to exhort us to continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it, being constant in prayer.

So I suggest that as I was reflecting on these verses, these exhortations with disciples back in the day of Jesus, of these coming events, that we still need to heed these exhortations of Jesus even today, to watch and to pray. And we need to do that particularly as we face times of persecution, and when we hear of dangers and threats, and of wars and disease. But as we wait for the returning of our Lord, and may God even give us grace to be found faithful to remain constantly on guard, watching our hearts, and praying that God would give us help and strength each and every day of our lives.