I’m continuing what I started last week, really following the story of Jesus in the road to Jerusalem, coming into the city in that triumphal entry, then clearing out the temple and generally disrupting things for the “principal men”. Now we are coming to the whole point of why I’m so interested in following this chain of events.
Luke 21, Matthew 24, Mark 13. We call it the Olivet Discourse. It is given only a couple of days, maybe one day, before Jesus’ arrest arrest and eventual crucifixion. Jesus knows the time is at hand, and he is really laying out some of his teachings, being very direct with his disciples (this teaching is not a public teaching but private, with only his core disciples being with him). Jesus connects here the end of the temple with the coming of what he has been teaching from the moment he began his ministry, which of course is the kingdom of God. So let’s begin…
“And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and 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.”” Luke 21:5-9 ESV
First thing – Jesus disciples were fisherman, we might say they were country boys. They were very impressed, bring in Jerusalem, with the temple and the temple complex. And very impressive it was. Look at how Mark puts it – “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”” Mark 13:1 ESV. They were very impressed with the architectural achievement that was the great Jewish temple complex, which had been under construction for over 40 years. Jesus Himself, however, seemed thoroughly unimpressed didn’t he? “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.” Nothing but brick and mortar. This is the second time in just a few days that Jesus had made this prediction. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.
His disciples ask the question I might have asked at this point. And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” Okay, you keep talking about it. WHEN??!! 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. World history in a nutshell. We are always led astray. When Jesus says here many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’, he doesn’t mean people will come saying “I am Jesus“, or even “I do this in Jesus name“. No, he’s talking specifically to a Jewish audience, and audience waiting for a messiah, a savior. And history bears out the truth of what Jesus said, there were many who came before and after Jesus claiming to be Messiah, claiming to bring salvation for the Jewish people. When I say this is world history in a nutshell, this is not just limited to the experience of the Jewish people. Throughout history, even today, leaders rise up claiming to be the one to save us, claiming to be our Messiah. Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t. But Jesus tells his disciples, that at least for those that would come in the decades following his own death, burial and resurrection, they would be wrong. 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. Jesus is teaching in or about AD 30 here. He is teaching on “the end” to his disciples, telling them what they should look for to know the end was near. Wars and tumults will come, he told them. And wars and tumults did come. The 60s were a tumultuous, crazy time. Not the 1960s, the the 0060s. Wars, civil wars, Jewish uprisings against Rome. In the year 68 Rome went through 4 governors. In one year. There were assassinations, people killing each other all over. All leading up to “the end”. The end of the temple and the temple age, which Jesus tied to the coming of the kingdom of God.
The year 66 brought the beginning of the “Jewish War”, called that because the history is told by the Romans, because they ultimately won the war. The war was not without some major Jewish victories. The end did not come at once. But eventually, enough got to be enough.
And yes, we shall return.