Wednesday in Holy Week 2019
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
…‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 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, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
• Luke 21:5-6, 20-28
Luke is not writing about “the Second Coming” in this text, nor was Jesus talking about it. Continuing the theme of the Temple as he moves throughout Jerusalem in Holy Week, Jesus now directly foretells the destruction of Israel’s sacred landmark. What he had earlier enacted in prophetic demonstration and narrated in parabolic allegory, he now proclaims openly.
Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies. Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles. Great distress, wrath, and violence will fill the city. Portents in the earth and sky will announce the coming devastation.
The Temple, the most beautiful building one could imagine, adorned and decorated by the skill and love of hundreds of years, and occupying the central place in the national life, religion, and imagination — the Temple itself would be torn down. It had come to stand for the perversion of Israel’s call that Jesus had opposed throughout his public career. If he was right, the present Temple was wrong; if God was to vindicate him, that would have to include the Temple’s destruction.
• Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone, p. 251
“The coming of the son of man” in this text should be understood in terms of Daniel 7. In this text, the son of man comes, not from heaven to earth, but to God’s throne in heaven where he and the people of God are vindicated against the nations that oppress them. Even so, Jesus will be vindicated as Lord over the nations, enthroned in the heavens, and his followers rescued.
‘Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ (Luke 21:36)
Jesus’ first followers had been warned. In just a few days, Jesus’ own experience at the hands of the earthly powers would further portend the difficult road ahead for them.
But then — the hope of vindication.