Luke 21

 

 

The Widow’s Mite (vs. 1-4)

 

We find this little sketch only here and in Mark 12:41-44. The Master was sitting —

resting, probably, after the effort of the great denunciation of the scribes and

Pharisees — in the covered colonnade of that part of the temple which was

open to the Jewish women. Here was the treasury, with its thirteen boxes

in the wall, for the reception of the alms of the people. These boxes were

called shopheroth, or trumpets, because they were shaped like trumpets,

swelling out beneath, and tapering upward into a narrow mouth, or

opening, into which the alms were dropped. Some of these “trumpets”

were marked with special inscriptions, denoting the destination of the

offerings.

 

1 “And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.”

It is not improbable that a special stream of almsgivers were just then passing through

the temple court, many being specially impressed by the solemn words they had just

been listening to.

 

2 “And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.”  The

 (λεπτόν – lepton - mite ) was the smallest current coin. Two of these little

pieces were the smallest legal offering which could be dropped into the

trumpet.” But this sum, as the Heart-reader, who knew all things, tells us

(v. 4), was every particle of money she had in the world; and it was this

splendid generosity on the part of the poor solitary widow which won the

Lord’s praise, which has touched the hearts of so many generations since,

which has stirred up in so many hearts an admiration of an act so strangely

beautiful, but well-nigh inimitable.  3 “And He said, Of a truth I say unto

you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:  4  For all these

have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her

penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

 

                       

 

                        Worth in the Estimate of Wisdom (vs. 1-4)

 

What is the real worth of a human action? Surely, to us who are acting

every wakeful hour of life, a very serious question. How shall we decide

that an action of ours is worthy or unworthy, and what is the standard by

which we shall estimate the comparative excellence of worthy deeds? Our

text gives us one principle by which to judge. There are, however, two

others which are essentially Christian, that should be placed in the

foreground. Acts are worthy:

 

·         AS THEY ARE USEFUL; as they tend to promote well-being. And here

we should note that their usefulness is greater:

 

Ø      As they affect character rather than circumstance.

 

Ø      As they are free from drawback; for the usefulness of many a course of

action is the difference between the intentional good and the incidental

evil that is wrought.

 

Ø      As they are permanently influential and therefore reproductive. Many a

deed, being done, is done with; it has no appreciable results; but many

another is as seed in the soil — there is a fruitful harvest to be reaped

from it in the after-time.

 

·         ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THEY ARE DONE. If

useful things are done in the spirit of rivalry, or for the purpose of display,

or in the hope of social or material remuneration, their worth in God’s

sight is nothing or next to nothing. If they are done to honor and to please

Jesus Christ, or prompted by pure benevolence, or in the spirit of filial

obedience, they have a real worth and are the objects of Divine approval.

But the teaching of our text is that actions are worthy:

 

·         MEASURED BY THEIR UNSELFISHNESS. If at heart they are

selfish, then in the judgment of God they are without virtue; in proportion

to their generosity, and that is to say, to their costliness, they are beautiful,

and even noble.

 

Ø      The gift of money. The widow’s mite was more in the sight of God than

the rich men’s gold; and it was so because they gave of their abundance a

sum the loss of which they would not feel — a sum that entailed no

reduction of their comfort and constituted no sacrifice at all; but she gave

all that she had — a sum she would miss much, a truly generous sacrifice.

How often we applaud the donation of some hundreds of dollars, when

the quarters contributed by some struggling worker has a higher place in

the heavenly ledger!

 

Ø      The gift of time. The man whose easy circumstances allow him to give

much time to religion or philanthropy may be less worthy and may be

making a really smaller contribution than he who, pressed hard by

pecuniary obligations and having a heavy burden of family responsibility to

carry, yet squeezes a few hours from toilful days to lend a helping hand to

the cause of Christ and of man. The horae subscecivae (leisure hours)

are of more account than many leisure days.  (I highly recommend

The Preciousness of Time - # 6 – this web site – by Jonathan Edwards –

December 1734 – CY – 2012)

 

Ø      Active service in the field of Christian labor. Some men are so

constituted that they can render service in the pulpit, on the platform, in

the class-room, almost without cost; they can speak without previous

preparation and without subsequent exhaustion. But others can only serve

at much cost to themselves; their strength is taxed to be ready for the hour

of opportunity, they expend themselves freely in the act of utterance or in

the outpouring of sympathy and they know what the miseries of prostration

mean. A slight service, as reckoned by the time-table or the census, on the

part of these latter may be more than equal to very prominent and much

appreciated work rendered by the former.

 

Ø      The sacrifice of life. It might seem that those who gave their life for

their Lord or for their kind were all offering a gift of the same value.

But not so. Life has very different values at different stages. It is

comparatively little for the man who has spent his days and his powers

to surrender the short and uninteresting remainder; it is much for the

young man who has all the pleasures and prizes of life within his reach

to part with the bright, inviting future in order to serve his fellows; the

deed is nobler, for the sacrifice is greater.

 

o        Let us take care that we do not judge by the appearance only,

 or we shall be unjust.

 

o        Let us be sure that every true act of worthy service is appreciated

 and will be owned of Christ.

 

 

The Admiration of the Temple and Its Impending Ruin  (vs. 5-7)

 

5 “And as some spake of the temple,” - After the Lord’s remark upon the alms-

giving of the rich men and the poor widow to the treasury of the temple, the Master

left the sacred building for His lodging outside the city walls. As far as we know,

His comment upon the widow’s alms was His last word of public teaching. On their

way home, while crossing the Mount of Olives, they apparently halted for a brief rest.

It was then that some of His friends called attention to the glorious prospect of the

temple, then lit up by the setting sun. It was, no doubt, then in all its perfect beauty,

a vast glittering mass of white marble, touched here and there with gold and

color. Whosoever had not gazed on it, said the old rabbis, had not seen the

perfection of beauty. It is possible that the bystander’s remark was

suggested by the memory of the last bit of Divine teaching they had

listened to. “Lord, is not the house on Zion lovely? But if only such gifts as

those you have just praised with such unstinting praise had been made,

never had that glorious pile been raised in honor of the Eternal King.”

More probable, however, the sight of the great temple, then bathed in the

golden glory of the fast-setting sun, recalled some of the Master’s sayings

of that eventful day, notably such as, “Your house is left unto you

desolate (ch. 13:35; Matthew 23:38), which occurred in the famous twice-

spoken apostrophe, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the

 prophets!” (Ibid; Ibid). “What, Lord I will that house, so great, so perfect in

its beauty, so loved, the joy of the whole earth, — will that house be left

desolate and in shapeless ruins?”-  “how it was adorned with goodly

stones” – The enormous size of the stones and blocks of marble with which

the temple of Jerusalem was built excited the surprise of Titus when the city fell.

Josephus mentions (‘Bell. Jud.,’ v. 5) that some of the leveled blocks of marble 

or stone were forty cubits long and ten high. And gifts; better rendered, sacred

 offerings, such as the “golden vine,” with its vast clusters, the gift of Herod —

which probably suggested the discourse, “I am the true Vine” (reported in John

15.) — such as crowns, shields, vessels of gold and silver, presented by princes

and others who visited the holy house on Zion. The temple was rich in these votive

offerings. The historian Tacitus, for instance, calls it “a temple of vast wealth”

(‘Hist.,’ 5. 8) - “and gifts, He said,”

 

6 “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the

which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not

be thrown down.” The Lord’s words were fulfilled, in spite of the strong wish

of Titus to spare the temple. Josephus, writing upon the utter demolition of the city

and temple, says that, with the exception of Herod’s three great towers and

part of the western wall, the whole circuit of the city was so thoroughly

leveled and dug up that no one visiting it would believe that it had ever

been inhabited (‘Bell. Jud. 7:1. 1).

 

 

The Destructible and the Indestructible (vs. 5-6)

 

We have our Lord’s own authority for comparing the temple with a human being

(John 2:19). He, however, compared it with His body; we may without any

impropriety make the comparison with a human spirit — with the man himself.

We look at it in regard to its destructibleness.

 

  • THE BUILDING ITSELF, AND OUR BEING ITSELF. The temple

was the pride and the delight of every Jew. Among other things that

gratified him, he rejoiced in its strength; he felt that it was secure.

Generations of men would come and go, but that building would remain.

Built of the most durable materials, it would defy the action of the

elements; placed in the strong city and guarded with such ramparts, the

enemy would assail it in vain. Where it then stood, there after many

centuries it would be found. But the Jew was wrong; already those

elements were at work which would bring on the fatal conflict, and that

generation was not to pass (v. 33) until that glorious fabric should be

cast down and “not one stone left upon another.” A very slight thing in

comparison with such a great and imposing structure seems a human being

How easily destroyed I “crushed before the moth;” “destroyed between the

morning and the evening” (Job 4:19).  Yet is there within the compass of the

smallest and feeblest man that which is more lasting than the temple, that

which will survive the strongest structure that art or nature ever reared. Not

that the human soul is absolutely indestructible: “He can create and he [can]

destroy it.” But IT IS CREATED AND INTENDED FOR

IMMORTALITY!  And if only it be on the side of truth and in the

service of God — in Christ Jesus, it is destined for immortality; it will

survive the strongest temples and the most impregnable castles;

no wrath of man, no lapse and wear of time, no shock of material forces,

can destroy it; IT IS INDESTRUCTABLE!

 

  • ITS STRENGTH AND BEAUTY, AND OUR OWN. The temple was

adorned with goodly stones and gifts.” But strong as these massive

stones were, and carefully as those gifts were guarded, the day came, and

came in the experience of that very generation, when not one stone

was left upon another, and nothing of the exquisite offerings was preserved;

everything perished in the fire or was ploughed up by the ruthless share. Now,

there is one thing which no fire can consume and no violence shatter a

spiritually strong and spiritually beautiful character; a holy and lovely

character rooted in Christ and sustained by His indwelling Spirit.

Buildings massive and solid, fortunes large and brilliant, kingdoms fortified by

Great armies and costly navies, — these may be broken to pieces and perish.

but the character of a Christian man, who is simply loyal to his Master, cannot

be broken. Character that is not rooted in faith and that is not sustained by

devotion may fall and be broken, and great and sad is the fall of it. But

 

o       let a man build on the foundation which is laid for it, even Jesus Christ;

o       let him abide in Christ by a living faith;

o       let him seek the continual sustenance of the Spirit of God;

 

and no opposing or wasting forces will touch him to harm him. The strength

and beauty of his character will remain, will become stronger and fairer with

the passing years, will be the object of commendation when the eye of the

great Judge shall rest upon them at last.

 

7  And they asked Him, saying, Master, but when shall these

things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to

pass?” Mark 13:3  tells us that these questioners were Peter and James, John

and Andrew. They said to their Master, “When shall these things be, and

what sign shall precede them?” They asked their question with mingled

feelings of awe and gladness: of awe, for the ruin of their loved temple, and

all that would probably accompany the catastrophe, was a dread thought;

of gladness, for they associated the fall of city and temple with the manifestation

of their Lord in glory. In this glory they would assuredly share. But they wished

to know more respecting the times and seasons of the dread event. Of late the

disciples had begun dimly to see that no Messianic restoration such as they had

been taught to expect was contemplated by their Master. They were recasting

their hopes, and this solemn prediction they read in the light of the late sad and

gloomy words which He had spoken of Himself and His fortunes. Perhaps He

would leave them for a season and then return, and, amid the crash of the ruined

city and temple, set up His glorious kingdom. But they longed to know when

this would be; hence the question of the four. 

 

The Lord’s answer treated, in its  first and longer portion, exclusively of the

destruction of Jerusalem and its temple — the fair city and the glorious

house on which they were then gazing, glorified in the light of the sunset

splendor; then, as He spoke, gradually the horizon widened, and the Master

touched upon the fortunes of the great world lying beyond the narrow pale

of the doomed, chosen people. He closes His grand summary of the world’s

fortunes By a sketch of His own return in glory. The disciples’ hearts must

have sunk as they listened; for HOW MANY AGES LAY BETWEEN

“NOW” AND “THEN?”  Yet was the great prophecy full of comfort, and

in later days was of inestimable practical value to the Jerusalem Christians. The

discourse, which extends from vs. 8-36, has been divided into four divisions.

 

  • The apparent signs of the great catastrophe, which must not Be

mistaken for true signs (vs. 8b-19).

  • The true sign, and the destruction of Jerusalem, which will immediately

follow it, with the time of the Gentiles, which will be connected with it

(vs. 20-24).

  • THE COMING OF THE LORD  which will bring this period to an end

(vs. 25-27).

  • The practical application (vs. 28-36).

 

 

Signs of the Great Castatrophe (vs. 8-19)

 

The apparent signs which would show themselves, but which must not be mistaken

for the true signs immediately preceding THE CATASTROPHE!

 

8 “And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall

come in my name, saying, I am Christ;” -  Many of these pretenders appeared

in the lifetime of the apostles. Josephus mentions several of these impostors

(‘Ant.,’ 20:8 §§ 6-10; ‘Bell. Jud.,’ 2:13. § 5). Theudas, one of these pretenders,

 is referred to in Acts 21:38 (see, too, Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 20:5. § 1). Simon Magus

announced that he was Messiah. His rival Dositheus, his disciple Menander,

advanced similar pretences.  (See Matthew 24:5).  While many of these false

Messiahs appeared in the interval between the Lord’s ascension and the Jewish war,

there is no evidence that any one arose claiming this title before the beginning of His

ministry. It was necessary, He infers, that the true Christ should first appear and

be rejected by the great body of the nation, before they were judicially given

 over to the DELUSIONS OF THE FALSE CHRISTS! -  “and the time

draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.”

 

9 “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified:

for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and

by.  10  Then said He unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and

kingdom against kingdom:”  Josephus the Jewish, and Tacitus

the Roman, historian — the former in his ‘Jewish Wars,’ and the latter in

his ‘Annals’ — describe the period which immediately followed the

Crucifixion as full of wars, crimes, violences, earthquakes. “It was a time,”

says Tacitus, “rich in disasters, horrible with battles, torn with seditions,

savage even in peace itself.”

 

11 “And great earthquakes shall be in divers places,” - These seem to have

been very frequent during the period; we hear of them in Palestine, Italy, Greece,

Asia Minor, Crete, Syria - “and famines, and pestilences;” -  The Jewish and

pagan historians of this time — Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, and others — enumerate

several memorable instances of these scourges in this eventful time - “and fearful sights

and great signs shall there be from heaven.” Among the former may be especially

enumerated the foul and terrible scenes connected with the proceedings of

the Zealots (see Josephus,, Bell. Jud.,’ 4:3. § 7; v. 6. § 1, etc.). Among the

great signs would be the rumor of monstrous births; the cry, ‘Woe! woe!’

for seven and a half years of the peasant Jesus, son of Hanan; the voice and

sound of departing guardian-angels; and the sudden opening of the vast

brazen temple gate which required twenty men to move it.

 

12 “But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute

you,” -  The Master continues His prophetic picture. From speaking generally of

wars, and disasters, and tumults, and awful natural phenomena, which would mark

the sad age in which His hearers were living, He proceeded to tell them of things

which would surely befall them. But even then, though terrible trials would be their

lot, they were not to be dismayed, nor to dream that the great catastrophe He had

been predicting was yet at hand. Some doubt exists as to the meaning of (πρό -

pro - before) in this twelfth verse.  It usually has been understood in a temporal sense,

i.e. “Before all the wars, etc., I have been telling you of, you will be persecuted.”

A more definite sense is, however, produced by giving the word πρό (before) the

signification of “before,” equivalent to “more important” — “more important for

you as signs will be the grave trials you will have to endure: even these signs must

not dismay you, or cause you to give up your posts as teachers, for the end will

not be heralded even by these personal signs.” - “delivering you up to the

synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for

my name’s sake.”  What may be termed instances of many of these special

persecutions are detailed in the Acts (see, for instance, Acts 5:40; and portions

of chapters  6, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 21, and following). 13  And it shall turn to you

for a testimony. 14  Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before

what ye shall answer:”

 

 

 

                                    Afterwards (v. 13)

 

“No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:

nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”

(Hebrews 12:11)  Concerning any course we take the question how it affects us

now is not so important as is the question to what it leads, or, in the words of the

text, “to what it turns.” And while that which is very pleasant often “turns to”

much that is painful and bitter, or even shameful (see Revelation 10:10), on the

other hand, that which is very trying and even saddening at the time often “turns to”

an issue that is full of honor and of joy. The context suggests that:

 

·         PERSECUTION TURNS TO TESTIMONYto a most valuable

proof of sincerity and faithfulness. When a man endures the blows and

buffetings of the cruel hand of the persecutor, “we know the proof of him;”

we write him down a true, loyal, noble servant of Christ. To how many

men, not of the earliest age only but of all ages, has this steadfastness in the

hour of trial been accepted by us as a “testimony” of the very greatest

worth (“And it shall turn to you for a testimony”, so that their names are

treasured by us as those of men that have done highest honor to their race!

And their martyr-sufferings have turned to a testimony in the heavenly country;

they have gained for them there the commendation of their Lord and the

greeting of their glorified brethren. When, from “wandering in deserts, and

in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:38), the

persecuted Christians of Madagascar came forth to be welcomed by those

who were then living under a kindly rule, they were greeted as such faithful

and heroic men deserved to be; their persecution had turned into a testimony.

In a similar way we may say that:

 

·         TOIL TURNS INTO ACHIEVEMENT. The toil of the desk, of the

field, of the shop, of the factory, may be hard and wearisome; our back

may bend beneath our burden; our mind may be strained to its utmost

capacity of continuance; but let us take courage and work on at our task;

further on is the precious goal of achievement; after a while we shall look

with unspeakable satisfaction on the work that has been done, the result

that has been reached.

 

·         PRIVATION TURNS INTO ENRICHMENT. Sad and serious

indeed are the privations, the losses, which are suffered when men are

suddenly reduced in their temporal possessions, or when they are bereaved

of near relatives or most intimate friends. Yet is there something more than

compensation when the loss of the one leads, as it has often led, to the

enrichment of the soul, by its finding refuge in God and in His service; or

when the loss of the other has brought to the soul the fullness of the

sympathy and friendship of Jesus Christ; privation has turned to

enrichment.

 

·         SERVICE TURNS INTO RULE. The soldier in the ranks becomes an

officer of the army; the apprentice becomes the master; by long and faithful

service in any one of the fields of human activity we prepare to rule. Thus

is it in the spiritual realm. Obedience to Divine law turns into a perfect self-

command, which is another name for liberty. And a lifelong service of

Jesus Christ will turn to an occupancy of that heavenly sphere for which

our fidelity shall have fitted us; the “faithful and wise servant” his Lord will

make ruler over all his goods” (Matthew 24:45-47). Faithful service

here “turns to” happy and helpful rule hereafter.

 

·         PATIENT WAITING TURNS TO BLISSFUL PARTICIPATION.

Some souls have much waiting for the hour of deliverance, for the

redemption of our body; it is a weary and a trying time. To “learn to wait”

is the hardest of all lessons. But though the night seem very long, the

morning will come in time; and if the steadfast soul wait patiently the holy

will of God, the long endurance shall turn to a full and joyous participation

in the glory that is to be revealed — the “glorious liberty of the children of

God.”  (Romans 8:21)

 

15 “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall

not be able to gainsay nor resist.”  Instances of the splendid fulfillment of this

promise are supplied in the “Acts” report of Stephen’s speech ( ch.7), and Paul’s

defense spoken before the Roman governor Felix (ch. 25) and before King Agrippa

(ch.26.).

 

16 “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and

friends;” - His disciples must be prepared to pay, as the price of their friendship with

Him, the sacrifice of all home and domestic life and peace. How often in the records

of the early Christians are these terrible sufferings added to public persecution!

Literally, His own would have very often to give up mother, father, friends, for His sake

and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.”  This was literally true in the

case of several of those then listening to Him.  (If I am not mistaken, I believe that all

of Christ’s disciples died a martyr’s death, except John, who was imprisoned on the

Isle of Patmos, and Judas who committed suicide after betraying Christ – CY – 2012)

 

17 “And ye shall be hated of all men for my Name’s sake.” All the records of

early Christianity unite in bearing witness to the universal hatred with which the new

sect were regarded by pagans as well as Jews.  (Even today, this is still true as

the last half century of the influence of The American Civil Liberties Union,

controlled by pagans and Jews, attests!  - CY – 2012)  The words of the Roman

Jews reported in Acts 28:22 well sum this up, “As concerning this sect, we know

 that everywhere it is spoken against” (see, too, Acts 24:5 and I Peter 2:12).

The Roman writers Tacitus, Pliny, and Suctonius, bear the same testimony.

 

18 “But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” Not, of

course, to be understood literally; for compare v.16. Bengel’s comment

accurately paraphrases it:  The words, too, had a general fulfillment; for the

Christian community of Palestine, warned by this very discourse of the

Lord’s, fled in time from the doomed city, and so escaped the extermination

which overtook the Jewish people in the great war which ended in the fall

of Jerusalem (A.D. 70).

 

19 “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Quiet, brave patience in all

difficulty, perplexity, and danger, was the attitude pressed upon the believers of the

first days by the inspired teachers. Paul constantly strikes this note.

 

 

 

Persecution (12-19)

 

The Lord states that persecution of His people would precede national and natural

troubles. War, earthquake, and pestilence would be the providential judgment upon

unrighteous persecution. But the persecuted witnesses should receive the inspiration

needful to speak resistlessly. They might be betrayed and martyred, but no real injury

would overtake them. “There shall not an hair of your head perish” (v. 18).

In this remarkable deliverance of our Lord about persecution He implies that His

people are really imperishable. The world might do its best to annihilate

them by fire and sword; their bones might be scattered, no marble tells

whither; but the Lord who loves and prizes His people’s dust will

reorganize the scattered remains, and demonstrate how absolutely

imperishable His people are.  (I recommend Ezekiel   study of God’s use

of the word “know” – this web site – CY – 2012)  Hence He urges patience.

“In your patience,  He declares, “ye shall win your souls.” So that it was

a most wonderful preparation of these marked men for martyrdom and all

preceding tribulation. Were we more dependent on Divine inspirations, we

should be more calm and influential before a hostile world.

 

 

·         THE LORD’S PEOPLE OUGHT CONSEQUENTLY TO BE

WATCHING AND PRAYING FOR THE ADVENT. (vs. 34-38.)

And in the conclusion of this discourse our Lord clearly indicates:

 

Ø      That it is possible to escape the judgments which are coming

 on the earth before the advent. For there is no merit in allowing

one’s self to be involved in judgments which others by their unbelief

have invited. It is our duty to escape, if possible, the catastrophe.

(Genesis 19:17)

 

Ø      It can only be by a watchful and prayerful spirit. Self

indulgence, everything that would dull our sense of the impending

advent, must be avoided. It is to come as a thief and a snare

upon those that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (v.35).

Hence the imperative necessity of watching. And it is prayer which

will help us in our watching. We must wrestle with the coming King,

that He may count us worthy to escape the world’s judgments and

to stand before Him.  (v. 36)

 

Ø      How great a privilege it will be to be permitted to stand in

the presence of the SON OF MAN!   No such privilege is afforded

even by the greatest of earthly kings. It becomes us, therefore, to be

in downright earnest about this privilege, and by persevering prayer

to secure it.

 

·         OUR LORD GAVE THE DISCIPLES THE EXAMPLE OF THE

WATCHFUL PRAYER REQUIRED. (vs. 37-38.) For it would seem

that, in the closing days, the people came so early to the temple to be

taught, that He could not go as far as Bethany to spend the night. He went

out, therefore, at nightfall to the Mount of Olives, and spent the night

watches more in prayer than in sleep. He was showing what

PERSEVERING PRAYER  in the crises of history must be.

Let our Lord’s Gethsemane habits call each of us to private and

patient prayer such as will alone secure the proper public spirit.

 

 

 

            Inevitable Trial and Unfailing Resources (vs. 14-19)

 

Here we have one more illustration of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ toward His

apostles. So far was He from encouraging in them the thought that their path would

be one of easy conquest and delightful possession, that He was frequently warning

them of a contrary experience. It was not His fault if they failed to anticipate hardship

and suffering in the near future; He told them plainly that His service meant the cross,

with all its pain and shame. In reference to the apostles of our Lord, we have here:

 

  • THE SEVERITY OF THE TRIALS THAT WERE BEFORE THEM.

Jesus Christ had already indicated the fact that fidelity to His cause would

entail severe loss and trial; here He goes into detail. He says that it will

include:

 

Ø      General execration. They would be “hated of all men.” This is

a trial of no small severity; to move among men as if we were unworthy

of their fellowship; to be condemned, to be despised, to be shunned by

all men; to be the object of universal reprobation; — this is a blow

which, if it “breaks no bones,” cuts into the spirit and wounds the

heart with a deep injury.  Fidelity to their Master and to their

mission would entail this.

 

Ø      Desertion and treachery on the part of their own friends and

Kindred (v. 16).  Very few sorrows can be more piercing, more

intolerable, than desertion by our own family, than betrayal by our

dearest friends; it is the last and worst calamity when “our own

familiar friend lifts up his heel against us” (As Judas did to

Christ – Psalm 41:9; John 13:18).  Those who abandoned the

old faith, or rather the Pharisaic version of it, and who followed

Christ had to be prepared for this domestic and social sorrow.

 

Ø      Death. (v. 16.)

 

  • THE UNFAILING RESOURCES ON WHICH THEY COULD

DEPEND.

 

Ø      Everything they suffered would be endured for the sake of

Jesus Christ; all would be “for my Name’s sake” (v. 17). We

know how the thought that they were experiencing wrong and

undergoing shame for Christ’s sake could not only alleviate,

not only dissipate sorrow, but even turn it into joy (see Acts 5:41;

Philippians 1:29). To suffer for Christ’s sake could give a thrill of

sacred joy such as no pleasures could possibly afford.

 

Ø      They would have the shield of the Master’s power (v.18). Not a hair

of their head should perish until He allowed it. That mighty Friend who

had kept them in perfect safety, though enemies were many and fierce,

would be as near to them as ever. His presence would attend them,

and no shaft should touch them which He did not wish to hurt them.

 

Ø      They should have the advantage of His animating Spirit (s. 14-15).

Whenever wisdom or utterance should be needed, the Spirit of Christ

would put thoughts into their mind and words into their lips. His

animating power should be upon them, should dwell within them.

 

Ø      They should triumph in the end; not, indeed, by martial victories, but

`by unyielding loyalty. “In patience” (in persistency in the right course)

they would possess their souls.” Losing their life in noble martyrdom,

they would save it (ch. 9:24); loving their life, they would lose it; but

hating their life in this world, they would keep it unto. life

eternal (John 12:25). The bright promise of an unfading crown might

cheer them on their way, and help them to pursue without flagging the

path of devoted loyalty.

 

  • SIMILAR TRIALS AWAIT THE FAITHFUL NOW. The dislike, the

aversion, the opposition, of some, if not the active and strong hatred of all; the

opposition, perhaps quiet enough, and yet keen and injurious enough, of

our own friends or relatives; loss, struggle, suffering, if not fatal

consequences of enmity. Downright loyalty to Jesus Christ, tenacity and

intensity of conviction, usually carry persecution and trial with them.  “Yea,

all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

(II Timothy 3:12)  “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good

Soldier of Jesus Christ.”  (Ibid. ch. 2:3)

 

Ø      We have THE SAME RESOURCES  the apostles had.

 

o       The constant, sustaining, inspiring sense that we are enduring

all for Christ our Savior — for Him who suffered all things for us.

o       His protecting care.

o       His indwelling, upholding Spirit.

o       The strong assurance that He will cause us to triumph, that He

will help us to be faithful unto death, and will then give us the

crown of life; that by “patient continuance in well-doing”

(patience, perseverance) we shall have “eternal life”

(shall possess our souls).  (See Romans 2:7)

 

 

The True Signs to be on the Watch for (vs. 20-24)

 

20 “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that

the desolation thereof is nigh.  21 “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to

the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let

not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.  22 For these be the days

of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  23  But woe

unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for

there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.”

This is to be the sign that the end has come for temple, city, and people. Wars

and rumors of wars, physical portents, famine and pestilence succeeding each

other with a terrible persistence, all these will, in the forthcoming years, terrify

and perplex men’s minds, presages of something which seems impending.

But His people are to bear in mind that these were not the immediate

signs of the awful ruin He was foretelling. But when the holy city was

invested, when hostile armies were encamped about her — then this would

surely come to pass, and some of these very bystanders would behold it — then,

and not till then, let His people take alarm. Let them at once and at all cost

flee from temple and city, for there would be no deliverance, God had left

His house, given up the chosen people. Jerusalem shall be trodden down of

the Gentiles” (v. 24). It is probable that these solemn words of the

Master, becoming, as they did, at a comparatively early date, the property

of the Church, saved the Christian congregations in Palestine from the fate

which overtook the Jewish nation in the last great war. Clearly warned by

Jesus that the gathering of the Roman armies in the neighborhood of

Jerusalem was the unmistakable sign of the end of the Jewish polity, the

Christian congregations fled to Pella beyond Jordan. The Jews never

ceased to the last trusting that deliverance from on high would be

vouchsafed to the holy city and temple. The Christians were warned by the

words of the Founder of their faith — words spoken nigh forty years

before the siege — that the time of mercy was hopelessly past.

 

24 “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away

captive into all nations,” -  It is computed that 1,100,000 Jews perished in the

terrible war when Jerusalem fell (A.D. 70). Renan writes of this awful slaughter,

that it would seem as though the whole (Jewish) race had determined upon a

rendezvous for extermination’’-  “and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the

Gentiles,” -  After incredible slaughter and woes, Titus, the Emperor Vespasian’s

son, who commanded the Roman armies, ordered the city (of Jerusalem) to be

razed so completely as to look like a spot which had never been inhabited

(Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud.,’ v. 10. § 5). The storied city has been rebuilt on the

old site — but without the temple — (It is my understanding that the

Dome of the Rock, the second most holy site in the Moslem world, is

built upon the site.  It is also my understanding that the Jews are wanting

to rebuild the temple today but do not believe in tearing down religious

shrines!!????  I have heard that they have the materials to build it and

that it is to be made of Bedford stone from Indiana!!?????  The Bible

seems to teach in Zechariah 14 that an earthquake will give the Jewish

people an opportunity to rebuild the temple – [I typed in Temple

Jerusalem Bedford stone – in my browser and in 1967 Israel ordered

500 railroad cars of Bedford stone from Indiana -  CY – 2012)

and since that fatal day, more than eighteen centuries ago, no Jew save on

bare sufferance has dwelt in the old loved and sacred spot. In turn, Roman

and Saracen, Norseman and Turk, have trodden Jerusalem down. Literally,

indeed, have the sad words of Jesus been fulfilled – “until the times of the

Gentiles be fulfilled.” These few words carry on the prophecy past our

own time (how far past?) — carry it on close to the days of the end. “The

times of the Gentiles” signify the whole period or epoch which must elapse

between the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the beginning of

the times of the end when the Lord will return. In other words, these

times of the Gentiles” denote the period during which they — the Gentiles

— hold the Church of God in place of the Jews, deposal from that position

of favor and honor. These words separate the prophecy of Jesus which

belongs solely to the ruin of the cry and temple from the eschatological

portion of the same prophecy. Hitherto the Lord’s words referred solely to

the fall of Jerusalem and the ruin of the Jewish race. Now begins a short

prophetic description of the end and of the coming of the Son of man in

glory.

 

 

The Prophecy of the Coming of the Son of Man in Glory

and the Signs which Shall Precede this Advent (vs. 25-27)

 

25 “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars;

and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the

waves roaring;  26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking

after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of

heaven shall be shaken.  27 And then shall they see the Son of man

coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  The Lord continues His

solemn prophecy respecting things to come. Now, the question of the four

disciples — to which this great discourse was the answer — was, when were

they to look for that awful ruin of city and temple of which their loved Master

spoke? But they, it must be remembered, in their own minds closely connected

 the temples fall with some glorious epiphany of their Master, in which they

should share. He answers generally their formal question as to the temple,

describing to them the very signs they are to look for as heralding the

temple’s fall. He now proceeds to reply to their real query respecting the

glorious epiphany. The temples ruin, that belonged to the period in which

they were living; but the glorious epiphany, that lay in a far distance.

“See,” He said, “city and temple will be destroyed; this catastrophe some of

you will live to see. The ruin will be irreparable; a new epoch will set in, an

epoch I call ‘the times of the Gentiles.’ (I should think that with the

acquisition of the control of Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli

War, that it is logical that the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled!!?? – CY –

2012)  These once despised peoples will have their turn, for I shall be their

Light. Ages will pass before these ‘times of the Gentiles’ shall be fulfilled,

but the end will come (II Peter 3:10), and then, and not till then, will the

Son of man come in glory. Listen; these shall be the signs which shall herald

this glorious advent:

 

o       Signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars. Matthew 24:29

supplies more details concerning these “signs.” The sun would be

darkened, and the moon would not give her light; the stars would fall

from heaven.

 

These words are evidently a memory of language used by the Hebrew prophets

to express figuratively the downfall of kingdoms. Isaiah 13:10 speaks

thus of the destruction of Babylon, and Ezekiel 32:7 of the fall of Egypt (see too

Isaiah 34:4). It is, however, probable that our Lord, while using language and

figures familiar to Hebrew thought, foreshadowed a literal fulfillment of His

words.  Our globe can be compared just before the second advent to “a ship

creaking in every timber at the moment of its going to pieces.”  Our whole solar

system shall then undergo unusual commotions. (for a concept type in your

browserFantastic Trip – for an interesting perspective.  The moving forces

(δυνάμεις dunameisforce -(literal or figurative); specially miraculous

power (usually by implication a miracle itself): — ability, abundance, meaning,

might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence,

might (wonderful) work. ) – (we get the word dynamite from here – CY –

2012), regular in their action till then, (from the creation things have worked

like clockwork with utmost precision – CY – 2012) shall be, as it were, set

free from their laws by an unknown power, and, at the end of this violent but

short distress, the world shall see Him appear” (see II Peter 3:10-12, where it

is plainly foretold that tremendous physical disturbances shall precede the

second coming of the Lord).   Also:

 

“Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the

earth.  And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the

fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of

the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high

are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.  The earth is

utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved

exceedingly.  The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be

removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon

it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.  And it shall come to pass in that day,

that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the

kings of the earth upon the earth.  And they shall be gathered together, as

 prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and

after many days shall they be visited.  Then the moon shall be confounded,

and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion,

and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.  (Isaiah 24:17-23)

 

The Son of man coming in a cloud. The same luminous cloud we read of

so often in the Pentateuch (the Shechinah glory) : the flames of the desert-

wanderings; the pillar of  cloud and fire; the same bright cloud enveloped

the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration; it received Him as He was taken

up (Acts 1:9). Nothing is said in this place as to any millennial reign of Christ

on earth. The description is that of a transitory appearance destined to effect

the work upon quick and dead — an appearance defined more particularly by

Paul in I Corinthians 15:23 and I Thessalonians 4:16-17.

 

 

Practical Teaching Respecting the Jerusalem and the Last Things. 

(vs. 28-36)

 

28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up

your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” There is no doubt that the

first reference in this verse is to the earlier part of the prophecy — the fate of

the city and the ruin of the Jewish power. “Your redemption’’ would then

signify “your deliverance from the constant and bitter hostility of the Jewish

authority.” After A.D. 70 and the fall of Jerusalem, the growth of Christianity

was far more rapid than it had been the first thirty or forty years of its

existence.  It had  no longer to cope with the skillfully ordered, relentless

opposition of its deadly Jewish foe.   (Isn’t it ironic that the Christianity that

our Lord set in order is in  these later times, once again opposed by a strong

Jewish influence in such an undermining organization as the  American Civil

Liberties Union – CY – 2012).  Yet between the lines a yet deeper meaning

is discernible. In all times the earnest Christian is on the watch for the signs

of the advent of his Lord, and the restless watch serves to keep hope alive,

for the watcher knows that that advent will be the sure herald of his

redemption from all the weariness and painfulness of this life.

 

 

The Second Redemption (v. 28)

 

“Lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Jesus Christ led

His disciples to think that beyond the redemption which He was working

out for them, and subsequent to it in time, was another great deliverance

which should prove of unspeakable value to them. This is true now of our

discipleship; we look for and we sorely need A SECOND REDEMPTION!

 

  • ITS CHARACTER. It is not, like the first, distinctively and purely

spiritual. That was; men were yearning for a political revolution and

redemption. But the kingdom of heaven was not to be “of this world;” it

was to be wholly inward and spiritual; it was to be our redemption from sin

and restoration to the favor and the likeness of our Divine Father. But the

second redemption is not distinctively and primarily that of the soul; it is to

be “the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). It will have a gracious

and beneficent effect, a redeeming and elevating influence, upon the soul;

but in the first instance it is a redemption from a troublous and trying

condition; it is being taken away, by the appearance of Christ, in the

providence of God, from a state in which happy service is almost

impossible; it is a removal from storm to calm, from hostile to friendly

forces, from turbulence to serenity; from hard conflict, or tense anxiety, or

painful suffering, to “the rest which remaineth for the people of God.”

(Hebrews 4:9)  It is a blessed and merciful change from unfavorable to

favorable conditions.

 

  • OUR HUMAN NEED OF IT. We are not of this world, we who have

been redeemed by Jesus Christ and renewed by the Spirit of God. And we

may be nobly, even grandly, victorious over it, being “always caused to

triumph (II Corinthians 2:14) by that Divine Spirit that dwells within us,

and strengthens us with all might.” (Colossians 1:11)  Yet are we

actually, and by universal experience, seriously affected by it, and we suffer

many things as we pass through it. We may suffer, as the early Christians did

(to whom these words were addressed).  Our life may be made worthless,

or worse than worthless, to us by the cruelties of our fellow-men. Or we

may suffer so much from privation of privilege, or from the struggles of daily

life, or from grief and disappointment, or from a steadily advancing

decrepitude, that we may earnestly long for this second redemption, the

redemption of our body. We may be in sore need of its approach, of its

presence.

 

  • ITS KINDLY SHADOW. It will then be much to us, perhaps

everything; that our redemption draweth nigh.

 

Ø      It is something that at any moment we may be within a step of the

heavenly sphere; for anything we know, Christ may be about to say

concerning us, “This day ye shall be with me in Paradise.”

(ch. 23:43)

Ø      It is more that we may be confident that a life of holy activity will

rapidly pass away and bring us to the day of rest and of reward.

Ø      It is very much indeed that the duration of the blessed future will prove

to be such that any number of years of earthly trouble will be nothing in

comparison.  “For I am reckon that the sufferings of this

present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory

that shall be revealed in us.”  (Romans 8:18)

Ø      It is also a truth full of hope and healing that every day spent in

faithful service or patient waiting brings us that distance nearer to

the blessedness that lies beyond.

 

“We nightly pitch our moving tent

A day’s march nearer home.”

           

            And:

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

         (Excerpt from:  A Psalm of Life

           By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

Beneath the varied and heavy burdens of time we are fain to bow our

heads; but we shall lift them up with strength and eager-hearted

expectation as we realize that every step forward is a step onward to the

heavenly horizon.

 

29 “And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 

30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves

that summer is now nigh at hand.  31 So likewise ye, when ye see these

things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

 “It is certain,” went on the Lord to say, “that summer follows the season

when the fig tree and other trees put forth their green shoots. It is no less

certain that these things — the fall of Jerusalem, and later the end of the world

will follow closely on the signs I have just told you about.”

 

32 “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pan away, till all be

fulfilled.”  In the interpretation of this verse, a verse which has

occasioned much perplexity to students, any non-natural sense for

generation” (γεμεά), such as being an equivalent for the Christian Church

(Origen and Chrysostom) or the human race (Jerome) must be at once set

aside. γεμεά - genea - generation) denotes roughly a period of thirty to

forty years.  Thus the words of the Lord here simply asserted that within

thirty or forty years all He had been particularly detailing would be fulfilled.

Now, the burden of His prophecy had been the destruction of the city and

temple, and the signs they were to look for as immediately preceding this

great catastrophe. This was the plain and simple answer to their question of

v.7, which asked “when these things should come to pass.” The words He

had added relative to the coming of the Son of man did not belong to the

formal answer, but were spoken in passing. This mighty advent the Lord

alluded to as probably a very remote event — an event certainly to be

postponed, to use His own words, “until the times of the Gentiles be

fulfilled.” Not so the great catastrophe involving the ruin of Jerusalem and

the temple, the prophecy concerning which occupied so much of the

Lord’s reply. That lay in the immediate future; that would happen in the

lifetime of some of those standing by. Before forty years had elapsed the

city and temple, now lying before them in all its strength and beauty, would

have disappeared.

 

33 “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”

 A general conclusion to the whole prophecy. “No word of mine,” said the Master,

will ever pass away unfulfilled. Some of you will even live to see the terrible

fulfillment of the first part of these utterances.  All that mighty pile of buildings

called Jerusalem will pass away, but my words which told of their coming ruin

will remain. All this vast creation, earth, and stars will disappear in their turn,

but these sayings of mine, which predict their future passing away into

nothingness, will outlive both earth and heaven.”

 

 

 

                        The immortality of Christian Truth (v. 33)

 

These striking words suggest to us:

 

·         CHRIST’S CONSCIOUS CONNECTION WITH THE ETERNAL

FATHER. Had there not been in Him a profound and abiding consciousness

that, in a sense far transcending our own experience, God dwelt in Him and

He in God, these words would have been wholly indefensible; they would

have been in the last degree immodest. Proceeding from any other than the

Son of God Himself, they would have simply repelled us, and would have

cast grave discredit on every other utterance from the same lips. It was

because He was Divine, and felt the authority which His Divinity conveyed,

that He could and did use such words as these without any trace of

assumption; without violating that “meekness and lowliness of heart”

which He claimed to possess — the possession of which neither friend nor

enemy has attempted to dispute.

 

·         THE PERMANENCE OF TRUTH COMPARED WITH THE

TRANSITORINESS OF MATTER. It is only in a limited and figurative

sense that we can speak of material things as eternal. The hour will come

when they will perish; indeed, they are perishing as we speak. The

immovable rocks, the everlasting hills, are being disintegrated by sun and

rain; the fixed earth rises and falls; the “changeless rivers” are cutting new

courses for their waters. ONLY TRUTH ABIDES, it is only the words in which

the thought of the Eternal is expressed that do not pass away. Fashions do not

touch it with their finger; revolutions do not overthrow it; dispensations

leave it in its integrity. We look particularly at:

 

·         THE IMMORTALITY OF THE THOUGHTS OF CHRIST (v. 33) 

 

Ø      We have found him a true Prophet. Events have happened

              according to His word. 

 

Ø      We are finding Him to STILL TO BE THE DIVINE

     TEACHER OF TRUTH TODAY!   He has that to say to us

which, in our better moods and worthier moments, we hunger

                        and thirst to hear. In his deathless words there are still treasured

                        for us:

o       Salvation from our sin,

o       Comforting in our sorrow,

o       Sanctity in our joy,

o       Strength in our struggle,

o       Companionship in our loneliness,

o       Peace and hope in our decline and death.

 

                        Unto whom shall we go if we sit at His feet no longer?

 

Ø      We shall find him the Source of truth in the after-life. Death will not

make His words less true, even if it makes some of them less applicable

than they are here and now. His thoughts will never lose their hold upon

our heart, never cease to affect and shape our course. The truths which

Jesus spake twenty centuries ago will beautify our life and bless our spirit

in the furthest epochs and the highest spheres of the heavenly world.

 

Ø      If we would render the truest service to ourselves, we shall do our

utmost to fill our minds with the thoughts of Christ; for these will

prepare us for any and every condition, here or hereafter, in which

we can possibly be placed.

 

Ø      If we would effectively serve our fellow man, we shall consider:

 

o       in how many ways we can impress CHRIST’S THOUGHTS

                         THE MINDS OF MEN and WEAVE THEM INTO THE

                        INSTITUTIONS OF THE WORLD. (A far cry from the

                        goals of those who find no room for God or Christ in the

                        secular!  CY – 2012)  And we shall find, at any rate, these

                                    three:

           

§         The testimony of a Christian life.

§         The utterance, in public or in private, of Christian

      doctrine.

§         The support of Christian institutions.

 

34 “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be

overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life,

and so that day come upon you unawares.  35  For as a snare shall it come

on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.  36  Watch ye

therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape

all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

The Master ended His discourse with an earnest practical reminder to His

disciples to live ever with the sure expectation of His return to judgment.

As for those who heard Him then, conscious of the oncoming doom of the

city, temple, and people, with the solemn procession of signs heralding the

impending ruin ever before their eyes, no passions or cares of earth surely

would hinder them from living the brave, pure life worthy of His servants.

As for coming generations — for the warning voice of Jesus here is equally

addressed to them — they too must watch for another and far more

tremendous ruin falling upon their homes than ever fell upon Jerusalem.

The attitude of His people in every age must be that of the “watcher”

till He come.

 

 

Christian and Unchristian Carefulness (v. 34)

 

Take care not to be overtaken and overweighted by care is the simple and

intelligible paradox of the text; in other words, have a wise care lest you

have much care that is unwise. There is a carefulness that is eminently

godly and worthy, the absence of which is not only faulty and dangerous,

but even guilty and fatal; but there is another carefulness which is an

excess, a wrong, an injury in the last degree.

 

·         A WISE ORDINATION OF GOD. Surely it is in pure kindness to us

that God has ordained that if we will not work neither shell we eat; that

possession and enjoyment involve thoughtfulness and activity on our part.

To be provided with everything we could wish for without the necessity for

habitual consideration as well as regular exertion is found to be hurtful, if

not positively disastrous to the spirit. The necessity for care, in the sense

of a thoughtful provision for this life, involves two great blessings.

 

Ø      The formation of many homely but valuable virtues — the

cultivation of the intellect, forethought, diligence, sobriety of thought

and conduct, regularity of daily habits, the practice of courtesy, and

the avoidance of offense, etc.  (I highly recommend The Book of

Virtues by William Bennett and Slouching towards Gomorrah by

Robert BorkCY – 2012)

 

Ø      The practice of piety; there is perhaps no better field in which we

can be serving God than in that of our daily duties as citizens of

this world.  Whether it be the bank, the desk, the factory, the shop, the

home, the school, — in each and in all of these there is a constant

opportunity for remembering and doing the will of God; there

will true and genuine godliness find a field for its exercise and its

growth.

 

·         OCCASION FOR FILIAL TRUST. Care, in the sense of anxiety,

about our temporal affairs is an evil to be met and mastered by Christian

thought. Christ has said to us, “Take no thought [be not anxious] for your

life (Matthew 6:25); Paul writes, “Be careful [anxious] for nothing,”

(Philippians 4:6); Peter says, Casting all your care upon Him; for

He careth for you” (I Peter 5:7). Clearly our Christian duty is to do our

best with head and hand, by thoughtfulness and diligence, to ask for God’s

direction and blessing, (“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not

in himself:  it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” –

Jeremiah 10:23),  and then to put our trust in Him, resting humbly but

confidently on His Word of promise. This is a promise where there is much

occasion for filial trustfulness. When the way is dark we must not yield to

an unspiritual anxiety, but rise to a holy, childlike faith in our heavenly

Father.

 

·         A SPHERE FOR DETERMINED LIMITATION. The great and the

growing temptation is to fill our lives and hearts with the affairs of time.

No more needful or seasonable counsel could be given us than this of our

Lord, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be overcharged with..,

the cares of this life.”  Undue and unwise carefulness about these mundane

interests does two evil things:

 

Ø      it wears out that which is good — good health, good spirits, good

temper; and it shuts out that which is best — for it excludes the

worship and the direct service of God; it leaves no time for

devout meditation, for profitable and instructive reading, for

religious exercises, for Christian work. It shuts men up to the

lesser and lower activities; it dwarfs their life, it starves their soul

(Psalm 106:15); they “lose their life itself for the sake of the means

of living.” Two things are requisite, requiring a very firm and vigorous

hand.

 

o       To resist the temptation to enlarge our worldly activities

when such enlargement means spiritual shrinkage, as it

very often does.

 

o       To insist upon it that the cares of life shall not exclude

daily communion with God and the culture of the soul.

 

If we do not exhibit this wise care against the unwise carefulness,

we shall:

 

o       displease our Divine Lord by our disobedience;

o       sacrifice ourselves to our circumstances;

o       be unready for the advancing future;

 

For “that day will come upon us unawares,” and we shall not be

worthy to stand before the Son of man”.

 

 

 

Standing Before Christ (v. 36)

 

“Watch… and pray that ye may be accounted worthy… to stand before the

Son of man.” What is involved in this worthiness? It must include our being:

 

·         PREPARED TO GIVE ACCOUNT TO HIM. We know that we shall

have to do that (Romans 14:10; II Corinthians 5:10); and we must expect,

when we do stand before the Judge, to account to Jesus Christ for

 

Ø      the relation which we have voluntarily sustained to Himself —

how we have received His invitation, and with what fullness

we have accepted Him as the Redeemer, the Friend, the

Lord of our heart and life;

 

Ø      the way in which we have served Him since we called

ourselves by His Name — i.e. how closely we have followed

Him, how obedient we have been to His commandments,

how earnest and faithful we have showed ourselves in His

cause; in fact, how true and loyal we have proved to be as

His servants here.

 

·         CONFORMED TO HIS LIKENESS, Will not our Lord expect to find

those who professed to be His disciples, who had access to so many and

such great privileges, stand before Him such as He lived and died to make

them. We know what that is. “He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from

all iniquity;” He has “called us to holiness;” He came and wrought His

work in order that He might make us to be in our spirit and character the

children of God, bearing our heavenly Father’s image. He will therefore look to

those who stand before Him as His redeemed ones for:

 

Ø      Purity of heart; the abhorrence of all that is evil, and love for

that which is good and true and pure.

 

Ø      A loving spirit; a spirit of unselfishness, of devotedness,

of generosity, of tender solicitude for the well-being of others.

 

Ø      Reverence and consecration of heart to God.

 

·         READY FOR THE HEAVENLY SPHERE, To “stand before” the

king meant to be ready to fulfill his royal behest, prepared to do at once

and to do effectively whatever he might require. To stand before our

Divine Sovereign means to be ready to do His bidding, to execute His

commandments as He shall employ us in His heavenly service. We naturally

and rightly hope that He will entrust us with the most honorable errands,

will appoint us to elevated posts, will charge us with noble occupations

that will demand enlarged ability and that will contribute great things to His

cause and kingdom. (“He said unto him, Well, thou good servant:

because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority

over ten cities.”  - ch. 19:17).  We may be sure that the devoted and faithful

discharge of our duties here will prove the best preparation for celestial

activity and usefulness,  he that is faithful in a few things now will be made

ruler over many things hereafter. He who puts out his talents here will be

found worthy to stand before the King, and to be employed by Him in

broad and blessed spheres of service there. If we would be “accounted

worthy to do this, we must “WATCH AND PRAY!”

 

Ø      We must spend much time with God — in the study of His will

and in supplication for the quickening influences of His Spirit.

 

Ø      We must often examine our own hearts, observing our progress or

retrogression, ready for the act of penitence, or of praise, or of

reconsecration as we find ourselves declining. We must also observe

the forces that are around us, and distinguish carefully between the

hostile and the friendly, between those which make for folly and for

sin and those which lead up to wisdom and to righteousness.

(“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” 

                        I Corinthians 15:33)

 

37 “And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple; and at

night He went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of

Olives.”  This brief picture of the last days of public work is retrospective.

This was how our Lord spent “Palm Sunday” and the Monday and

Tuesday of the last week. The prophetic discourse reported in this

chapter was, most probably, spoken on the afternoon of Tuesday.

After Tuesday evening He never entered the temple as a public Teacher

again. Wednesday and Thursday were spent in retirement. Thursday

evening He returned to the city to eat the last Passover with His own.

 

38 “And all the people came early in the morning to Him in the temple,

for to hear Him.”

 

 

The Last Working Day (ch 20:19-21:38)

 

It is Tuesday, the last of the Lord’s working days; for Wednesday and the

early part of Thursday were spent apparently in the quiet of His Bethany

home. A busy, trying day, crowded with events in which we see the Son of

God enduring against Himself the contradiction of sinners. (Hebrews 12:3)

Let us gather up a part of its teaching. When, in the early morning, Christ entered

the outer courts of the temple, He encountered a deputation of persons secretly

commissioned by the Pharisees to entrap Him into admissions which might

be used against Him (ch. 20:19-20). The deputation consisted (Matthew

22:16) of some of the more prominent scholars of the rabbis, and some

politicians who were attached to the Herodian dynasty. For so it often is —

a common hatred will unite those whose positions, mental or moral, are

antagonistic. This has been frequently exemplified in religious and religio-

political movements. The emissaries of priest and politician, thus leagued

together, submit their question with ceremonious politeness (Ibid. vs. 21-22).

He to whom they speak knows what is in man (v. 23). And, demanding

the penny, with the coin held before them He returns the famous sentence

on which so much has been spoken and written, which has been rendered

the catchword of heated ecclesiastical controversy (v. 24), “Whose image

and superscription hath this penny?” It is the image and superscription of

the proud Tiberius. “Then,” is the reply, “if you use his coin, give back to

him what is his due, and to God, whose is the image and superscription on

the human soul, give back what is God’s” (v. 25). The confusion of the

spies is complete. “They marveled at His answer, and held their peace”

(v. 26). As the day passes, another deputation appears on the scene. This

time the Sadducees (v. 27) measure the sword of their wit against the

Witness for God. The Sadducee mind, cold, cynical, caviling, pronouncing

all earnestness and fanaticism, with no definite views as to a life beyond the

present, but willing enough to toy over the subject — faith and the things

of faith being only a matter to be talked about — HAS ITS REPRESENTATIVE

IN ALL AGES.  And it has some trafficking with Christ. It has its problems, its

questions, its discussions. Behold an illustration of their kind in the

problem submitted as to the seven brothers (vs. 28-33). A more foolish

issue than that raised it is scarcely possible to conceive, and it might have

been treated with contemptuous silence. But truth may be taught even

though the occasion of the teaching is unworthy. And, by the incident

related, a weighty, suggestive instruction is elicited, one which gives, as by

a lightning flash, not only a glimpse into the invisible, but a discernment of

the spirit of the old Mosaic economy. First of all, disabusing the thought of

his hearers of their carnal conceptions of the resurrection-life (vs. 34-36),

He reminds them (v. 37) of the character which, by their own admission,

belonged to God; of the great covenant word which Moses uttered when

he called the Eternal “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Could they

conceive Him (v. 38) the God of mere empty names? Does not the word

imply that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not mere dust and ashes, but still

living persons, heart to heart with Him? It is not wonderful that the

quickness and keenness of the reply, and the light which it shed on human

destiny, impressed all who were present; so that the multitude hearing were

astonished at His doctrine, and from the admiring crowd (Matthew

22:23) came the approbation, echoed (v. 39) by certain of the scribes,

“Master, thou hast well said.” But not yet does the temptation cease. A

jurist, or student of the Law, accustomed to hair-splitting distinctions and

controversies over mere pin-points, exclaims, “Master, which is the great

commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:35). In the school to which

he belonged, the precepts of the moral and ceremonial law were reckoned

to be more than six hundred, although the great Rabbi Hillel reminded his

pupils that, after all, the word, “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly

with God,” (Micah 6:8) is the essence of the Law, the rest being only

commentary.  “Which commandment,” asks this lawyer, “is the greatest,

Master? What sayest thou?” Let us thank the tempting jurist whose question

evoked the golden wisdom of the emphatic enforcement of the two sentences

to which all obedience returns and from which all worthy conduct departs —

the first commandment bidding us love God with all the heart, and the second,

which is like to it, bidding us love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew

22:37-40). Pharisee, Sadducee, and scribe have all been defeated in their

trial of Jesus. It is His turn to try them. He will not let them go until He has

shown them the slowness of their minds, and left with them a question to

be afterwards inwardly digested. He puts the query, “What think ye of

Christ?” (Ibid. v.42). And when they answer, “He is the Son of

David,” He reminds them (Ibid. vs. 41-44) of the language of the psalmist,

implying that there is another than the merely filial relation: “If David call

him Lord, how is He then his Son?” Who can abide the thrusts of Jesus? No

more questions are asked. No; and pointing to His discomfited tormentors,

He preaches the terrible denunciation epitomized in (vs.45-47, here), given at

fuller length in the eight crushing woes of Matthew 23. It is a scene that

begs description — the grandest moment in the ministry of Christ, the

Prophet and King. The evangelist, guided, perhaps, by the sense of fitness

to that scene, represents the tone of the speech as changing, at the close of

the commination, from indignation hot and strong to the moaning,

saddened cry of a heart breaking with grief — the cry, already considered,

over impenitent, hard-hearted Jerusalem. So the Lord moves towards the

gate of the temple. It is on His way thither that He observes ( vs.1-

4) the action of the poor widow, who cast into one of the chests which

were placed in the temple courts her poor little all. How calm was the soul

which, even in the heat of that day of temptation, could pause, observe,

and speak of a deed apparently so insignificant! It is observable that the

last word of Christ in the temple should be one concerning the love and the

love-offering, which are better than formal sacrifices. Ever to be

remembered, too, is the sentence, “He looked up, and saw the gifts cast

into the treasury.” The gifts that men and women furtively cast, thinking

that none will observe the meanness, or the ostentatiously cast money

expecting that all will applaud the munificence, He sees. He is always

looking to the treasury; He estimates the real value of the offering. What is

the principle of the commendation? “One coin,” says an old Father, “out of

a little is better than a treasure out of much; for it is not considered how

much is given, but how much remains behind” “He went out and departed

from the temple.” It is the Ichabod,” the departing of the glory (I Samuel

4:21-22).  Thirty-five years the holy and beautiful house was left desolate:

the prediction (v. 6) as to the great costly stones was fulfilled. The ploughshare

of a fearful retribution was driven through Israel’s palace as through Israel

itself, the quitting of the temple by the Son of God was the beginning of the

end. Thenceforth it was the whited sepulchre, beautiful in appearance, but

within full of the dead bones of religion and all spiritual uncleanness

(Matthew 23:27).  Lo! the house is left to these Pharisees desolate. As the

closing feature of that great Tuesday, we behold Christ and His apostles

seated on the slope of Olivet. The golden radiance of the setting sun is flung

over the glorious city. The pinnacles of the temple, the palaces, and massive

buildings and endless houses of the Jews are, one by one, bathed in the

gorgeous reflection. There, in the vale below, are Gethsemane and the Kidron,

and around are the well-known features of the landscape so dear to the Israelite.

It is with this prospect full in His view that Jesus gives the instruction as to

THE END OF THE AGE in those mysterious intimations in which the

downfall of the city of the great King is so blended with other and greater

catastrophes that it is difficult to distinguish what relates specially to the one

and what relates specially to the others. Oh how urgent the exhortation to

vigilance! How real and solemn for all the injunction “to pray always, that

 we may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to

pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (v. 36)!

 

 

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