Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 21:5-19:

Luke BTCB

“Teacher [didaskale], but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?” (21:7). (In Matt. 24:3, the disciples add, “And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”) Jesus has much to say about the second question, but he makes no direct response to the first.

He begins by first warning them to “not be deceived” by people who “come in my name,” proclaiming themselves to be the Christ (Luke 21:8). There were such people before the fall of Jerusalem, and afterward too (cf. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.85–87; 20.97–99). Nor should anyone pay attention to such imposters who say “the time [ho kairos has eschatological portent] has drawn near” (21:8).

There are to be bona fide signals: political unrest and wars, earthquakes in various places, famines, plagues, and frightening signs in the heavens overhead (21:9–10). Yet the disciples are not to be “terrified,” “for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”

There is to be an interval, an interregnum of some kind, between these events that are coming quite soon and some as yet more distant event. Luke uses “first” (prōton) to indicate that a sequence of events is intended; “the end” (to telos) is an eschatological term that reinforces the idea of a sequence.

Alas, before that, the disciples are to suffer at the hands of various authorities, who will persecute them, turn them over to the synagogue as well as civic rulers, and cause them to be imprisoned (21:12). This will be an opportunity for them to bear witness (21:13)

But they should “settle it” in their hearts not to shore up their defenses against the day of their trials with “prepared speeches” (promeletaō in 21:14 is a New Testament hapax legomenon, a technical term for rehearsing a speech or part in a play; see Aristophanes, Parliament of Women 117).

The Lord himself will give them a “mouth and wisdom” (21:15; Mark 13:11 says that it will not be them speaking but rather the Holy Spirit), and their adversaries will not be able to gainsay what they then shall utter. (That is, something like the ripostes of the Lord himself to his adversaries so recently in the temple will come to them also in their hour of need.) No more than for their Lord will this grant them a pass; they will be betrayed by family and friends, and some shall be put to death (Luke 21:16). Summarily, they shall be universally hated because they bear the name of Christ (21:17).

Yet “not a hair of your head will perish,” says Jesus, even in the context of the torture and martyrdom he has just predicted; this proverbial phrase apparently refers to their spiritual security and ultimate wholeness (Marshall 1978: 769; cf. Acts 27:34; 1 Sam. 14:45; 2 Sam. 14:11).

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.