Christ commends a poor widow. (1-4) His prophecy. (5-28) Christ exhorts to watchfulness. (29-38)
Verses 1-4 From the offering of this poor widow, learn that what we rightly give for the relief of the poor, and the support of God's worship, is given unto God; and our Saviour sees with pleasure whatever we have in our hearts to give for the relief of his members, or for his service. Blessed Lord! the poorest of thy servants have two mites, they have a soul and a body; persuade and enable us to offer both unto thee; how happy shall we be in thine accepting of them!
Verses 5-28 With much curiosity those about Christ ask as to the time when the great desolation should be. He answers with clearness and fulness, as far as was necessary to teach them their duty; for all knowledge is desirable as far as it is in order to practice. Though spiritual judgements are the most common in gospel times, yet God makes use of temporal judgments also. Christ tells them what hard things they should suffer for his name's sake, and encourages them to bear up under their trials, and to go on in their work, notwithstanding the opposition they would meet with. God will stand by you, and own you, and assist you. This was remarkably fulfilled after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples wisdom and utterance. Though we may be losers for Christ, we shall not, we cannot be losers by him, in the end. It is our duty and interest at all times, especially in perilous, trying times, to secure the safety of our own souls. It is by Christian patience we keep possession of our own souls, and keep out all those impressions which would put us out of temper. We may view the prophecy before us much as those Old Testament prophecies, which, together with their great object, embrace, or glance at some nearer object of importance to the church. Having given an idea of the times for about thirty-eight years next to come, Christ shows what all those things would end in, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter dispersion of the Jewish nation; which would be a type and figure of Christ's second coming. The scattered Jews around us preach the truth of Christianity; and prove, that though heaven and earth shall pass away, the words of Jesus shall not pass away. They also remind us to pray for those times when neither the real, nor the spiritual Jerusalem, shall any longer be trodden down by the Gentiles, and when both Jews and Gentiles shall be turned to the Lord. When Christ came to destroy the Jews, he came to redeem the Christians that were persecuted and oppressed by them; and then had the churches rest. When he comes to judge the world, he will redeem all that are his from their troubles. So fully did the Divine judgements come upon the Jews, that their city is set as an example before us, to show that sins will not pass unpunished; and that the terrors of the Lord, and his threatenings against impenitent sinners, will all come to pass, even as his word was true, and his wrath great upon Jerusalem.
Verses 29-38 Christ tells his disciples to observe the signs of the times, which they might judge by. He charges them to look upon the ruin of the Jewish nation as near. Yet this race and family of Abraham shall not be rooted out; it shall survive as a nation, and be found as prophesied, when the Son of man shall be revealed. He cautions them against being secure and sensual. This command is given to all Christ's disciples, Take heed to yourselves, that ye be not overpowered by temptations, nor betrayed by your own corruptions. We cannot be safe, if we are carnally secure. Our danger is, lest the day of death and of judgment should come upon us when we are not prepared. Lest, when we are called to meet our Lord, that be the furthest from our thoughts, which ought to be nearest our hearts. For so it will come upon the most of men, who dwell upon the earth, and mind earthly things only, and have no converse with heaven. It will be a terror and a destruction to them. Here see what should be our aim, that we may be accounted worthy to escape all those things; that when the judgements of God are abroad, we may not be in the common calamity, or it may not be that to us which it is to others. Do you ask how you may be found worthy to stand before Christ at that day? Those who never yet sought Christ, let them now go unto him; those who never yet were humbled for their sins, let them now begin; those who have already begun, let them go forward and be kept humbled. Watch therefore, and pray always. Watch against sin; watch in every duty, and make the most of every opportunity to do good. Pray always: those shall be accounted worthy to live a life of praise in the other world, who live a life of prayer in this world. May we begin, employ, and conclude each day attending to Christ's word, obeying his precepts, and following his example, that whenever he comes we may be found watching.
Luke 21:1-4 . THE WIDOW'S TWO MITES.
1. looked up--He had "sat down over against the treasury" ( Mark 12:41 ), probably to rest, for He had continued long standing as he taught in the temple court ( Mark 11:27 ), and "looking up He saw"--as in Zaccheus' case, not quite casually.
the rich, &c.--"the people," says Mark 12:41 "cast money into the treasury, and many rich east in much"; that is, into chests deposited in one of the courts of the temple to receive the offerings of the people towards its maintenance ( 2 Kings 12:9 , John 8:20 ).
2. two mites--"which make a farthing" ( Mark 12:42 ), the smallest Jewish coin. "She might have kept one" [BENGEL].
3. And he said--"to His disciples," whom He "called to Him" ( Mark 12:43 ), to teach from it a great future lesson.
more than . . . all--in proportion to her means, which is God's standard ( 2 Corinthians 8:12 ).
4. of their abundance--their superfluity; what they had to spare," or beyond what they needed.
of her penury--or "want" ( Mark 12:44 )--her deficiency, of what was less than her own wants required, "all the living she had." Mark ( Mark 12:44 ) still more emphatically, "all that she had--her whole subsistence." Note: (1) As temple offerings are needed still for the service of Christ at home and abroad, so "looking down" now, as then "up," Me "sees" who "cast in," and how much. (2) Christ's standard of commendable offering is not our superfluity, but our deficiency--not what will never be missed, but what costs us some real sacrifice, and just in proportion to the relative amount of that sacrifice. (See 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 .)
Luke 21:5-38 . CHRIST'S PROPHECY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND WARNINGS TO PREPARE FOR HIS SECOND COMING, SUGGESTED BY IT--HIS DAYS AND NIGHTS DURING HIS LAST WEEK.
8. the time--of the Kingdom, in its full glory.
go . . . not . . . after them--"I come not so very soon" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:1 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ) [STIER].
9-11. not terrified--(See Luke 21:19 Isaiah 8:11-14 ).
end not by and by--or immediately, not yet ( Matthew 24:6 , 13:7 ): that is, "Worse must come before all is over."
10. Nation, &c.--Matthew and Mark ( Matthew 24:8 , 13:8 ) add, "All these are the beginning of sorrows," or travail pangs, to which heavy calamities are compared ( Jeremiah 4:31 , &c.).
12. brought before, &c.--The book of Acts verifies all this.
13. for a testimony--an opportunity of bearing testimony.
18. not a hair . . . perish--He had just said ( Luke 21:16 ) they should be put to death; showing that this precious promise is far above immunity from mere bodily harm, and furnishing a key to the right interpretation of the ninety-first Psalm, and such like. Matthew adds the following ( Matthew 24:12 ): "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many," the many or, the most--the generality of professed disciples--"shall wax cold." But he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Sad illustrations of the effect of abounding iniquity in cooling the love of faithful disciples we have in the Epistle of James, written about this period referred to, and too frequently ever since ( Hebrews 10:38 Hebrews 10:39 , Revelation 2:10 ). "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness, and then shall the end come" ( Matthew 24:14 ). God never sends judgment without previous warning; and there can be no doubt that the Jews, already dispersed over most known countries, had nearly all heard the Gospel "as a witness," before the end of the Jewish state. The same principle was repeated and will repeat itself to the end.
20, 21. by armies--encamped armies, that is, besieged: "the abomination of desolation" (meaning the Roman ensigns, as the symbols of an idolatrous, pagan, unclean power) "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" ( Daniel 9:27 ) "standing where it ought not" ( Mark 13:14 ). "Whoso readeth [that prophecy] let him understand" ( Matthew 24:15 ).
Then . . . flee, &c.--EUSEBIUS says the Christians fled to Pella, at the north extremity of Perea, being "prophetically directed"; perhaps by some prophetic intimation still more explicit than this, which still would be their chart.
23. woe unto--"alas for."
with child, &c.--from the greater suffering it would involve; as also "flight in winter, and on the sabbath," which they were to "pray" against ( Matthew 24:20 ), the one as more trying to the body, the other to the soul. "For then shall be tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall be"--language not unusual in the Old Testament for tremendous calamities, though of this it may perhaps be literally said, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved, but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" ( Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:22 ). But for this merciful "shortening," brought about by a remarkable concurrence of causes, the whole nation would have perished, in which there yet remained a remnant to be afterwards gathered out. Here in Matthew and Mark ( Matthew 24:24 , 13:22 ) are some particulars about "false Christs," who should, "if possible"--a precious clause--"deceive the very elect." (Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 , Revelation 13:13 .)
24. Jerusalem . . . trodden down . . . until, &c.--Implying (1) that one day Jerusalem shall cease to be "trodden down by the Gentiles" ( Revelation 11:2 ), as then by pagan so now by Mohammedan unbelievers; (2) that this shall be at the "completion" of "the times of the Gentiles," which from Romans 11:25 (taken from this) we conclude to mean till the Gentiles have had their full time of that place in the Church which the Jews in their time had before them--after which, the Jews being again "grafted into their own olive tree," one Church of Jew and Gentile together shall fill the earth ( Romans 11:1-36 ). What a vista this opens up!
25-28. signs, &c.--Though the grandeur of this language carries the mind over the head of all periods but that of Christ's second coming, nearly every expression will be found used of the Lord's coming in terrible national judgments, as of Babylon, &c.; and from Luke 21:28 Luke 21:32 , it seems undeniable that its immediate reference was to the destruction of Jerusalem, though its ultimate reference beyond doubt is to Christ's final coming.
28. redemption--from the oppression of ecclesiastical despotism and legal bondage by the total subversion of the Jewish state and the firm establishment of the evangelical kingdom ( Luke 21:31 ). But the words are of far wider and more precious import. Matthew ( Matthew 24:30 ) says, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven," evidently something distinct from Himself, mentioned immediately after. What this was intended to mean, interpreters are not agreed. But as before Christ came to destroy Jerusalem, some appalling portents were seen in the air, so before His personal appearing it is likely that something analogous will be witnessed, though of what nature it is vain to conjecture.
32. This generation--not "this nation," as some interpret it, which, though admissible in itself, seems very unnatural here. It is rather as in Luke 9:27 .
34-37. surfeiting, and drunkenness--All animal excesses, quenching spirituality.
cares of this
36. Watch . . . pray, &c.--the two great duties which in prospect of trial are constantly enjoined. These warnings, suggested by the need of preparedness for the tremendous calamities approaching, and the total wreck of the existing state of things, are the general improvement of the whole discourse, carrying the mind forward to Judgment and Vengeance of another kind and on a grander and more awful scale--not ecclesiastical or political but personal, not temporal but eternal--when all safety and blessedness will be found to lie in being able to "STAND BEFORE THE SON OF MAN" in the glory of His personal appearing.
37, 38. in the daytime--of this His last week.
abode in the mount--that is, at Bethany ( Matthew 21:17 ).