V. Ministry in Jerusalem (Luke 19:28–21:38)

19:28-35 As Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem, he had two of his disciples go into a village. There they would find a colt . . . on which no one [had] ever sat (19:28-30). If anyone were to ask them why they were taking the colt, all they needed to say was The Lord needs it (19:31). As the disciples obeyed, everything happened exactly as the Lord told them (19:32-34). Then Jesus climbed on the animal and rode toward his destination (19:35).

20:27 The Sadducees were a group with a lot of power since they were associated with aristocratic families and the high priests. They differed from the Pharisees on a number of theological issues. For example, they rejected belief in the resurrection and only believed in the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) as Scripture.

20:28-33 Since everyone else had failed to trap Jesus, the Sadducees decided to give it a try. They reminded Jesus of the law of Moses in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, which required that if a Jewish man died, his brother was to marry his widow and raise up a son for his brother, in order to carry on his brother’s name (20:28). Given this law, they proposed a scenario. A woman married seven brothers, each one of them dying successively. None of them had any children (20:29-31). When the woman died, whose wife would she be in the resurrection because she had been married to all of them? (20:32-33). The Sadducees believed that their hypothetical situation proved how ridiculous the idea of the resurrection was.

20:34-36 But their scenario only proved one thing to Jesus: the Sadducees were foolish, and they didn’t know their Bibles well. First, he explained that those who experience the resurrection in the age to come do not marry (20:34-35). Though marriage is part of God’s design for his creation, it will not be a feature of the new creation. So questions like, “Whose wife will the woman be?” are irrelevant. Resurrected believers will no longer die (20:36). So there will be no need for procreation.

20:37-38 Second, Jesus pointed to God’s declaration to Moses in Exodus 3:6 that he was the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. To say that he was still their God—after they had died—indicates that the dead are raised (20:37). Existence does not end with physical death.

20:39-40 Hearing Jesus respond to the Sadducees, the scribes said, Teacher, you have spoken well (20:39). After that, no one dared to ask him anything (20:40). Jesus had proven himself a formidable adversary. His understanding of the Scriptures and teaching authority were vastly superior to that of these religious leaders. They finally realized that challenging him in such ways wasn’t working.

20:41-44 Once his opponents were silenced, Jesus had a question for them: How can they say that the Christ is the son of David? (20:41). This was a universally accepted notion. Then he quoted from Psalm 110:1, a passage in which David (the author and highly revered king), speaking of the Messiah sitting at God’s right hand, calls him my Lord (20:42-44). A son would honor his father, but a father wouldn’t call his descendant “Lord.”

Jesus wasn’t denying the fact that the Christ would be descended from David. The Old Testament makes that clear in many places. Rather, Jesus was emphasizing the fact that the Christ was much more than merely the son of David. Though he would be human, he wouldn’t be merely human. He would also be God.

20:45-47 Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the hypocrisy of the scribes (20:45-46). They loved to exalt themselves and attempted to look spiritual in public. But their wickedness—in light of their privileged position as religious leaders—would earn them a harsher judgment (20:47). Thus, just as there will be degrees of rewards for believers, there will be degrees of punishment for unbelievers.

21:1-4 Jesus had just censured the scribes for devouring “widows’ houses” (20:47). Now he would further condemn their greed by contrasting it with one particular widow’s virtue. As the rich were dropping their offerings into the temple treasury, a poor widow put in two tiny coins (21:1-2). To the casual observer, it appeared that the widow had given next to nothing. But Jesus said she had put in more than all of them (21:3). They gave out of their surplus; she gave out of her poverty. The percentage of what she gave, in relation to what she had, exceeded all the rest. The wealthy showed little dependence on God, since they gave out of their excess. But the widow’s willingness to give her livelihood demonstrated her great reliance on God as her source of blessing and provision.

21:5-6 The temple, which had been rebuilt and expanded by Herod the Great, was grand and beautiful (21:5). The disciples admired it. But Jesus stunned them with his prediction that this magnificent structure would be destroyed—not one stone would be left on another (21:6). This prediction would come true a few decades later in AD 70 when the Roman general (and later emperor) Titus conquered Jerusalem and leveled the temple.

21:7 The disciples couldn’t believe it. They wanted to know when these events concerning the destruction of the temple would happen and what sign would precede them. They believed the temple’s destruction was linked to the start of the messianic kingdom (see Matt 24:3). They didn’t yet realize that there would be a gap of time between these events. So Jesus began to explain to them the signs and events that would precede his return.

21:8-19 Many momentous happenings would take place in the years to come. But Christ’s followers are not to be deceived by them. False christs will appear, and wars will take place. But the end won’t come right away (21:8-9). Many disturbing events will occur (21:10-11). Here Jesus began to describe the first half of the seven-year tribulation period prophesied by Daniel (see commentary on Dan 9:24-27). Followers of Christ will experience severe persecution—even at the hands of relatives and friends (21:12, 16). But this will provide an opportunity to bear witness to the truth (21:12-13). Yet, through God’s sovereign protection and provision, they will be able to endure (21:17-19). While many of Christ’s followers throughout history have experienced persecution and death, Jesus spoke here primarily of the suffering of those who become believers during the tribulation.

21:20-24 When he mentioned Jerusalem surrounded by armies, Jesus returned to the disciples’ question about the destruction of Jerusalem (21:20). At that sign, those in Jerusalem must flee, and those outside must not enter it (21:21). It would be a time of great distress in the land, resulting in many Jews being killed and Jerusalem being trampled by the Gentiles (21:23-24), resulting in the times of the Gentiles when Israel would no longer possess or live in peace in their homeland and the Messiah would not yet sit on the throne of David. Such could have been averted by the nation’s repentance and acceptance of the Messiah.

Jesus had the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 in view here, but he also extends this to the future “abomination of desolation” (21:20) mentioned in Daniel 9:27, when the antichrist will set up his image in the Jerusalem temple and require everyone to worship that image (see Rev 13:4-8). Anyone who does not worship it will be persecuted (see Rev 13:15).

21:25-28 Next Jesus described events prior to his second coming to set up his millennial kingdom. Distressing signs will be evident to all—both cosmic signs and terrestrial signs (21:25). Great upheaval will take place in the natural world. The enemies of God will be overcome by fear at all these things and especially when they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and glory (21:26-27; see Dan 7:13-14). When these things occur, the end of evil will be close at hand. Redemption and the deliverance of God’s people and the promised kingdom blessings will be near (21:28).

21:29-33 Jesus used a common agrarian feature of the region—the fig tree—to illustrate the need to be watchful (21:29). When leaves sprout on the fig tree, summer is already near (21:30). One doesn’t have to be a farmer to reach this conclusion. Nearly anyone can interpret this sign. In the same way, Jesus told them, when his followers see the signs he described, they need to recognize that the kingdom of God, the earthly rule of Jesus’s messianic reign in the millennium, is near (21:31). Such events will continue uninterrupted till the conclusion of Christ’s second coming. This generation is a reference to those who will be alive during the great tribulation. They can be certain that all these things will take place. Though heaven and earth will pass away, Jesus’s words will never pass away (21:32). He claimed absolute sovereignty and authority over the fulfillment of his prophetic words.

21:34-36 Jesus warned that his followers would need to be ready at all times in light of the coming day of God’s judgment. They were not to become entangled in the desires and affairs of the world so that the day comes on them unexpectedly (21:34). Rather, believers must be ready for the kingdom when it arrives. For it will come on all who live on the face of the whole earth (21:35). The coming of the kingdom of God and the judgment that precedes it will have a universal affect. No one will escape. And those not prepared for God’s judgment will not enter the peace and joy of Christ’s millennial reign. Believers need to be alert at all times, praying for strength to be prepared for his second coming (21:36). What will be true for believers in that day is still true for his disciples today. We must be alert, ready, and living in anticipation of the coming rapture that will precede the period of the tribulation (see 1 Thess 4:13-18), when Christ will come in the clouds to summon believers to “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17).

21:37-38 During the day, Jesus continued to experience the favor of the people as he taught in the temple. He would spend the night, though, outside the city on the Mount of Olives (21:37). Eventually, the religious leaders would find out where Jesus was staying each night—led there by a traitor (22:47-53).

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