Luke 21:5-19

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

The apocalyptic discourse in Luke is Jesus' last words to his disciples prior to the passion. The character of this speech is very different than any other part of the Gospel of Luke. This is Jesus speaking in the Temple to a small group of his disciples whom he has gathered around him. These are quiet words that are highly intense. They are words of warning—hard words about what is ahead for the apostles, for the nation of Israel, and for the temple where they are standing. It is a very poignant speech because Luke's telling of this story in 80-85 A.D. would have been some 10 to 15 years after the destruction of the Temple, which happened in 70 A.D. Indeed, there are a series of allusions to that event in Jesus' prophecy.

When Jesus spoke these words about the Temple being surrounded and the enemies encamped around it, it is his prophecy about what will happen in the future. The assumption of the story is that the date of the speech is 32-35 A.D., some 35 years before the destruction of the Temple. Luke is telling this in the more or less immediate aftermath of the destruction of the Temple and of the enslavement of an entire generation of Palestinian Jews. Josephus' estimate is that over 1 million Jews were killed in the attacks and that some 600,000 were taken as slaves to Rome. Jesus is speaking hard words about a great tragedy which lies in the future for the nation. They are also words that are heard by Luke's listeners as something they know has already happened.

This first section is part of a much longer speech which I suggest you read aloud so that you sense where this part of the speech comes. This first part is about the Jewish war and what happened in the period between Jesus' death and resurrection and the time of Luke. "There will be wars and insurrections." There was a great insurrection, which initiated the Jewish war. There were arrests and persecutions of the apostles. They were handed over to synagogues and prisons. Acts has some of those stories: the execution of Steven, the assassination of James, the son of Zebedee, and the stories of Peter and Paul being brought before trials, synagogues, thrown into prison, and testifying before kings and governors.

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