THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 13: Chapters 19:28-21:38
Jesus’ Last Week in Jerusalem
Keep us mindful that You are God of our future, “the God of the living” (Lk 20:38) “of all those who are destined for eternal life. We are to look to the past as a lesson, but we are to live with hopeful hearts in “straining forward for what lies ahead,” as St. Paul encouraged us (Phil 3:13). Our salvation is bound to the power of Christ in our present, in how we conduct our daily lives. Give us the strength of faith to persevere through our earthly struggles in hopeful anticipation of the final Exodus. Help us to be ever pursuing “the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14) by striving in faith to attain the promise of the final resurrection that will lead to eternal life. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Jesus said: What is written about me is coming to fulfillment …
By the union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal…
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 474
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem
Now upon the approach of that feast of Unleavened Bread, which the law of their fathers had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called the Passover, and is a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt …
Josephus,Antiquities of the Jews, 17.9.3
After Jesus taught the parable of the ten gold coins (Lk 19:11-27), He left Jericho and proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. Jericho is located about six miles from the northern end of the Dead Sea, the lowest site on earth, while Jerusalem is situated on the crest of three Judean mountain peaks that range in height from 2300 to 2500 feet above sea level. The city is about twenty miles west of the Dead Sea’s northern end. This is the beginning of the conclusion of Jesus’ three year ministry to find the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6; 15:24). It is the early spring and thousands of pilgrims are coming to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover and the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread. These were originally ordained as two separate feasts. The Passover sacrifice took place on Nisan the 14th(Lev 23:5) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread took place from Nisan the 15thto the 21st (Lev 23:6-8). But in the first century AD, they were celebrated as one feast and the names Passover and Unleavened Bread were used interchangeable to designate the entire 8 days (Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7), as Josephus records (Antiquities, 14.2.1; 17.9.3; Jewish Wars, 5.3.1). However, in St. John’s Gospel he refers to the two feasts only as the Passover (Jn 2:13, 33; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1; 13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14) and never mentions Unleavened Bread.
Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is almost over. He arrives at the village of Bethany and spends the Sabbath with His friends there. Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him (John 12:1-2).The Hebrew month Abib (Ex 12:1-2; 13:4) was called Nisan (Neh 2:1; Est 3:7) after the return from the Babylonian exile). The Law of Moses required the Passover Sacrifice to take place in the early spring after the spring equinox on the 14th of Nisan (Ex 12:6; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:1).(1) The Sabbath dinner in Bethany was on the 9th day of the month. Josephus records that it was the custom of the day for the Sabbath dinner to take place at the sixth hour Jewish time (noon).(2) Since Martha served the dinner, it is likely that the meal took place in the home of Jesus’ dear friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. During the meal, Lazarus’ sister Mary took a jar of expensive ointment and anointed Jesus’ feet, wiping His feet with her hair.(3) The next day Jesus entered Jerusalem. It is the day the Church celebrates as Palm Sunday (Jn 12:12-19).
The countdown to the Passion of the Christ (*count the days as the ancients’ counted with no zero-place-value by counting the first in the series as day #1; note that sundown began the next Jewish day).(4)
Day #1. Saturday, Nisan 9th: Jesus ate the Sabbath dinner with His friends in Bethany and received His second anointing (Jn 12:1-11).
Day #2. Sunday, Nisan 10th: Jesus made His triumphal ride into the city of Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple a second time, and taught the people at the Temple (Mt 21:1-17; Mk 11:1-11; Lk 19:36-40; Jn 12:12-19).(5)
Day #4. Tuesday, Nisan 12th: Jesus continued to teach at the Jerusalem Temple (Lk 21:37-38).
Day #5. Wednesday Nisan 13th: Jesus’ last day teaching in Jerusalem. He had dinner with friends in Bethany where He received His third anointing, and He was betrayed by Judas to the chief priests (Mt 26:1-2, 6-16; Mk 14:1, 3-11; Lk 22:1-6; Jn 13:1-2a).
Sundown was the beginning of Friday, Nisan 15th, the appointed time of the sacred meal of the Passover sacrifice on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was on this Jewish feast that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper and instituted the Eucharist. He was betrayed by Judas who leaves without completing the meal. It was that night when Jesus was arrested. He was tried, crucified and died during the daytime of the same Jewish day “the day before the Jewish Sabbath, known as “Preparation Day” (Mt 26:20-27:61; Mk 14:17-15:41; Lk 22:14-23:46; Jn 13:2b-19:31).
Luke 19:28-35 ~ Preparations for the entry into Jerusalem
28 After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. 29 As he drew near to Bethpage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. 29 He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 And if anyone should ask you, “Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, The Master has need of it.'” 32 So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?'” 34They answered, “The Master has need of it.” 35 So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount.
Question: That Jesus went “up” to Jerusalem is a physically accurate description of His journey, but what ascent or “going up” does it foreshadow? See Acts 1:9; Dan 7:13-14.
Answer: It foreshadows His ascent to the Father in the heavenly Jerusalem that will take place at the completion of His mission.
In traveling the Roman road from Jericho to Jerusalem, one would first approach the villages of Bethpage (“house/place of unripe figs”) and Bethany (“house/place of grace”) located on the Mt. of Olives to the east of Jerusalem. The Mt. of Olives is part of a range of low-lying mountains that overlooked Jerusalem to the east. The range extends about 2 and a half miles from north to south and has three main peaks, the highest of which is Mt. Scopus to the north. The central peak is the Mt. of Olives that is located directly across from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The third mount is the Mt. of Misconduct also called Mt. Corruption or Offence (see 2 Kng 23:13).
Question: In verses 29-30 Jesus instructs two disciples to bring him a young colt that no one has ridden. What additional information is given in Matthew 21:1-5? Also see Is 62:6-12, especially verse 11b; Zec 9:9 and Jacob/Israel’s deathbed prophecy for the tribe of Judah in Gen 49:10-11.
Answer: The village the disciples entered was Bethpage and the colt was an ass. They also brought the colt’s mother. All this was to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah and Zechariah concerning the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem. It also fulfills Jacob’s prophecy for the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the true Judahite king from kingship will never depart.
That the mother donkey accompanied the colt (Mt 21:2) is a sign that the colt had never been ridden. Young animals no longer stay in the company of their mothers once they are deemed old enough for service.
Question: In addition to the prophecies, was there an historical event in Israel’s history that the people would have seen being repeating during Jesus’ entry into the holy city? See 1 Kng 1:32-40.
Answer: They probably would have thought of Prince Solomon, the heir of King David. Solomon entered Jerusalem on a mule and was then anointed King of Israel. For the people, this historical event was being repeated in Jesus, the heir of King David, riding into the holy city.
It may be significant that He was anointed the day before by Mary of Bethany (Jn 12:3). However, it should be pointed out that Solomon’s ride into the city was not a fulfillment of Jacob/Israel’s prophecy because Solomon rode on a mule “the breeding of which was forbidden by God within the borders of Israel (Lev 19:19). Zechariah’s prophecy was not made until centuries later in c. 520 BC; Solomon was anointed King of Israel in c. 970 BC. Only Jesus perfectly fulfilled both prophecies.(6)
Luke 19:36-40 ~ Jesus rides toward the holy city
36 As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; 37 and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. 38 They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”
Question: If the Passover was to be celebrated on the 14th and that day was six days after the Sabbath dinner at Bethany, what was the date of the month that Jesus rode into Jerusalem? See the chart on Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem at the beginning of the lesson.
Answer: He rode into Jerusalem on the 10thof Nisan.
Question: What significant historical event took place on this same day in the first Passover event in Egypt? What is ironic about this event? See Ex 12:1-3.
Answer: The day that Jesus, the Lamb of God, rode into the city of Jerusalem was the same day that the sacrificial victims were chosen for the first Passover.
Spreading their outer garments on the ass/donkey and on the ground was a sign of respect and acknowledgment of Jesus’ royalty. The crowd grows as He makes progress toward the city and then when He reaches the western slope of the Mount of Olives within sight of Jerusalem, His many disciples burst into a beatitude of joy in proclaiming Jesus the King of Israel (see Jn 12:13).
Question: The disciples’ shout of a blessing for Jesus combines a verse from the Psalms and what echo of an angelic beatitude? See Ez 34:23; Ps 118 and Lk 2:14.
Answer: The first part of their praise is a variation of Psalm 118:26, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD, in which they added the word “king,” proclaiming Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah who is the Davidic heir. The other part of their shout of praise is a Holy Spirit inspired echo of the angelic song announcing the birth of Christ: Glory to God in the highest … The disciples recognize that Jesus is the promised Davidic prince in the prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel.
Question: Why are the Pharisees upset by this and what is the meaning of Jesus’ reply? See Lk 19:39-40.
Answer: The Pharisees realize that Jesus’ disciples are proclaiming Him the Messianic King and they are fearful the crowd will also take up the declaration. Jesus tells them that this is divinely ordained, and if not proclaimed by men then the proclamation would be miraculously proclaimed by the very stones of the earth.
Question: In their rebuke, the Pharisees are rejecting Jesus as their king. In doing so, what do they become that Jesus spoke of in His last parable before leaving Jericho, the Parable of the Ten Coins? See Lk 19:11-27, especially verses 14 and 27.
Answer: They have announced themselves as those fellow citizens who did not want the nobleman/prince to rule over them in 19:14. They have also declared themselves the King’s enemies that Jesus spoke of in 19:27.
Question: In the Parable of the Ten Coins, what is the fate of the enemies who rejected their King? See Lk 19:27.
Luke 19:41-44 ~ Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem
41 As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace “but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. 44 They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Jesus’ prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction is full of Old Testament references but also points to an event in the future (verses 43-44). The Old Testament references include Isaiah 29:3; 37:33; Jer 52:4-5; Ez 4:1-3; 21:27/22 and for verse 44 Psalms 137:9; Hosea 10:14; 14:1 and Nahum 3:10. These Old Testament passages are prophecies of the judgment on Jerusalem and the destruction of the city by the Babylonians on the 9th of Ab in 587/6 BC.
Question: In speaking of what is to come in verses 43-44, Jesus foretells what historical event in His lament for the holy city of Jerusalem that occurred on the same date as the Babylonian destruction?
Answer: The destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple on the 9th of Ab in 70 AD, when the Roman army, after a three and a half month siege, breeched the walls and burned the city and the Temple. It was a repeat of the destruction of the holy city by the Babylonians, even to the date of its fulfillment.
The destruction of the city and the Temple is described by Flavius Josephus in two of his books: Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish Wars. According to Josephus, four Roman legions encircled the city and General Titus raised a palisade around the upper city (Jewish Wars, 6.6.1). The Temple was completely destroyed in the fire and the Roman soldiers used water on the hot stones to break them apart to get to the gold that had decorated the Temple walls and the perimeter of the roof that had melted into the cracks of the stones. Not one stone was left upon another, just as Jesus prophesied. It was the end of the world for the Jews. According to Josephus, 97 thousand Jews were taken captive, many of whom were sold into slavery, and 11 hundred thousand were killed.
Question: Why does Jesus say this terrible judgment will befall the city of Jerusalem? See verse 44b.
Answer: Because they rejected their Messiah when He came to them in His “visitation.”
Luke 19:45-48 ~ The second Temple cleansing
45 Then Jesus entered the Temple area [hieron] and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, 46 saying to them “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.'” 47 And every day he was teaching in the Temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, 48 but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. [..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 227).
The prophecy of Malachi concerning the Messiah is fulfilled “… And suddenly there will come the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:1b-c).
Question: This was Jesus’ second Temple cleansing. When was the first Temple cleansing and during what festival season of the year did it take place? See Jn 2:13-25.
Answer: It was His second public act after the miracle at the wedding at Cana, and it occurred during the Passover festival.
The first Temple cleansing was to prepare the people for the beginning of His teaching ministry and proclamation of the Kingdom. Now He cleanses God’s house of worship a second time in preparation for His final week of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation. The merchants in the Temple area were selling doves that were the sacrifices of the poor, for women and lepers (Lev 12:6-8; 14:22; 15:14, 29). They were also exchanging coins that bore pagan images or the images of the Roman emperor that were not accepted to purchase sacrifices or for Temple donations. These could be exchanged for Tyrian coins that bore no forbidden images (Ex 30:11-16).
St. Luke uses the Greek word hieron for the area of the Temple complex where the merchants had their tables. This word does not refer to the Sanctuary that housed the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies but refers to the outer courtyards, probably the Court of the Gentiles, as is made clear in a Scripture passage Jesus alludes to in His exchange with the chief priests. It was the only area of the Temple complex were Gentiles were allowed to come to pray, to give sacrifices that priests would take to the altar for them and to be instructed about the One True God. Non-covenant members were forbidden to enter the other areas of the Temple complex or to approach the altar and could be executed for such an offense (see Lev 3:10 and read about the commotion when the Jews accused St. Paul of bringing Gentile-Christians into the Temple in Acts 21:27-29).
Question: Why would Jesus consider buying and selling in the Court of the Gentiles a sacrilege that profaned the Temple? See Ex 19:6; Is 60:3.
Answer: The Court of the Gentiles was the only place in the Temple set aside for Gentiles to learn about Yahweh. The Jews had an obligation as God’s holy people to be a “kingdom of priests” and a “light” to the Gentile nations of the earth. By using the Court of the Gentiles in this way, they were profaning the purpose of the space.
Luke 19:46 … saying to them “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.'”
In cleansing the Temple, Jesus alludes to two passages from Sacred Scripture. The first speaks of Gentiles coming to the House of God (the reason it is likely the tables were in the Court of the Gentiles), and the second condemns the priesthood and the people prior to the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC for turning God’s house into a “den of thieves”. Whenever an Old Testament passage is alluded to or quoted in the New Testament, the entire passage must be read in context to understand the significance of the quote or allusion (underlining identifies Jesus’ reference to these passages):
- Isaiah 56:6-7 ~ And the foreigners [Gentiles] who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants “all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
- Jeremiah 7:1-3, 10-11, 14-15 ~ The following message came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Stand at the gate of the house of the LORD, and there proclaim this message: Hear the word of the LORD, all of you who enter these gates to worship the LORD! Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may remain with you in this place … and yet you came to stand before me in this house which bears my name, and say: “We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again”? Has this house which bears my name become in your eyes a den of thieves?… I will do to this house named after me, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, just as I did to Shiloh.* I will cast you away from me, as I cast away all your brethren, all the offspring of Ephraim.
Question: Why does Jesus choose to allude to these two passages from the books of the prophets?
Answer: The first is a reminder of Israel’s mission to the other nations of the earth to bring the Gentiles to salvation “instead they are abusing the court set aside to teach the Gentiles ” and the second is a warning of judgment for profaning God’s house, the Jerusalem Temple. It is a judgment that will be fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
*”Shiloh” in Jeremiah 7:14 was the location of the desert Tabernacle in the Promised Land and the center of worship from the time of Joshua to the time of the prophet Samuel (Josh 18:1; Judg 18:31; 1 Sam 1:3-9: 3:19-21).
Question: In Jeremiah 7:1-15, what is the significance of what happened at Shiloh and how does Jesus use the Jeremiah passage as a warning for the present generation of religious authorities? See1 Sam 4:3-4, 10-11; Ps 78:56-61, 68; Jer 7:12, 14; 26:6, 9; Lk 20:41-44.
Answer: The priests and the people’s offenses against God and His Sanctuary brought about God’s judgment in withdrawing His protection of the Sanctuary at Shiloh. The Philistines destroyed the Sanctuary and captured the Ark of the Covenant. The subtle warning is that what happened at Shiloh and what happened to Solomon’s Temple in the time of Jeremiah can happen to the 1st century AD Temple for the same offenses.
Luke 19:47-48 And every day he was teaching in the Temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, 48 but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were handing on his words.
Jesus taught in the Temple area assigned to teaching, called the Portico of Solomon (Acts 3:1, 11; 5:12), from the first day of the week (Sunday) until the fourth day of the week; what we call Wednesday. The religious leaders were afraid they could start a riot if they tried to arrest Jesus when He was teaching the crowds who believed in Him (see Lk 20:6, 19). They needed to arrest Him when He was alone and unprotected by the Passover pilgrims and His numerous disciples (Lk 19:37).
Jesus Teaches Daily at the Temple and Debates with Jewish Leaders
The religious leaders attempt to discredit Jesus with the people and to trap Him into incriminating Himself with the Roman authorities by making treasonous statements. They challenge Jesus by asking Him a series of three questions:
- On His authority to teach as He does (22:2)
- On the payment of Roman taxes (20:22)
- On His understanding of the Resurrection (20:28-33)
Jesus will respond by defeating their traps and will ask two questions of His own on their understanding to two passages from the Psalms:
He identifies the passages with Himself. The chapter ends with Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes (Lk 20:45-47).
Luke 20:1-8 ~ The chief priests and scholars of the Law question Jesus’ authority
1 One day as he was teaching the people in the Temple area and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and scribes, together with the elders, approached him 2 and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Or who is the one who gave you this authority?” 3 He said to them in reply, “I shall ask you a question. Tell me, 4 was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin?” 5 They discussed this among themselves, and said, “If we say, Of heavenly origin,’ he will say, Why did you not believe him?’ 6But if we say, Of human origin,’ then all the people will stone us, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know from where it come. 8 Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Their first attempt to trap Jesus is a failure. They want to know if Jesus believes he is acting on God’s authority or on His own authority. Jesus challenges their question with a question about St. John the Baptist, asking them if St. John’s prophetic mission was from God.
Question: What evidence do we have in Scripture that the religious leaders did not believe St. John’s mission was from God? See Lk 7:30.
Answer: They refused John’s baptism of repentance, an action that thwarted God’s plan for their salvation.
Luke 20:7-8 So they answered that they did not know from where it come. 8 Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Once again Jesus has turned their trap back upon them. Since they fear the peoples’ response to a negative answer, they refuse to answer Jesus, and He in turn refuses to answer them. Their reason for their refusal to answer again illustrates their self-serving hypocrisy. In response to their hostility to God’s plan for man’s salvation through their rejection of Him and the mission of St. John, Jesus tells a parable to the crowd that is intended for them.
Luke 20:9-19 ~ The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
9 Then he proceeded to tell the people this parable. “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers [vinedressers], and then went on a journey for a long time. 10 At harvest time [the appropriate season] he sent a servant to the tenant farmers [vinedressers] to receive some of the produce of the vineyard. But they beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. 11 So he proceeded to send another servant, but him also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12 Then he proceeded to send a third, but this one too they wounded and threw out. 13 The owner [kyrios = lord] of the vineyard said, What shall I do? I shall send my beloved son; maybe they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenant farmers [vinedressers] saw him they said to one another, This is the heir. Let us kill him that the inheritance may become ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What will the owner [kyrios = lord] of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and put those tenant farmers [vinedressers] to death and turn over the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they exclaimed, “Let it not be so!” 17 But he looked at them and asked, “What then does this Scripture passage mean: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 19 The scribes and chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people, for they knew that he had addressed this parable to them. [..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 288). The noun georgos generally means a farmer but when the planting is vines it refers to a “vinedresser,” a distinction that is significant in the context of the parable.
This parable is told to the people (verse 9), but the teaching is a warning to the religious leadership concerning their rejection of both St. John the Baptist and Jesus. The parable should be studied within the context of Jesus’ warning in Luke 19:41-44 where He prophesied the destruction of the city of Jerusalem because “you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Question: What is the time of their “visitation” that is also the “appropriate season” in verse 10 of the parable?
Answer: Jesus’ presence within the holy city is the time of “visitation” and now is the “season.”
St. Luke notes that the leaders themselves clearly understood that the parable was directed at them (verse 19). The situation in the parable would have been familiar to first century AD Jews. Landholders often rented out their property to tenant farmers who had to share a percentage of the profits from the harvest with the owner of the land. Jesus uses the parable as an allegory predicting His death at the hands of the Jewish religious authorities, their eventual loss of authority as God’s representatives to His people, and their destruction. The vineyard/fig tree was one of the reoccurring images of the Old Testament prophets depicting God’s relationship with His covenant people.In the symbolic images of the prophets, the fruitful vineyard is a symbol of Israel in covenant with Yahweh (see the chart on the Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets).
St. Luke’s audience would not have missed the comparison between Jesus’ parable of the vineyard and the well-known parable of the vineyard in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Note Luke’s use of the word “kyrios”/”lord” for the owner of the vineyard in verses 13 and 15 of the Greek text. Read Isaiah’s parable in Isaiah 5:1-7.
Question: In Isaiah’s parable who is the lord of the vineyard and how does Isaiah identify the vineyard?
Answer: In verse 7 of Isaiah’s parable, the owner of the vineyard is identified as God and the vineyard is Israel/Judah: The vineyard of the LORD [YHWH] of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his cherished plant.
In Jesus’ time only the nation of Judah remained and had been renamed the Roman province of Judea (Israel ceased to exist after 722 BC). Notice that in Jesus’ parable that the lord of the vineyard identifies his son as his “beloved son” in Luke 20:13.
Question: What is significant about Luke’s use of the words “beloved son” in the parable? See Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11.
Answer: They recall God’s voice from heaven identifying Jesus as His “beloved Son” at His baptism.
Question: To whom did Isaiah address his parable in the 8th century BC? To whom is Jesus addressing His parable in 30 AD?
Answer: Isaiah’s parable is addressed to the people of Jerusalem and Judah (Is 5:3) just as Jesus is addressing His parable to the same audience (Lk 20:9 and 16).
Question: Also notice that in the Greek text of St. Luke’s parable that the “tenants” are called “vinedressers.” What is the function of a vinedresser in a vineyard? See Jesus’ description of the work of the divine vinedresser in Jn 15:1-2.
Answer: A vinedresser pruned the vines so that they produced more growth and therefore more fruit. Vines that did not produce fruit were cut away for the health of the plant.
Question: Who owned the land of Israel? See Lev 25:23.
Answer: The Promised Land of Israel belonged to God; the children of Israel were His tenants. The land could never be sold; it could only be leased.
Question: What is the symbolism of the parable: Who is the master who owns the vineyard? What does the vineyard represent? Why was the master said to be absent for a long time? Who are the tenants/vinedressers in charge of the harvest, who are the lord’s servants who were rejected and beaten, and who is the beloved son the tenants/vinedressers killed? Finally, who are the “others” to whom the vineyard will be given?
|Symbolic Imagery in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants
|The master/lord of the vineyard
|God’s covenant people, Israel/Judah
|The tenants/vinedressers in charge of the vineyard’s harvest
|The religious authorities whose duty it is to ensure the salvation of the covenant people
|The master’s journey/absence for a long time
|No theophany of God since Mt. Sinai
|The three sets of the lord’s servants
|God’s prophets down through salvation history
|The lord’s son
|Jesus, God the Son
|The tenants/vinedressers who decide to kill the son
|The religious authorities and others who reject Jesus as the Messiah and seek His death
|The “others” who will now receive authority over the lord’s vineyard
|The Jewish and Gentile Christians who will be the “new Israel”* of the New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ.
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013
* see CCC 877: … In fact, from the beginning of his ministry, the Lord Jesus instituted the Twelve as “the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy” …
Luke 20:14b-15 This is the heir. Let us kill him that the inheritance may become ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
This is a prophecy of Jesus’ death outside the “vineyard” that was Jerusalem when He was executed outside the walls of the holy city (Jn 19:17-20). According to the Law all executions were to take place outside the city/camp of God; nothing unclean, like a corpse, could be present to pollute the ground of God’s camp (Lev 24:14; Num 19:11-22; Acts 8:58). The Romans observed this custom.
Luke 15b-16 What will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and put those tenant farmers [vinedressers] to death and turn over the vineyard to others.”
Question: Compare the judgment in Luke’s parable to the judgment in Isaiah 5:5.
Answer: Isaiah’s parable speaks of God’s judgment on an unrepentant people in verse 5: Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! The covenant people will lose their special status as keepers of God’s “vineyard” in the same way that Luke’s parable speaks of judgment on the wicked tenants/vinedressers and their loss of the “vineyard” that will be given to others.
Question: Did His audience understand His parable and the threat it contained?
Answer: The people absolutely understood: When the people heard this, they exclaimed, “Let it not be so!” They understood that Jesus was saying that the “vineyard” that was the covenant with Israel was to be taken away from those to whom it was entrusted, the religious leadership, that rejects the teaching and preaching of Jesus the Messiah.
Luke 20:17-18 But he looked [emblepo] at them and asked, “What then does this Scripture passage mean: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
The verb emblepo implies a direct and intense stare that commands attention (Johnson, page 306). Psalms 113-118 were sung continually during the festival of Passover and the week long feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus is quoting verbatim from the Septuagint translation of Psalms 118:22[117:22 in some translations]. The point is the futility of the rejection of Jesus by the religious leaders and others “God’s plan will not be thwarted by their rejection.
Question: What is the significance of the passage that Jesus quotes from Psalms 118:22? Read Ps 118:19-29; Is 8:11-15 and 28:16. Who are the “builders” and who is the “Stone”? See Acts 4:11.
Answer: Jesus is identifying the rejection of the son in the parable (verse 14-15) and Himself as the “Stone” rejected by the “builders,” who are the religious authorities. The prophet Isaiah also spoke of a judgment on His people and of God’s plan for one who will be a both a “cornerstone” and a “stumbling stone to test the covenant people and especially the people of Jerusalem.
Isaiah’s passage has the same force of prophecy as Jesus in this passage. The allusion is the same to the “stumbling stone” which is to be a trap for “the house of Jacob” and a snare to “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” and those who “fall on it” will be crushed. St. Peter will combine the prophecies of Isaiah 8:14; 28:16 and Psalms 118:22 in 1 Peter 2:4-8: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall.” They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.
St. Peter will also quote the passage from Psalms 118:22 to the religious authorities of the Sanhedrin and apply it to Jesus in Acts 4:8, 11-12:Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them “Leaders of the people and elders: … He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’ There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Also see Ephesians 2:20.
Luke 20:18-19 Everyone who falls on that stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 19 The scribes and chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people, for they knew that he had addressed this parable to them.
There is also probably a connection to Daniel 2:34-45 in which a divine “stone” breaks apart the “mountain” of the old Jerusalem Temple and its covenant. The scribes and chief priests certainly understood His references to Scripture and the force of His teaching.
Luke 20:20-26 ~ Paying taxes to the Roman emperor
20 They watched him closely and sent agents pretending to be righteous who were to trap him in speech, in order to hand him over to the authority and power of the governor. 21 They posed this question to him, “Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is correct, and you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?” 23 Recognizing their craftiness he said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” 25 So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 26 They were unable to trap him by something he might say before the people, and so amazed were they at his reply that they fell silent.
Knowing from their earlier confrontation that Jesus can recognize them, the chief priests send their agents in their hopes to trap Jesus. First, they attempt to flatter Jesus “their flattery and their plot to trap Jesus underscore their hypocrisy, malice and wickedness.
Question: What is ironic about the way they attempt to flatter Jesus?
Answer: What is ironic is that for once, even though they are insincere, their statements concerning Jesus are true.
Question: What is their question?
Answer: They are asking Jesus if it is “lawful,” meaning acceptable according to God, to pay the Roman poll tax.
When Herod the Great’s son, Archelaus, was deposed by the Romans in 6 AD, the Romans imposed direct rule by a Roman governor over Judea and began to collect an annual poll or head tax on all the men, women, and slaves from age twelve/fourteen to age sixty-five. The payment was one Roman silver denarius “the average daily wage for a common laborer. In Jesus’ day the Roman denarius bore the image of the emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD) and the Latin inscription Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus Pontiflex Maximus ““Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest” (Harrington, Gospel of Matthew, page 310). Tiberius was the adopted son of the previous emperor, Augustus (Octavian), who was worshipped as a god since his death in 14 AD. Payment of the tax had to be in the Roman coinage because it represented the people’s subservience to Roman rule. The Roman governor in verse 20 is Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect responsible for the collection of taxes and maintaining order in the Roman province. The payment of the Roman tax was a sensitive political issue in first century AD Judea and will become the flash point of the Jewish Revolt against Rome in 66 AD that will result in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Question: What is the trap they intended to set for Jesus? Hint: It was a two way trap depending on Jesus’ answer.
Answer: If Jesus condemns the tax, He is encouraging the people to reject Rome’s authority over Judea and the Jews, and He could be arrested by the Romans for encouraging insurrection. If however, He agrees that the tax bearing the image of the Roman emperor who claims to be the son of a god should be paid to the Romans, He will be taking a position contrary to the feelings of the majority of the common people who see the claim that Augustus is a god as a sacrilege. Then too, many who follow Jesus are looking to Him as the liberator-Messiah who will free them from the pagan Romans. They will be disenchanted with Jesus if He appears to support Roman domination of Judea.
Luke 20:23-25Recognizing their craftiness he said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” 25 So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Question: How does Jesus reverse the trap?
Answer: Since the tax had to be paid with Roman coinage that bore the image of Caesar, the coins belonged to Caesar. Paying the denarius was simply giving back to Caesar what was his.
But in addition to telling His adversaries, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” He also says “and to God what belongs to God.” This statement left His adversaries without an answer and 26 They were unable to trap him by something he might say before the people, and so amazed were they at his reply that they fell silent.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus’ last statement that one must repay “to God what belongs to God” in relation to Jesus’ question about “image” that religious Jews, including the Pharisees, scribes and chief priests would not have missed and which caused them to go away “amazed”?See Genesis 1:27.
Answer: While the Roman coin bears the image of the Roman emperor, the emperor was created by God and bears the image of his Creator. Therefore, the emperor is subject to God’s sovereignty over his life “it was an answer the leaders could not refute or criticize.
Luke 20:27-40 ~ The Sadducees question Jesus on the Resurrection
27 Some Sadducees, those who deny there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise [being sons of the resurrection]. 37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” 40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything. [..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 230).
The Sadducees were the religious/political party that was for the most part composed of the chief priests.
- The Sadducees did not believe in a physical resurrection of the dead like the Pharisees (Lk 20:27; Acts 23:8; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18:1.6).
- The Sadducees only observed the precepts of the written Law in the Torah/Pentateuch (five books of Moses), unlike the Pharisees who also followed the oral Law (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.5.9; 13.10.6; 18:1.3; Jewish Wars, 2.8.14).
- The Sadducees counted among their supporters the wealthy and the aristocracy (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.10.6).
- The Sadducees were the main opponents of the Pharisees (Antiquities of the Jews, 13.10.6).
Luke 20:27-28 Some Sadducees, those who deny there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’
To press their belief in the absurdity of a physical resurrection, the Sadducees allude to a passage in Deuteronomy 25:1-5. In the Latin Vulgate the statute on marriage in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 came to be known as “levirate marriage,” since the word levir means “brother-in-law,” designating the husband’s brother in Latin. According to the Law, a man was forbidden to marry his brother’s wife if she had borne children to his brother, but an exception was made if the brother died without an heir. In that case, it was his closest kinsman’s obligation to marry the widow and give his deceased kinsman an heir (see the Book of Ruth 4:5). They then propose an extreme hypothetical case of a woman who married seven times in turn to seven brothers. At the conclusion of their story, they ask whose wife she will be in the resurrection.
In this same exchange in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives them a shockingly strong rebuke (remember these are chief priests of the ministerial priesthood).
Question: What did Jesus tell the chief priests in Matthew 22:29?
Answer: He said to them: You are misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Mt 22:29).
The “power of God” refers to the resurrection of the dead. Jesus then instructs them in reverse order, telling them they do not understand the resurrection nor do they understand the Pentateuch “the Torah of Moses. He will continue to prove His point on their failure to understand the Scriptures in His exchange with the religious leaders in Luke 20:17-18 and 41-44. The Sadducees, who believed that they were the authoritative interpreters of the Torah of Moses and the “shepherds of Israel,” must have been highly insulted.
Luke 20:34-36Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise [being sons of the resurrection].
Resurrected life will be very different from life on earth “since life is eternal there is no longer any need to produce more generations of the living and therefore, there is no longer any need for marriage (see Cor 15:35-40).
Luke 20:37-38 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Knowing that the Sadducees considered the Torah of Moses to be Spirit inspired Scripture; Jesus uses the Torah to prove their improper understanding of the resurrection of the dead. For other O.T. passages about the resurrection see Is 25:8; 26:19; Ps 73:24-25; and Dan 12:1-3.
Question: What text from the Torah does He use as a proof-text for their misunderstanding of Scripture and the resurrection?
Answer: Jesus refers to what God told Moses to tell the children of Israel concerning the identity of the God who sent Moses to liberate His people in Exodus 3:15-16 from Moses’ experience of the bush that did not burn up.
Question: What is Jesus’ point in referring to this passage?
Answer: Jesus’ point is that since God continues a personal relationship with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob after their physical death, there must be a form of life for them in the future.
Jesus has shown that the Sadducees do not understand the meaning of resurrected life nor do they understand that the Torah of Moses contains evidence for belief in the resurrection. Jesus is “coming against the shepherds of Israel” as prophesied in Ezekiel 34:10.
Luke 20:39-40Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” 40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything. The scribes, most of whom are Pharisees, believed in the Resurrection and approved of Jesus’ answer. The Sadducees are astonished at the authority of Jesus’ teaching and His ability to confound them. Unlike the religious leaders who refuse to acknowledge Jesus authority, the crowds continue to respond favorably to His teachings.
Luke 20:41-44 ~ Jesus questions the Sadducees on the identity of David’s son
41 Then he said to them, “How do they claim that the Messiah is the Son of David? 42 For David himself in the Book of Psalms says: The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand 43 till I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ 44 Now if David calls him lord,’ how can he be his son?”
After successfully dealing with the three questions of His adversaries, Jesus now asks them a question. Their failure in responding to Jesus’ counter questions implies that they can no longer teach with authority on the Law. Now He will demonstrate that they also cannot correctly interpret the Scriptures.
Question: Who are the “them” in verse 41? See verse 39 and Mk 12:35.
Answer: The scribes who are the teachers of the Law.
David was considered to be a prophet (see Acts 1:16; 2:25; 4:25; 13:36) and the psalms was considered a prophetic book (Lk 24:44; Acts 1:20). The psalm Jesus quotes is LXX 110:1 [Ps 109:1 in some translations]. It is the most often quoted or alluded to psalms by Jesus in the Gospels (Mt 22:44; 26:64; Mk 12:36; 16:19; Lk 22:69) and is an important proof text for the Resurrection (see Acts 2:33-34; 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 1:3) and for the Resurrected Christ seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20, 22; Col 3:1; Heb 1:13; 2:8; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2).
Question: What is the point of Jesus’ argument?
Answer: Jesus’ point is that the psalm refers not only to an earthly descendant (one less than David), but also to another (to one greater than David) since the prophet David calls this person “Lord” “which means that person is far above David and must point therefore to the Messiah “Jesus.
The future king that David writes about in Psalms 110:1 is one the angel Gabriel spoke of who will not only inherit “the throne of David his father”, but will also “rule over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will have no end” (Lk 1:32-33). St. Peter makes a similar argument in Acts 2:25-34.
Luke 20:45-47 ~ Jesus denounces the scholars of the Law (scribes)
45 Then, within the hearing of all the people, he said to his disciples, 46“Be on guard against the scribes who like to go around in long robes and love greetings in marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”
Jesus’ condemnation of the scholars of the Law for their hypocrisy is similar to His condemnation of both the Pharisees and scribes in 11:39-52. Widows were especially vulnerable if they didn’t have any living sons to support them. Jesus’ condemnation suggests the scribes in their business dealings confiscate the homes of widows who are unable to support themselves and at the same time pretend piety in their prayers. Jesus proclaims that the judgment for their heartless acts against the poor will be severe.
Luke 21:1-4 ~ The poor widow’s generosity
1 When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury 2 and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. 3 He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; 4 for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”
Within the Temple complex was a treasury where people could make donations for the support of the poor (Neh 10:38; Josephus, Jewish Wars, 6.5.2 ). The widow deposited two copper coins (lepta), the smallest value coins then in circulation (Johnson, page 316).
Question: What contrast does Jesus make between the poor widow and the pretentious scribes who “devour the houses of widows”?
Answer: In contrast to the hypocritical, pretentious and money loving scribes, Jesus points out a widow who does not place material wealth before her duty to God. Trusting God with a faithful and generous heart, she gives what little she has to support the poor.
Discourse on the Destruction of Jerusalem
The LORD of hosts shall be a shield over them, they shall overcome sling stones and trample them underfoot; they shall drink blood like wine, till they are filled with it like libation bowls, like the corners of the altar. And the LORD, their God, shall save them on that day, his people. Like a flock. Zechariah 9:15-16
In Luke 21:5-36, Jesus gives His discourse on the future destruction of Jerusalem. That this discourse concerns the historic destruction of Jerusalem and not His Second Advent is made clear by Jesus’ statement in Luke 21:32: Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Jesus gave an eschatological discourse prophesying His Second Advent in Luke 17:22-37.
Luke 21:5-11 ~ The warning signs for the destruction of Jerusalem
5 While some people were speaking about how the Temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, 6 “All that you see here “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” 7 Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” 8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, I am he,’ and The time has come.’ Do not follow them! 9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
Luke 21:6“All that you see here “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
The primary source for the historical event of the destruction of Jerusalem is the Jewish priest/historian, Flavius Josephus, who was an eyewitness to the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Roman legions in 70 AD. The Jerusalem Temple was one of the most beautiful buildings in antiquity. Josephus wrote that whatever was not overlaid with gold was purest white (The Jewish Wars, 5.5.6).
Question: What judgment does Jesus pronounce on the Jews who reject their Messiah in the discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem that begins in Matthew 23:34-39?
Answer: He said that Jerusalem was guilty of murdering God’s prophets, and all the abuses against God’s agents down through salvation history will fall upon Jesus’ generation (Mt 23:36).
Jerusalem had not only killed the prophets, but she offered sacrifices for the Roman Emperor and the Roman people twice daily in the sacred Temple (Josephus: The Jewish Wars, 2.10.4; Against Apion, 2.5), and now she rejects the Messiah who has offered her mercy, redemption and the invitation to sin no more. God gave the Jewish people who resisted the Messiah 40 years to come to the New Covenant as a new generation in Christ, just as He gave Israel 40 years in the wilderness to fully embrace the Sinai Covenant. But judgment finally came in 70 AD when the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple by fire. After the fire died down, the Roman soldiers poured water on the hot rocks to extract the gold that had melted into the cracks of the rocks from the gold ornaments that decorated the Temple and the golden fence that topped the Sanctuary. The rocks broke apart and, as Jesus prophesied, “not one stone was left upon another.” The Temple was never rebuilt “it was the house Jesus spoke of when He said: “Look! You house will be deserted” (Mt 23:38).
Luke 21:8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, I am he,’ and The time has come.’ Do not follow them!
Question: When did Jesus give a similar warning about false prophets claiming to be the Messiah “the prophet of God?
Answer: In His eschatological discourse in Luke 17:23.
In his description of the Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem, Josephus reports the appearance of many false prophets claiming to the Messiah who led the people astray (The Jewish Wars,6.5.2 [285-87; 300-309]).
Luke 21:9-11 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
Wars are always occurring somewhere in the world. But in the late 50’s and into the 60’s AD the Roman Empire, led by an evil and ineffective Emperor Nero, faced a number of insurrections in the provinces; beginning with Queen Boudicca’s revolt in Brittan in c. 60/61 AD. Encouraged by these revolts challenging the power of Rome, the Jews began a revolt by massacring the Roman garrison in Caesarea in 66 AD. As for the natural disasters and signs in the sky in verse 11, there was a worldwide famine predicted by Agabus in Acts 11:28 which occurred from 44 to 48 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius. This is an historical event attested by extra-biblical sources (i.e., Tacitus, Annals, 12:43). There were also a number of significant earthquakes in the Italian Peninsula and the Middle East and there may have been a sighting of Halle’s comet. Josephus records that there were strange sightings in the sky before the Roman siege of Jerusalem “including a star resembling a sword which stood over the city and a comet that continued a whole year (The Jewish Wars, 6.5.3 [288-300]).
Luke 21:12-19 ~ The coming persecution
12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. 13It will lead to your giving testimony. 14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. 16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. 19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Question: Between Jesus’ Ascension in the late spring of 30 AD and the Jewish Revolt that began in 66 AD and reached its climax in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, what persecutions did the faithful of the New Covenant Church suffer? Were these persecutions prophesied by Jesus? See examples in Acts 3:11-22; 5:19; 6:8-15; 7:58-60; 8:3; 9:2; 12:1-5; 16:23; 18:12-17; 21:30-33; 22:30; 23:12, 24, 26, 31-35; 24:10-27; 25:1-26:32; 27:1; 28:17-19, 30-31.
Answer: St. Peter and John were arrested, imprisoned, and tried by the Sanhedrin. St. Stephen and St. James were martyred and St. Paul and other disciples were beaten. St. Paul was arrested by the Romans, imprisoned, and spoke the Gospel before two Roman governors (Felix and Festus), a Jewish King (Herod Antipas II) and two Jewish princesses (Drusilla and Bernice), before being taken as a prisoner to Rome. All spoke eloquently before their enemies, and everything that the early Christians suffered that was recorded in Acts was prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21:12.
For the persecution of Christians “because of my name” (21:12) see the fulfillment in Acts 4:7, 10, 7-18; 5:28, 40; “lead to your giving testimony” (21:13) is fulfilled in Acts 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 20:26; 26:22.
Luke 21:17-19 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. 19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Jewish persecution of Christians began immediately after Jesus’ Ascension, but Roman persecution didn’t begin until 64 AD. Prior to the Emperor Nero’s organized persecution of Christians, the Romans had been fairly ambivalent to Christians. St. Paul was even saved several times from Jewish crowds by the Romans (i.e., Acts 18:12-15; 21:30-36)
In his 4th century Church History, Bishop Eusebius records that the Christians recognized the signs Jesus gave them, and, also warned by a revelation, the faithful left Jerusalem just before the Jewish Revolt and traveled across the Jordan River into Perea, saving all the members of the Christian faith community (Church History, III.5.3). Indeed, there are not any records of Christians perishing during the Jewish Revolt or Rome’s suppression of the revolt.
Luke 21:20-24 ~ The siege and the great tribulation
20 “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. 21 Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, 22 for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled. 23 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
There is an article of the Mosaic Law concerning the punishment for the daughter of a chief priest who was found to be guilty of the sin of prostitution or adultery: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death (see Lev 21:9); she was to be burnt alive. It will be the fate of the holy city of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Israel is a priestly nation whose people were called to be a holy witness to the world of the One True God. Israel is seen symbolically in Scripture sometimes as God’s daughter and at other times as God’s holy covenant bride (Is 1:8; 10:32; 49:18; 62:4-5; Jer 6:23; Ez 16:8-14; Hosea 2:18 (16)-19 (17); Joel 1:8-10). Apostasy and idolatry in Sacred Scripture are compared to the sin of adultery (Ez 16:15, 35-38; Hosea 2:4 (2)-7 (5). Jerusalem is the religious capital and symbolically the priestly daughter of Yahweh. When Jerusalem falls into prostitution with the gods of pagan peoples and choses Caesar for a king over the Messiah Jesus (Jn 19:14-15), Jerusalem will suffer the same fate as a priest’s daughter.
In 587/6 BC this was also Jerusalem’s fate for her apostasy (see Ez 16:37-42). Yahweh sent the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment and Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed by fire. The Jerusalem of Jesus’ time is equally guilty of sin; she has killed God’s holy prophets, she has offered sacrifices for the Roman Emperor and the Roman people twice daily in the sacred Temple (Josephus: The Jewish Wars, 2.10.4; Against Apion 2.5), and now she rejects the Messiah who has offered her mercy and redemption and the invitation to sin no more. God gave the people 40 years to come to the New Covenant as a new generation in Christ just as He gave Israel 40 years in the wilderness to fully embrace the Sinai Covenant. But judgment finally came in 70 AD when the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple by fire. When the Romans broke into the city after a three month siege, Josephus wrote: No pity was shown on account of age or out of respect for anyone’s dignity “children and elderly, lay people and priests alike were slain. The battle surged ahead and surrounded everybody, including both those who begged for mercy and those who resisted. The flames spread out to a great distance and its noise mixed with the groans of the perishing; and such was the height of the ridge and the magnitude of the burning that one would have imagined the whole city was aflame (The Jewish Wars, 6.5.1).
Luke 21:22 … for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled.
This passage may be a reference to the Scriptural fulfillment of Hosea 9:7 and Daniel 9:26-27. The Church was growing from the small seeds of the faithful remnant of Jewish-Christians into a universal Church composed of Jews and Gentiles during the years between Christ’s Ascension and the Jewish Revolt. It was during this period that the universal Church was being established in Rome. St. Peter had gone to Rome in c. 42 AD and St. Paul arrived for his first imprisonment in 61-63 AD. Paul was martyred on the same day as St. Peter in c. 67 AD. With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, the Sinai Covenant came to an end and Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens … were … given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him (Dan 7:27).
Luke 21:24 … and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Josephus recorded: … for they left only the populace and sold the rest of the multitude, with their wives and children, and every one of them at a very low price, and that because such as were sold were very many, and the buyers very few… and indeed the number of those that were sold was immense (The Jewish Wars, 6.8.2 [384-386]). The Jews sold into slavery were disbursed throughout the Roman Empire. Part of what made the death rate so high for the city of Jerusalem was that it was the time of the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread just before the arrival of the Roman legions and the city had swelled to well over 100,000 people with the addition of the pilgrims. You will remember Jesus’ warning to flee and to not to go into the city (21:21).
When the four Roman legions arrived and surrounded the city (as Jesus prophesied in 21:20) with soldiers from different Gentile nations across the empire, there was no opportunity to escape out of the city. Josephus also wrote, Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be 97 thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, 11 hundred thousand, the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army … (6.9.3 [420-421]).
Luke 21:25-28 ~ The coming of the Son of Man
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and rise your heads because your redemptions is at hand.”
The “time of the Gentiles,” when the Gentiles dominate the land of Israel, is to last for an undetermined time from the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact the land that was Israel/Judah was occupied by Gentiles and the Jews did not have a national home of their own until 1947 when the United Nations voted to re-create the nation of Israel. Independence was declared the next year in May of 1948, and the modern state of Israel has been at war ever since trying to survive in a sea of hostile Moslem nations.
Luke 21:29-33 ~ The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29 He taught them a lesson. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. 30 When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now hear; 31 in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Question: When did Jesus announce that His Kingdom was inaugurated? See Luke 17:21.
Answer: When He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them, referring to the fulfillment of the Kingdom in His teaching and His healing ministry.
The Kingdom of Jesus Christ has already been announced inLuke 17:21, but in 21:31 Jesus is referring to the triumph of the growth of the Kingdom and also to its place as the center of true worship and the only legitimate teaching authority with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.
Question: What is the significance of verse 32 and 33?
Answer: Jesus defines the unfolding of these events as within the lifetime of His Apostles and disciples. Verse 33 declares the authority of this teaching.
Luke 21:34-36 ~ Conclusion of the discourse and the call for vigilance
34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Question: For whom is this warning directed?
Answer: For Jesus’ generation and all generations in the Final Age of the Son of Man!
Luke 21:37-38 ~ Jesus’ teaching ministry in Jerusalem
37 During the day, Jesus was teaching in the Temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives. 38 And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the Temple area.
The day is probably Wednesday as Jesus completes His teaching ministry to the holy city of Jerusalem. He will dine with His friends at the home of Simon the (former) Leper in the village of Bethany (Mt 26:1-2, 6-13; Mk 14:1, 3-9) and will be betrayed by Judas (Mt 26:14-16 and Mk 14:10-11). The next day will be Thursday, the 14th of Nisan “the day the Passover victims are sacrificed.
1. The first night of the Feast Unleavened Bread, when the Passover victim was eaten in a sacred meal, was required to fall on the first full moon after the spring equinox. The Feast of Tabernacles was required to be celebrated during the full moon after the fall equinox (Works of Philo: Special Laws II, 150-155, 204; A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, pages 365-371; Antiquities of the Jews, 3.10.5; The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. I, pages 810-820). The Sinai Covenant established the Feast of the New Moon to determine each new month in the calendar year (Num 10:10; 28:11-15; 29:6; 1 Sam 20:5-27; Ps 81:3; Is 60:19-23, Sir 50:6 [Hebrew text], etc.; Works of Philo: Special Laws II, 41; 146; 204). The priests were responsible for determining the day of the new moon cycle. Later, in the first century AD, the Sanhedrin assumed this duty (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, pages 178, 264).
2. Josephus, Life 54.
3. Anointing was the religious act of making a man God’s representative: anointing for the priesthood (Ex 28:41; 29:7; 30:30-33; 40:12-15; Lev 9:12); anointing for kingship (1 Sa 10:1; 15:17; 2 Kng 9 :3-12 ; 1 Chr 11:3); anointing for a prophet (1 Kng 19:16). Jesus was anointed early in His ministry by the sinful woman in Lk 7:36-50; by Mary of Bethany on Saturday of His last week in Jerusalem in Jn 12:1-11; and a third time of Wednesday of His last week by an unnamed woman at a dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee (Mt 26:1, 6-13 and Mk 14:1, 3-9). In his third century AD commentary, Origen supported three separate anointings (Commentary on Matthew #77).
4. The concept of a zero place value did not make a significant appearance in the west until the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD (Christianity and the Roman Empire, page 282; Calendar: Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year, page 189; Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History page 77-78; 81). This ancient method of counting is the reason Scripture says Jesus was in the tomb for three days from Friday to Sunday and why a child was said to be in a mother’s womb for ten months (i.e., Luke 18:33; Wis 7:1-2).
6. No cross-breeding of species was permitted under the Law. A mule is the hybrid offspring of a donkey and a horse and cannot reproduce itself. Since the Law forbid the cross-breeding of mules within Israel, the animals were imported and like expensive imported cars today, because the ride of the wealthy. From their earliest appearance in the Old Testament, mules are associated with royalty (2 Sam 13:29; 18:9; 1 Kng 1:33, 38, 44).