Luke said that he wanted to write for Theophilus, “in orderly sequence” (1.3), an account of “the events that have been fulfilled among us” (1.1). Throughout his Gospel, Luke labored to compose a biography of Jesus, inviting the reader to celebrate the arrival of the kingdom of God and the salvation Messiah offered to even the outcasts of Jewish society. The initial scene of Luke 21 is the brief but profound account of the widow dropping her “two tiny coins” (v. 2) into the large temple treasury. Without saying so much, Luke elevated the widow as a model of kingdom living; by placing her gift, “all she had to live on” (v. 4), in the treasury she placed herself in the arms of God. Unlike the Pharisees, she exemplified an unselfish, humble, trust in God.
Throughout the narrative to this point Luke portrayed an increasingly sharp struggle between Jesus and the Pharisees. The former, claiming to be the Messiah, had not behaved as the Pharisees believed Messiah should; He ate with tax collectors (19.1-10), demanded that the Pharisees love God more than money (16.14-18), and did not observe the Sabbath scruples they had set forth (13.10-17; 14.1-6). For those actions—and in light of His eloquence against them in the Parable of the Vineyard Owner ( 20.9-19)—“they looked for a way to get their hands on Him” (20.19). That they did, but not before He prophesied of the consummation of the kingdom, and the destruction that would soon come upon Jerusalem:
- Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age (21.5-38). While those accompanying Jesus marveled at the grandeur of Herod’s Temple (cf. Jn 2.20), Jesus saw the future—when all would be torn down (vv. 5-6//Matt 24.1-2//Mark 13.1-2). His statement provoked the curiosity of His listeners, who asked Him about the signs that would clue them to the end of the age and the coming of His kingdom. Jesus responded with a rough sketch of the events that would signal the beginning of the end—including wars and natural disasters (vv. 7-11//Matt 24.3-8//Mark 13.3-8). But in the immediate, He was concerned with encouraging the endurance of the disciples (vv. 12-19//Matt 24.9-14//Mark 13.9-13). Jesus told them that before all of these natural phenomena would come about, they would suffer persecution from both Jewish and Roman leadership (v. 12) and even their own families (v. 16). Nevertheless, He said: “It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. Therefore make up you minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict…not a hair of your head will be lost. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (vv. 13-14, 18). In the midst of describing many instances of persecution, Jesus placed special attention upon the city of Jerusalem (vv. 20-24//Matt 24.15-22//Mark 13.14-20), saying: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near” (v. 20). Many believe that Jesus here echoed the prophet Daniel to predict the Roman siege of Jerusalem that took place between 68-70 A.D. (cf. Dan 9.27; 11.31; 12.11). It may be that the tribulation endured then cast a shadow throughout the church age, “the times of the Gentiles” as Jesus said (v. 24), and prefigure a time of great tribulation near the end (cf. 2 Thess 2.1-12; Tim 3.1-5; 2 Peter 2; Rev 8.7ff). Then Jesus would come with such magnitude that even the celestial powers would be employed to announce His Second Advent (vv. 25-28//Matt 24.29-31//Mark 13.24-27). On the whole, the message for the disciples was clear: “Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly like a trap…But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man” (vv. 34-35a, 36)
- Jesus was betrayed and seized (22.1-71//Matthew 26//Mark 14). Luke reported that the Pharisee’s fear of the people, i.e., their fear that all the people would shun them and follow Jesus, had grown so severe that they “were looking for a way to put Him to death” (v. 2). Their work was right in step with that of Satan, who tempted Judas to betray Jesus for silver at a time “when the crowd was not present” (v. 6). During the Passover meal Jesus again predicted the coming kingdom of God (vv. 16, 18), and identified the one who would betray Him (vv. 21-22). At the Passover meal, the paramount lesson for the disciples was humility and service—not lording their positions over others—in preparation for the day when they would “sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel” (v. 30). But this was future, far-future, since at present the difficulties would be so severe that even Peter would deny his Lord (vv. 31-34), and the disciples would need to tote money, a traveling bag, and even a sword for their missionary work (vv. 35-38)! Once Luke reported the events of the meal, he moved in staccato fashion through the remainder of the scenes that led to Jesus’ initial trial before the Sanhedrin. In a matter of hours Jesus went from pleading with His Father in the garden to giving testimony before the chief priests and scribes, who said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us” (v. 67)
Luke’s record of the events of the last week of Jesus’ life show His unique place in the storyline of Scripture:
- Jesus fulfilled the Passover celebration of Israel, and instituted a new meal commemorating His death and resurrection. In the book of Exodus, the Passover celebration was set forth as an annual reminder of God’s wonderful redemptive power in rescuing the nation of Israel from the clutches of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Israel found her significance in the Passover. In Exodus 12-13, one notices that the Biblical author gives significantly more attention to the Passover ceremony than even the death of Pharaoh’s son or the initial travel of the Israelites. Moses’ point was that this celebration was the means of remembrance; as Israel remembered what God had done for them they would be less susceptible to idolatry, have the courage necessary to stand against their enemies, and have the means to provide successive generations with a visual representation of God’s work in history. But Jesus established a new covenant in His own blood, telling the twelve, “It is shed for you” (Luke 22.20). The New Testament authors thus time and again call their audiences to remember their significance in Christ, receiving His forgiveness, and aligning their moral compass to His standards. The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom 6.1-3). He exhorted the Corinthians to purify themselves of immorality, saying, “For Christ our Passover has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5.7b), further admonishing them: “The unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom…Some of you were like this, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6.9a, 11). The author to the Hebrews likewise wrote: “Now every priest stands day after day ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 10.11-12). Christ instituted a new situation and a new meal, shifting the focus of God’s people from the Passover to the Supper that would commemorate His death and resurrection. In it followers of Christ remember the gift of forgiveness, the demand for obedience to His commands, and the corresponding responsibility to care for one another. Paul chastised the Corinthians because when they ‘came together’ to partake of the Lord’s Supper, they were actually a divided community; the wealthy separated themselves from the impoverished with the result that factions had arisen among the people. Paul wrote: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor 11.27-28)
- Jesus was identified as Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, the One who would take on Himself the punishment for the sins of the people, being counted among the criminals. Just before He was arrested, Jesus told the eleven, “What is written must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And He was counted among the outlaws.’ Yes, what is written of Me is coming to fulfillment” (22.37; cf. Isa 53.12). This quote from Is 53 is from the end of a chapter replete with Messianic prophecy: “Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels” (v. 12; cf. Luke 22.37; Phil 2.6-8; Heb 7.25, 9.28). Jesus’ point with Isa 53.12 was that since He would in fact have to suffer as a criminal, being treated like an enemy of the public, so the eleven should be concerned that the Jewish leadership and Rome would come against them as well
*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com