Jesus Warns the People About the Scribes
Having won the arguments with the Scribes and stumped them with his questions regarding David and his Lord, Jesus warned the people about them. He said the warning to the disciples, but did it in the hearing of all the people. (45)
The scribes studied and taught the scriptures. They made copies of the Old Testament. They were scholars.
But Jesus warned that they also liked to look important. He said they walked around in long robes. Their dress was distinctive from that of common men. It showed they did not do manual labor and that they were financially successful. The implication was that God blessed them with wealth as a reward for their righteous works. It reminds us of the prosperity preachers of today who wear expensive clothes, live in mansions, own jets and hold that up as a blessing from God that shows how great they are. It is quite a contrast to God who looks, not on outward appearance, but on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
They loved long greetings in the marketplace. Long greetings would entail elaborate statements of their worth and status. People today still love titles.
They also loved the best seats at synagogue and at feasts. This was like sitting at the head table at a banquet. Again it is about recognition of their important status. They loved this.
They were also pretentious in public prayers, making elaborate statements for show rather than actual communication with God. (47)
They were hypocrites.
One problem with this hypocrisy is that you may begin to fool yourself. You pretend to be spiritual so often that you believe your own lie and think you are spiritual. At that point you are doomed, because you have lost the ability to repent, to seek the Lord and to live for him rather than yourself.
Their hypocritical religious life led to a hypocritical ethical life. Jesus said they devoured widow’s houses. They took houses away from poor widows. This is bad enough on the surface, but when you recount all God said in the Old Testament about justice in the treatment of widows, you see this statement as one of serious condemnation. For example, Exodus 22:22 says “you shall not mistreat any widow”. Deuteronomy 10:18 says that God executes justice for widows.
Widows in that society were defenseless. They were vulnerable. Often they were poor, having no income and no one to support them. That is why God takes up their cause and says we must also. But the scribes took advantage of them.
Jesus said they will receive the greater condemnation. (47) And remember these words are spoken by the one who will judge the world.Those who are in ministry are held to a higher standard. All who live hypocritically face judgment, but those who live hypocritically in ministry face greater condemnation.
Jesus warned the disciples about the scribes because they were not who they appeared to be and the disciples could not trust them.
A Widow Gives All
Luke here employs another comparison, telling two stories to make a contrast. In contrast to the wealthy scribes who took advantage of widows, a poor widow is the focus of this story.
The background to this story is the Passover. Thousands of Jews came from all over to Jerusalem and to the temple at this time. They made offerings There were 13 offering boxes with an opening like the bell of a trumpet. Jesus watched rich people put in their offerings. He could tell they were rich by their dress, but also by how long they took to put all the coins in the box. It is likely that many of them made a show of this.
Then came the widow. She put in two copper coins. They had such a small value it hardly counted: about one four-hundred of a shekel each. But Jesus did not compare how much she gave to how much the rich gave; his comparison was how much she gave in relation to what she had. She gave all she had to live on.
Rich people are often lauded for their gifts, and that is not all bad. But, Jesus looks and honors sacrificial giving more than large donations. This widow gave it all.
The widow gave her whole self to God. As Jesus previously said that where your treasure is is where your heart is, her heart was clearly with God. In contrast, the scribes’ hearts treasure and hearts were on earth, with themselves, their riches and their status. Jesus praised the widow and condemned the scribes.
The End of the Temple
The temple was quite impressive. After Herod renovated and expanded it, it was covered with gold plates that dazzled in the sun. It had marble of pure white. It was decorated with precious gems. People pointed this all out to Jesus.
Rather than admire the temple, Jesus said it would be destroyed. He said “the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”. (6) That dramatic statement got the attention of the disciples. They wanted to know when it would happen and what would be the warning signs. (7)
The first thing the Lord said about this was a warning not to be led astray. (8) Many will come and claim to be Christ Returned and will say the end is near. Jesus said not to follow them.
Jesus also said that there would be wars and tumults, but his disciples should not be terrified because the end will not be at once. Jesus’ instruction is to not be afraid.
Jesus also said there would be earthquakes, famines, and cosmic signs. The Jewish writer, Josephus, recorded the appearance of a comet. All of these things happened before the temple was destroyed. There were many wars. The Jews rebelled against Rome beginning in 66 A.D., leading to the invasion by Rome.
But, Jesus said, before these things happen (“all this”), the disciples will suffer persecution. Their opponents will lay hands on them, deliver them up to synagogues (meaning the rulers of the Jews) and some will be put in prison. They will brought before kings and governors for the sake of Jesus’ name. Sadly, Jesus went on to say that their families and friends would even deliver them up to their adversaries. (16) They would be hated for the sake of Jesus’ name. (17)
Again, all these things happened before the temple was destroyed. The Book of Acts records many such things. Peter and John were taken before the Council and high priest. (Acts 4:5) They were warned not to preach about Jesus and were threatened.
Acts 5 records the arrest and imprisonment of the apostles. They were freed by an angel. Then they were brought before the Council again and told not to teach in Jesus’ name. They were beaten.
Paul was beaten, imprisoned, taken before the governors and the emperor. He was ultimately killed. Stephen was stoned to death. Men and women were imprisoned. James was killed. Peter was killed. Christians were burned by the emperor Nero. Others were crucified. All of this occurred before the temple was destroyed.
Notice, though, that Jesus did not say these things to scare the disciples, but to prepare them and assure them. In fact, he said this persecution was their opportunity to witness and he would give them words to say that no one could contradict. (15)
The experiences of Peter and Paul recorded in Acts show that Jesus did what he said he would do. Repeatedly, the disciples answered the authorities in words that could not be rebutted. All through history, Christians have given bold witness in persecution.
Verses 16 and 18 seem to contain a contradiction. In verse 16, Jesus says some of them will be put to death. Yet, in verse 18, Jesus said “not a hair of our head will perish”.
Verse 18 is not meant to be literal, but a saying meaning that their eternal life could not be taken away or damaged. If it meant physical life, verse 19 would not make sense in context. Their perseverance in the face of persecution would show that they had “gained their lives” or had eternal life. The word translated “lives” (psyche) here could be translated “souls” as it was in the King James Version. Their souls would be saved if they endured in faith through the persecution. Perseverance shows our faith is genuine.
After these events, or types of events, will come the event that shows the destruction of Jerusalem is actually about to occur. When Jerusalem is surrounded by enemies, the desolation of the city is near. (20) When the city is surrounded, those in Judea should flee to the mountains. Those who are in Jerusalem should depart and no one outside the city should enter it. It will be a time of great distress.
That is because the destruction of the city is sure to happen. It is a matter of God’s vengeance for rejecting and killing his son. (22) It is God’s wrath against the Jewish people of the time. (23) They would be killed and others taken as captives. All of this happened with the Roman invasion in 70 A.D.
In this time of wrath, we also see mercy. God gave Jerusalem about 40 years to repent. Jesus also provided a way of escape, words of grace. He told his followers to flee to the mountains and to avoid the city. He protected his followers by telling them how to escape destruction.
The destruction of the temple was also a sign that the system of temple sacrifice had to be destroyed. Since Jesus had offered the once for all sufficient sacrifice for sin, no other sacrifice should be given. And since Jesus had promised that he and the Father would dwell within his followers, the old temple was no longer the dwelling place of God and should not stand against the true temple, the body of Christ.
Jesus also said Jerusalem will be trampled until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. This may indicate a time will come when the Jews repent. In Paul wrote that, if the Jews do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted into God’s people again. (Romans 11:23) He wrote that a partial hardening came upon Israel until “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”. (11:25) That indicates that at the end of the time of the Gentiles, Israel may repent and again become part of God’s people.
In conclusion, we see that Jesus warned and prepared his disciples for the persecution to come. We can learn from these warnings as well. We also see that every word spoken about the destruction of the temple and the city was fulfilled. You can read Josephus’ book on the Wars of the Jews for his account.
We also see that the destruction of the temple is a type of the final judgment of the world, the “day of the Lord”. On that day the Lord will judge and act against all who have rejected his Son. We do not know the exact day that will occur, so it is important that each of us make sure we believe and commit our lives to Christ.