Chapter 21 begins with Jesus again, teaching at the temple. As he is sitting there with the disciples, they are watching people place their gifts into the treasury. One after another, rich people continue to drop in their gifts. While they are watching, they see a poor widow step up and drop in two small copper coins. Jesus, who is clearly moved by what he has seen, turns to the others and tells them that, “this poor widow put in more than all of them.” (v 3, NASB)
I am sure that those listening were quite confused by this, but Jesus explains what he means. He points out that yes, the rich people had given a greater monetary value than the widow woman, but that monetary value was just a fraction of what they had. The widow woman, on the other, gave all she had to God. While they were talking, it became evident that many of his followers were distracted looking a the temple. They were talking about how beautiful it was
Jesus knew what they were talking about and seized the opportunity to speak about the end times. He tells them that the day is coming when not even one of the stones will continue standing.
He then talks about the signs to look for that will indicate the end is upon them. There will be wars between nations, earthquakes, and famine, as well as “terrors and great signs from heaven.” (v 11) Jesus tells them that even before then, those who follow him will find themselves persecuted and brought before rulers on charges. But there is a positive way to look at this. He tells them that it will lead to opportunities to share their testimonies.
Now Jesus realizes that it is natural in this situation to be concerned about preparing for this. But Jesus tells them, “I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” (v 15) Now I do not think that Jesus is telling them to do nothing, but His point is that they should not obsess over these things. He just wants them to understand what is to come.
Jesus then points out that they will be betrayed by “by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and [some] will put … to death, and [they will] be hated.” (Vv 16 – 17) But then he follows this with an unusual statement. He says, “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance, you will gain your lives.” (Vv 18 – 19) How is it in one breath he says, some of you will die, and in the next breath he says, you will gain your lives? I think we need to understand that the lives gained are eternal and can not be taken away when they have put their faith in Christ.
Jesus then tells them that “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.” (v 20) He tells them that when they see this, they need to flee to the mountains. He also makes the statement, “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land.” (v 23) I think the point is that those who are in such a condition are not in a place where they can quickly pack up and run.
He continues on with the signs saying they will be “in sun and moon and stars” as well as “dismay among nations.” (v 25) When these things are seen, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (v 27) Once again, Jesus points out that for those who know him, it is not a time for fear, but of hope as their “redemption is drawing near.” (v 28)
Jesus tells them that just as they see the leave appear on a tree tells you that summer is near, so to these signs tell you that the end is near. Jesus then gives them the warning to remain sober and alert. This way, they will not be taken by surprise in the same way others will. But be sure to pray for strength to endure what is to come so that in the end, they will be able to “to stand before the Son of Man.” (v 36)
Finally, once again, Luke reminds us that Jesus was spending his days teaching in the temple. This time he also mentions that he withdrew from the city for the night but would once again return to the temple in the morning where the people would wait to hear him teach.
My takeaways from the chapters are 1) God honors those who give sacrificially. 2) While we may not know the exact time of Christ’s return, we are told to watch for the signs and be prepared. And 3) we need to pray for the strength to persevere.