Bible read me 1Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 21:10-19

Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers[a] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

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Luke 21:5-9 recounts Jesus’s foretelling the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which took place in 70 AD by the Romans.

In Luke 21:7, one of the disciples asked Him when that would happen and how they would know beforehand. The answer came as follows:

And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

This brings us to today’s verses.

Many agnostics and unbelievers say, ‘If there were a God, my father would not have died, wars would not take place, nor would natural disasters. If there is a God, why does He allow these things to happen?’

Too few Christians know the answer to that question, which is in all the Synoptic Gospels:

Matthew 24

Mark 3:3-13

Luke 21:8 – 18

Everyone who calls himself a Christian should know where to point people in the right direction for the answer.

It astounds me that none of these passages is in the three-year Lectionary.

Too many of us think that nothing bad should ever happen to us or to others. However, we have lived in a fallen world since Adam and Eve’s Original Sin. Events will continue to wax and wane until the Second Coming. Does that mean we should sit back passively? No, let us do what we can to help each other by providing practical help as well as prayers. But none of us should be under any misconceptions; these things are meant to happen — and they will.

Let’s imagine what the disciples thought as they heard Jesus’s words. Remember that the Messiah was to bring the Jewish people into a temporal golden age which would last forever. They would have been confused by His foretelling of wars around the world (verse 10), natural disasters, famine, plagues (verse 11) must have shocked them.

Most shocking must have been His telling them in no uncertain terms that they would be persecuted — for His sake (verse 12). John MacArthur describes the justice system of that era:

Synagogues…contained the Jewish local courts. In every village, in every town there were synagogues. In those synagogues was the dispensing of local justice both criminal and civil. Twenty-three judges usually were required to sit and adjudicate on the cases that were brought to the synagogue court.

To be brought, by the way, before that court was considered a severe discrediting and indignity. The court would listen to the case, the court would make a decision, that is the judge would render his verdict, and punishment was executed immediately on the spot. Generally speaking, since the Romans had not allowed the Jews to have the right of capital punishment, the Jews would have to do something to punish people short of stoning them to death, and so they would scourge them with whips, the way Jesus was scourged, in fact, by the Romans was the typical way the Jews scourged the guilty. One judge would recite an appropriate Psalm, or Old Testament text, that had something to do with the crime committed. The second would count the blows. And a third would command the blows and a servant of the synagogue, he was called, would deliver the blows and they would come immediately upon the adjudication and in full public view.

In the case of these believers, they would not only be scourged, but they would be put in prison.

Jesus tells His disciples that persecution will be their chance to bear Christian witness (verse 13). As to the abject fear felt in these situations, He advised not to be afraid of finding words of self-defence (verse 14), because He will enable them — and us — to speak in such a way that no one can contradict what is being said (verse 15).

Matthew Henry tells us that this wisdom came to the disciples at the first Pentecost:

This was remarkably fulfilled presently after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples this mouth and wisdom, when the apostles were brought before the priests and rulers, and answered them so as to make them ashamed, Acts 4:1-6:15.

Jesus goes on to say that those close to the disciples will turn them in to the authorities for preaching in His name. Death would be a real possibility (verse 16).

All of this pertains to us, too.

After the Romans destroyed temple, Jewish persecution of Christians ceased. Gentile persecution continued and, as we know, exists today all over the world. In some countries it is more random. In others, it is an everyday preoccupation.

Jesus tells the disciples that people will hate them because those same people hate Him (verse 17). Those who persecute sometimes do it in the name of God, to help Him rid the world of heretics and infidels. Think of the attacks in Paris in January 2015 as the most recent example (as I write).

Jesus ends His discourse by reassuring them that they will perish (verse 18) and that, thanks to their endurance, they will gain their lives (verse 19). He means that they will share eternal life with Him.

The second half of John MacArthur’s sermon tells us what happened to the Apostles and disciples. Jesus’s words were fulfilled. Some of the evidence is in the book of Acts (emphases mine):

The church starts in chapter 2. Peter preaches his first sermon in chapter 3. They’re put in jail in chapter 4. Before anything else could happen as exactly as Jesus had stated. Shortly after that, however, stung by the phenomenal growth of the church, three thousand on the Day of Pentecost and thousands more soon after, you come in to chapter 5, the next chapter in Acts, and what do you read? “The high priest rose up along with all of his associates, that is the sect of the Sadducees, filled with jealousy they laid hands on the Apostles and put them in a public jail.” Just exactly what Jesus said would happen at the hands of the Jews. That’s chapter 5.

You come to chapter 6, you meet Stephen, a servant in the church. Stephen is falsely accused. He is arrested by the Jews. He is put on trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council. And then he is, in chapter 7, stoned to death. After his death, you come to chapter 8. How does chapter 8 begin? With a general persecution breaking out against all Christians, spear-headed by none other than a man named Saul of Tarsus. The persecution begins and it spreads.

It finally reaches the Apostles in the twelfth chapter. The first of the Apostles to be martyred is James, the brother of John, and he is executed by the will of the Jews at the hands of Herod, chapter 12.

Soon after that, Peter, Andrew, Philip, James the son of Alphaeus, all crucified. Bartholomew whipped to death and then crucified. Thomas stabbed with spears. And these are the very men to whom Jesus said you will be hated, persecuted and killed. And they were.

Even outside that original circle of disciples, Mark was dragged to death through the streets of Alexandria. James, the half-brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church, was stoned by order of the Sanhedrin. Matthew, Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus and even Timothy were killed for their unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. It was Clement of Rome, a contemporary of the Apostles, who died around 100 A.D. who observed this, quote: “Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church have been persecuted and executed.”

Jesus said it would happen and it happened. Jesus wasn’t limiting this persecution just to them. He said it would start with them and it would continue. The Apostle Paul says, “All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

As for Saul of Tarsus who underwent dramatic conversion as Paul, the second half of Acts has his story, which MacArthur details for us. At the end:

Eventually he has a harrowing sea voyage and shipwreck. In Roman custody he arrives in Rome. There, Acts 28, local Jewish opposition comes against him. They tracked him even to the end of the book of Acts because they hated Christ. The Romans released him after two years of imprisonment. Acts 28:30, eventually rearrested him and cut off his head under Nero’s persecution.

The world will make our lives a misery to lesser or greater degrees. Regardless of what happens, our Lord will keep us close to Him not only in this world but in the next:

18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Next time: Luke 21:20-24

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