Bible GenevaContinuing 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 21:32-38

32 [“]Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Watch Yourselves

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake 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.”

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

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Most of Luke 21 is about our Lord’s warnings for the near future — the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple — and the distant future which includes wars and persecution, all leading to His Second Coming.

Today’s tendency for clergy and lay ministers is to read this chapter as one concerning the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD. Yet, most recently, we have had unimaginable wars in the 20th century and protracted conflicts are still occurring today.

Perhaps a more realistic way of reading this chapter is to view the destruction of Jerusalem as a foretaste for what the Second Coming will be like. It might or might not occur in our lifetime. Note Luke 21:24-28, particularly the fulfilment of the times of the Gentiles, which certainly was not in 70 AD:

24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on 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 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Hence, Jesus’s counsel in today’s verses. Many horrible and devastating events must occur before He comes again in glory (verse 32). Furthermore, even though heaven and earth disappear, His words will remain everlasting (verse 33).

He advises us not to become downcast by the cares of this life, which are many: financial, social and political insecurity. We are to avoid excesses in drink and food as self-medication in case that final day arrives when we are unprepared (verse 34). Matthew Henry explains:

the immoderate use of meat and drink, which burden the heart, not only with the guilt thereby contracted, but by the ill influence which such disorders of the body have upon the mind they make men dull and lifeless to their duty, dead and listless in their duty they stupify the conscience, and cause the mind to be unaffected with those things that are most affecting.

We can include drugs in that warning. They, too, alter our ability to function at our best.

Henry also includes materialism as another sin to be avoided (emphases mine):

The inordinate pursuit of the good things of this world. The heart is overcharged with the cares of this life. The former is the snare of those that are given to their pleasures: this is the snare of the men of business, that will be rich. We have need to guard on both hands, not only lest at the time when death comes, but lest at any time our hearts should be thus overcharged. Our caution against sin, and our care of our own souls, must be constant.

Contrary to what unbelievers think — ‘That’s your God, nothing to do with me’ — everyone alive on that day will experience this finality (verse 35).

Therefore, Jesus tells us to be in a sober frame of mind so that we can handle the awesome (‘terrifying’, not ‘cool’) events that will take place and to be able to face Him in person (verse 36).

Jesus spoke these words in Wednesday of His Passover — and our Passion, or Holy, Week. Luke tells us that He was now no longer returning out of town to Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s house but to Mount Olivet to spend the night (verse 37). Henry surmises a close friend might have lodged Him there. He then returned to the temple to preach the next day (verse 38).

John MacArthur tells us:

it would have been very dangerous…very dangerous for Him to be anywhere easily found at night. The Jews wanted Him dead. They had been planning that for a long, long time…since His ministry began, since even before the Galilean ministry was completed they wanted Him dead. But the timing wasn’t right and they couldn’t ever pull it off until the timing was right. And then as it turned out, they wind up executing Jesus at the time they most wanted not to do it. And this is because, before you ever talk about the role of the devout or the devil or the defector, or the role of the disciples, you have to talk about the role of the deity which is really the design of the whole plan.

It is vital that we remember that our Lord was meant to die on the Cross for our sins. Hence His death on the Cross is paramount in our thoughts:

If you don’t know that and believe that, you’re not a Christian. That’s what it means to be a Christian, to know this and believe this…that’s being a Christian. We understand that. Christ’s death then is the highpoint in redemptive history, it is God’s highpoint, it is God’s moment. It is the center of God’s story. The cross is our only hope, our only refuge from divine judgment. And listen to me, the cross must be the sanctuary for every Christian’s private worship. The cross must be the sanctuary for every Christian’s private worship, that’s why it’s here behind me for all of you to see, to sit at the foot of the cross and be reminded that this is our Holy of Holies. You cannot take it for granted. You cannot become familiar with it so that it loses its wonder.

This is why St Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 1:23-30):

23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[a] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[b] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[c] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption …

Next time: Luke 22:1-6

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