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(Read this series from its beginning here.)
As we said in Part 1, Jesus responds to the people by warning them not to follow violent messiahs.
After the fact, we can see how the tension between the haves and have-nots of Jesus’ society in the latter half of the 1st Century finally did erupt into a protest, then war, and finally desolation. Stating that these violent false messiahs would come, Jesus offers the people another path, a path of hope mixed with persecution and turmoil.
“Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. (Luke 21:10-19)
The context of this whole section is vital. Just before this passage, Luke reminds us of how positively the people responded after Jesus’s protest in the temple:
“Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words” (Luke 19:47-48, emphasis added).
Jesus was not rejected by the people. He was silenced by the powerful and elite of his society who had everything to lose if the people continued to follow him and if the systemic changes he taught actually took root.
Luke then reminds us:
“Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple” (Luke 21:37-38, emphasis added).
The picture we get from Luke is that this was a time in Jesus’s ministry when it looked as if society might have a chance at turning the corner and actually becoming more economically, distributively just. This brings to mind recent movements in U.S. politics before our current pandemic.
We’ll conclude with what lesson is here for us in our context, today, next.