“…not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life..”
– Luke 21:18-19
Our Gospel reading from Luke this morning is not for the faint-hearted…
In that, yes, very extended reading, we see how Jesus foresees the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of earth as well!
Both appear to get blended together in this prophecy… As an analogy, think about how one looks at mountain ranges in the distance… it is not always easy to tell which one is closer and which is farther off!
Let’s first look at the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in the year 70 A.D. (not C.E.). The Jewish historian Josephus – an actual eyewitness to the event! – gives us an idea of what this was like….
First, he says that very soon before the Fall of Jerusalem there was a star resembling a sword that stood over the city, a comet that continued for a whole year, and chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were said to be seen “running about among the clouds” before sunset. He also recalls how priests in the courts of the Temple who were performing their work felt a quaking, hearing a great noise in the Temple, and finally, heard many voices saying “Let us remove hence…” (The Wars of the Jews, 6.288-300). The contemporary Roman historian Tacitus, possibly utilizing Josephus, shares a similar information…
We recall Jesus spoke of fearful sights and great signs from heaven…
Josephus also tells us that Roman soldiers first marched on Jerusalem after a band of Jews took a fortress and slaughtered a Roman Garrison – and then these Roman soldiers were surprisingly defeated by Jewish insurgents! This was in 66 A.D., and at this time the Christians left the city. Eventually, more Jews across Judea, fleeing from incoming Roman legions, took refuge in Jerusalem and there fell under siege. Finally, Josephus gives us a detailed blow-by-blow account of the siege of Jerusalem: how Rome executed their win. In the end, he claims that over 1,000,000 Jews were killed during this apocalyptic event, which He attributes to God’s justice.
We recall Jesus telling His followers that as God’s judgment of Jerusalem would come, they should flee the city…
“In the first century, the historian Pliny wrote that Jerusalem was the most splendid city of the east, always full of pilgrims and tourists bringing prosperity.” The Temple, a complex administered by 25,000 staff including priests, musicians, guides, janitors, and vendors, was the crown of the city. Josephus wrote, “When strangers first saw it from a distance it looked like a mountain covered in snow with gold glittering everywhere since it was so bright white wherever it was not clad in gold.” Again, “Josephus [also] wrote that there was no doubt that this was a judgment from God,” and he believed this in part “because the Romans had orders not to harm the Temple itself, but in the fog and violence of war, it was completely destroyed.” Since the gold of the Temple had been melted after the Temple had been set on fire, all the walls and buildings except the foundation walls of the Temple Mount were pried apart — each stone removed — so the precious metal would not be lost….
We recall Jesus telling His followers that not one stone in the Temple would be unturned…
In 70 A.D., the world was blown apart for God’s chosen people, the Jews. Why?
As Jesus said in our reading for this morning, “these are the days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written…”
I am guessing that you know this is not the first time that Jerusalem and the Temple of God were destroyed.
About 650 years before this, in 586 B.C., it had occurred for the first time. In those days, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar leveled and torched the city, and had also looted, leveled, and obliterated with fire the entire Temple complex. After this, he killed some of the city’s inhabitants while taking the best, brightest, and most attractive as captives.
This was a devastating time for the people of God.
In order to make sure that this would never happen again, the people of Israel had, for a long time, doubled down on following God’s law.
At least, externally.
You see, if they could obey God’s law perfectly on the outside – since no one was perfect on the inside – then they could not only be assured that God’s blessings would come their way. They could also be sure that they could control God and his anger.
In sum, if they followed his rules, he would basically be obligated to reward and not punish them… To reciprocate. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours…
But God, you see, won’t be manipulated like this. God always wants not just a contract and the fulfillment of common interests, but our hearts.
But the church forgets. In Luther’s day, the concept of “congruous merit” arose, which stated that “on the ground of equity” we could claim a reward – even the reward of eternal life! – from God for our works.
In other words, were God not to compensate us, He would actually be committing an offense by violating that which is fitting. He would be unfairly discriminating against us!
Even today, that a “Great Divorce” on God’s part would actually be justice… justified… doesn’t seem to be a possibility for many modern persons claiming Christ….
..we perpetually underestimate the depth and seriousness of original sin – and sins to boot.
As I think I’ve said before…
So much then for “we are only unworthy servants”!
So much then for the parable of the eleventh hour!
So much for radical grace and mercy!
So much for “what do we have that we have not received?”!
Throughout human history, man has tried to manipulate God. Control Him. Tame Him and put Him in His place.
Israel’s neighbors performed child sacrifice and performed fertility rites in their temples for their gods in order to bring rain and favor — and the Israelites were mightily tempted to do the same and did do the same..,
In sum, it seems to be like this: if we can learn the “laws of the supernatural”, the “principles of the supernatural”, we can actually control God where his actions are predictable because of our own worthy persons and deeds.
This is a stupid and despicable lie — and this is arguably why, more or less, God destroyed Jerusalem twice…
Today, there are still many who do this kind of thing in the church… attempting to manipulate God with their actions and feelings.
And man in general, man outside the church, is basically doing the same thing. They are trying to manipulate and control God, even if this is something they might often have little awareness of.
Contemporary man, at least our elites, often wants to be “secular” — where secular to them means “apart from God” or even takes on “anti-God” connotations.
Whereas ancient man and religious man still today is tempted to try and master the “laws of the supernatural”, contemporary secular man, in an analogous fashion, attempts to harness what they call the “laws of nature”….
[Summary of the below section: When the world is treated as if it is a machine (Newton), it is easy to forget God… “If you know how something works you can control it, use it to your advantage, or at the very least you can harness it…”]
Isaac Newton, the 17th century scientist who we remember as discovering gravity when an apple fell on his head, was himself a Christian, and certainly changed the world when he recognized that regularities in the creation could be carefully and consistently observed and mapped mathematically, allowing for all manner of accurate predictions.
Still, he also said that “the world is a machine and a perfect one, with God its creator being ‘the most perfect mechanic of all’”
Some 150 years later we hear of the famous event when the brilliant “French Newton” Pierre-Simon Laplace (23 March 1749 – 5 March 1827) was asked by Napoleon where God fit into his mathematical and astronomical work, and Laplace famously replied “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.”
Now, Laplace was not necessarily saying that God did not exist. He was, however, saying that the question of God was more or less irrelevant in his scientific work.
The church has always said “lex orendi, lex credendi”, which when translated from the Latin roughly means “the law of prayer is the law of faith”. In other words, how one thinks, how one prays, what one does, will influence what one believes.
And so, in practice, when science is thought about wholly in terms of the “laws of nature” many felt and feel justified in methodologically excluding God from the picture and relying only on natural causes and explanations.
And, on the one hand, this makes some real sense to us. For all the times that they are wrong and we have wrongly cursed them, we also know that weathermen and women get a lot right – and we are happy that they search out things in terms of natural causes and don’t just concluded that “God is sunny and happy today…” or “God is stormy and angry tonight…”
And yet, this is also something desperately wrong about all of this, in essence, forgetting God – thinking of God’s creation — or “nature” if we want to avoid talking of the Creator — as a machine that we can understand well, control, and endlessly tweak (for again, if you know how something works you can control it, use it to your advantage, or at the very least you can harness it…).
Things get particularly bad when things like “social sciences” and then its offspring Marxism got rolling… where the fact that man has a soul as well as a body was left behind… a fact seemingly made “irrelevant” for how business gets done in the “real world”….
In my view, the brilliant Lutheran thinker George Hamann – recently discovered in the academic world – nailed the issue already 250 years ago when he, speaking of the new science that was captivating everyone, said:
“…human beings experience a regularity in the world around them, which they then improperly abstract into a concept of ‘natural law’ that excludes from serious discourse, the mystical, and the religious”.
And because so many scientists today, unlike Newton, do not know the Creator of the creation but have excluded him from serious discourse… no actual, serious science like that which Newton and Laplace practiced is in increasing jeopardy in America and the Western world today.
Nevermind the increasing lack of trust in big pharma, there is also the “replication crises” …where things that had seemingly been more or less proven and accepted as true in the past are increasingly unable to be replicated by those running the experiments again…
Many elite Americans think they still understand what good science is.
They don’t. At its best, those truly in the know recognize that there are vast differences between hard and soft sciences, know that dissent and challenge is critical to its proper use, get that striving for objectivity is key and is greatly hindered by conflicts of interest, and know enough to not claim too much for its powers…
My view is that those who have the lawn signs in their yards that proclaim “love is love”, “kindness is everything”, “no human is illegal”, and yes, “science us real” probably don’t see science the same way… (to say the least)
In fact, I’ll assert that most of these folks are actually “irrational” to the hilt… even as they use the proven rationality of truly successful science as a cover, a veneer, a patina, for both the goal of helping them fulfill their own desires… and to help them fit in with those they have come to admire in the world…
In sum, they know that claiming the authority of science for your desires, moral claims, and goals will certainly make these things appear more weighty, important…
…even as even real science continues to slip, making claims it can’t possibly support and prove…
That said, again, we can’t deny the power that men like Newton, Laplace, Boyle, Maxwell, and Einstein showed us… Rocket ships, nuclear bombs, and smart phones will do that to you, after all… And so again, knowing what really has been made possible, elite modern man wants, expects, to be in more or less full control…
Elon Musk certainly grasps science much better than the “woke” social justice warriors he decries, but he still has a lot of faith in its ability – too much faith – to offer us rational control over all of life’s problems…
At the very least, we often want to know what the weather is going to do and when…
All of us, to this or that degree want, expect, to be, in control… to manage our lives…
So enter this Gospel reading for today….
You think you are in control? More, you think you can manage Me, sideline Me, put me out of the game?
Not a chance. This world is passing away, and I, in fact, am going to blow it apart!
“There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among the nations, bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the surging of the waves. Men will faint from fear and anxiety over what is coming upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory…”
On the extreme left of the cultural and political spectrum, maybe many can “spin” the earthquakes and famines, tsunamis, and plagues Jesus speaks of as something that we, if we would just be good politically correct humanitarians! – could responsibly manage… But the Environmentalists and Green New Dealers are going to have a bit of trouble managing these things Jesus says are coming, spinning these things, to say the least…
Meanwhile on the extreme cultural and political right, men are more likely, I , submit, to be fatalistic in a sense, thinking, for example, that wars between nations – roughly equivalent to what we would today call ethnic groups – will indeed happen… So why try too hard to be peacemakers?
And among Christians who are indeed inclined to state they believe strongly in the Bible’s authority, there is often a belief that we can know pretty specifically when the end is coming – as man’s “free will” cooperates with God’s Spirit to know the day and the hour… For if you know that after all, then you can tell people more specifically when they need to decide to follow Jesus and to submit their hearts to Him…
Men go wrong in so many ways…
But this Gospel lesson today, my friends, cannot be constrained.
It is in fact God’s law, God’s judgment, seen by us in its full force…
It makes us aware of our sin quite well, that is, what our sin deserves…
We who would seek to put our Creator in His place…
My fellow believers, God’s law is not against us having some control, some management, in our lives.
In fact, one of the qualifications of a pastor is that he is one who manages his household well! (I Tim. 3:4)
At the same time, this text this morning reminds us who God is, both literally and as it reminds us who is ultimately in charge. Many things, simply put, are out of our hands…
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?
We see this also in the comfort that Jesus gives to those who are persecuted in His Name.
“Do not worry, do not plan…. on what words you will say. I will give you the words that you need when the time comes…”
Don’t worry, it is out of your control. I’ve got this. Your back.
Go ahead and plan, go ahead and speculate a bit here and there, but always hold such things lightly…
Perhaps you see or think you can prove that there are more earthquakes or plagues or tsunamis than ever before… and so this escalation shows the time is nearer still… but don’t forget that Jesus is telling us here to always be ready for the end to come…. the fig tree is always at least a little bit green…
You have the grace of God, grace that will keep you as His faithful witnesses – even unto death and the end. He will make you ready for the slaughter at any time, even as you are ready to share God’s mercy – in its manifold forms – with your enemies.
So baptized children of God, in these last days where the church’s faith and love and mission focus is weak… be who you are, be who you were always created to be… live a Christian life! This is what you have been called to…
This is about being those whose trust is increasingly not in one’s self and one’s own strength, but in Christ. For the sake of our neighbor. Like Paul, in Christ, we become less concerned about ourselves (see Rom. 9:1-5)..
For your neighbor’s sake, be actively seeking to be where He is at – about His Father’s business in the world… For you this means your various vocations: husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent, layperson, employer, employee, citizen, neighbor, etc. It is all for His glory so, whatever is at hand, do it for His glory!
For your neighbor’s sake, strive with all your heart to increasingly live within (not by) the 10 commandments according to their positive applications…
(the possibilities are endless!) For your neighbor’s sake, strive to consistently discipline your “old man” by fasting, praying, and giving alms… And above all, for your neighbor’s sake, seek to sit at your Lord’s feet more and more that you might grow in your understanding and realization of every word that proceeds from His mouth…
Yes, seek to know and do God’s love more and more – unto the perfection that we will only know on the last day….
Like the Christians who fled falling Jerusalem, flee all idleness, carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life!
…and manage yourself, your time, your talents and treasures wisely…
Even as you remember He is in control because of His love for the world… for you.
In this alone is true peace and freedom and confidence found…
The fall, the end, of Jerusalem, was terrifying.
The fall, the end, of the world, will be terrifying.
But know that all things work out for the good of those who love Him…
Because He loves the world, coming ultimately to save it and not condemn it…
Remember this is the Jesus who said on more than one occasion: “How often I wanted to gather you together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”
Jesus foresaw the coming destruction, and He mourned over this….
He mourned because He knew that because of their impenitence that in 70 A.D. the world was going to be blown apart for God’s chosen people, the Jews.
For “these are the days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written…”
And as Jesus lamented over the Fall of Jerusalem, I believe Jesus laments over the Fall of the world.
But don’t think that He won’t go through with the final judgment – or with sending the condemned, the damned, to Hell…
For those who will not have this Good and Fearsome God will not have His people either…. eventually. So He will rescue His people from their enemies forever and ever.
There will be a gulf forever separating the sheep and the goats, with the latter being unable to molest the former…
So when you read:
“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Again: Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near!
Do not be terrified, but Rejoice!
Not a hair on your head will perish, for Jesus means to for your life in the fullest sense, your soul, to be with Him forever.
Our text talks about believers enduring here… note that this is speaking about something more passive.
We patiently receive that which God sends to us, both afflictions, and the power to endure the same, secure by faith in His Son and the forgiveness He brings!
So, you… be out of control!
Unlike this fallen and perishing world, recognize your Maker who still makes the events of all our times…
…and who will never give us more than we can handle…
For things that are not under our control but wholly in His good hands should always be our comfort….
So cling to Him through this coming ride, and you shall win your souls…
Image complements of https://splcdenton.org/
 12 1 The temple was built like a citadel, with walls of its own, which were constructed with more care and effort than any of the rest; the very colonnades about the temple made a splendid defence. Within the enclosure is an ever-flowing spring;40 in the hills are subterraneous excavations, with pools and cisterns for holding rain-water. The founders of the city had foreseen that there would be many wars because the ways of their people differed so from those p197 of the neighbours: therefore they had built at every point as if they expected a long siege; and after the city had been stormed by Pompey, their fears and experience taught them much. Moreover, profiting by the greed displayed during the reign of Claudius, they had bought the privilege of fortifying the city, and in time of peace had built walls as if for war. The population at this time had been increased by streams of rabble that flowed in from the other captured cities,41 for the most desperate rebels had taken refuge here, and consequently sedition was the more rife. There were three generals, three armies: the outermost and largest circuit of the walls was held by Simon, the middle of the city by John, and the temple was guarded by Eleazar.42 John and Simon were strong in numbers and equipment, Eleazar had the advantage of position: between these three there was constant fighting, treachery, and arson, and a great store of grain was consumed. Then John got possession of the temple by sending a party, under pretence of offering sacrifice, to slay Eleazar and his troops. So the citizens were divided into two factions until, at the approach of the Romans, foreign war produced concord.
13 1 Prodigies had indeed occurred, but to avert them either by victims or by vows is held unlawful by a people which, though prone to superstition, is opposed to all propitiatory rites.43 Contending hosts were seen meeting in the skies, arms flashed, and suddenly the temple was illumined with fire from the clouds. Of a sudden the doors of the shrine opened and a superhuman voice cried: “The gods are departing”: at the same moment the p199 mighty stir of their going was heard.44 Few interpreted these omens as fearful; the majority firmly believed that their ancient priestly writings contained the prophecy that this was the very time when the East should grow strong and that men starting from Judea should possess the world.45 This mysterious prophecy had in reality pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, as is the way of human ambition, interpreted these great destinies in their own favour, and could not be turned to the truth even by adversity. We have heard that the total number of the besieged of every age and both sexes was six hundred thousand; there were arms for all who could use them, and the number ready to fight was larger than could have been anticipated from the total population. Both men and women showed the same determination; and if they were to be forced to change their home, they feared life more than death.
Such was the city and people against which Titus Caesar now proceeded; since the nature of the ground did not allow him to assault or employ any sudden operations, he decided to use earthworks and mantlets; the legions were assigned to their several tasks, and there was a respite of fighting until they made ready every device for storming a town that the ancients had ever employed or modern ingenuity invented.
 “The southwest portion of that wall is exposed today, and is called the “Wailing Wall”.” https://charlietaylorministries.com/topical/josephus-the-fall-of-jerusalem-in-70-ad/
 Even if, strictly speaking, as God, He was under no obligation and violated none of our rights in doing so…
“For twentieth-century fascism and communism, science supplied the best justification, whether socialist science or race science. Today’s justification is humanitarianism.[…] Impassioned hatred of enemies]” Still, even if humanitarianism is now the justification, it is nevertheless also supported by the idea that science itself indicates to us that this humanitarianism is best. We talk about morality now more therapeutically and medically now, in terms of being unhealthy (“toxic”, “polluting”) and healthy, not good or evil…