“An Opportunity to Testify”

1

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Luke 21:5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.

So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

 

Prayer.

Perspective changes with time and events.

I remember the view from the observation deck of the World Trade Center.

New York City, Central Park, the 5 boroughs, JFK, Ellis Island, the harbor were all so beautiful on that spring day in 1978.

After 9/11 and debriefing first responders, my perspective changed forever.

Perspective changes with time and events.

Nearly one-thousand years before Jesus

The Jerusalem Temple had been built and rebuilt numerous times.

The first Temple was built by Solomon in 966 BCE.

 

380 years later

Babylon reduced it to rubble in 586 BCE.

 

48 years later

Cyrus the Great used the same stones to rebuild it.

 

518 years later

Herod the Great completed a massive expansion and renovation in 20 BCE.

 

50 years later

Jesus taught his disciples

this Gospel lesson

at the front door

on the Temple steps.

 

There was no greater building in all the world,

So thought those under the age of 50 and who never traveled more than 90 miles from home.

 

The foundation itself towered 105 feet,

Built of enormous stones, some as large as 517 tons.

According to the Roman historian Josephus, 1,000 oxen were used to build the foundation. (https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/temple-at-jerusalem/the-stones-of-herods-temple-reveal-temple-mount-history/)

 

Surely, the Temple would last forever.

Jesus had a perspective his disciples did not share.

 

All seeing, all knowing, all encompassing;

 

Eternal is God’s cosmic view.

Fully human and fully divine

Jesus definitely proclaimed the Temple’s destruction.

His disciples couldn’t see like Jesus

40 years into the future

When Rome would reduce the Temple to rubble once again.

 

I didn’t think the twin towers would ever come down, either.

 

The disciples of Jesus,

being taught by him on the Temple steps,

were focused on destruction and end times.

 

St. Luke’s generation of Christians

Seventy years later

Had a different perspective.

 

Rome destroyed the Temple and the City of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Years later,

Sometime between 80 and 110 AD, scholars believe,

Our Gospel author, Luke, is testifying to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

 

Luke is the one of many

Post-apostolic, first generation, first century, early Church fathers.

His testimony from 33 AD to 90 AD is preserved by storytelling, the oral tradition.

Later, the Gospel of Luke is first written,

Ink on parchment.

 

The audience of Luke’s witness were new Christians;

former Jews

Convinced and convicted by testimony of Christ’s death and resurrection.

 

First century Christians were in a mess!

 

They faced fire, destruction, defeat, and humiliation.

They suffered disease, famine, persecution, and martyrdom by the thousands.

They faced wars and insurrections;

Terrible portents at every turn.

 

They were not interested in the piles of rubble,

The building and grounds of the destroyed Temple.

What they needed was hope, assurance, … Good News

To lead them through the mess of their current crisis.

Luke delivers the Good News,

Using his keen memory, and

The memory of other Gospel authors.

 

Luke bears witness to Jesus

Who provides encouragement and teaches vigilance

In spades.

 

Jesus focus is on a new beginning,

Not on destruction or the end of time.

Yes, the world is a mess.

You’re facing terrible persecutions, famine, and plagues …

But …

The glass isn’t half-empty; it’s half-full.

 

These trials will provide you an opportunity to testify!

 

The word Testify is the key that unlocks the Gospel.

 

Be assured,

You don’t have to worry about what to say;

Jesus gives words for testimony.

Testimony convicts and converts;

Harvesting disciples by the bushel full.

 

Testify!

Tell the story.

Leave the rest up to God.

 

Be assured,

Jesus provides wisdom that is unmatched by any opponent.

Not everyone is going to like the fact that you’re living in the wisdom of Jesus.

Some will hate you, even members of your own family.

Some might even kill your mortal body.

 

Be assured,

Jesus promises,

No one can harm your immortal soul.

Not a hair on your head will perish.

Disciples of Jesus witnessing their faith get an iron dome of protection.

 

Endurance.

Faith.

This will gain your soul.

 

Can we connect the dots

And make the leap to our world today?

 

 

We’re in a mess!

If we are so smart why do we keep getting ourselves into wars?

Explain to me how Ivy League politicians put our sons and daughters into combat?

Can’t they negotiate away differences and avoid the violence?

Can’t we talk our way out of school yard fist fights?

 

If we are so smart why are we still plagued with the flu?

Thousands of researchers right here in Rochester

And millions around the world

are searching for cures to our most deadly diseases.

Progress comes in small increments.

Hope is measured in years.

 

If we are so smart why are there still famines?

Tell me why a change in global climate

can result in whole populations being flooded and going hungry.

Tell me why the families I meet in Guatemala cannot feed their children.

Malnutrition and starvation is a daily reality

Right here in our hemisphere,

Right next door.

 

California wildfires.

Caribbean hurricanes.

We can’t even predict, let alone stop, an earthquake.

 

We’re in a mess!

I haven’t mentioned school shootings or domestic terrorism.

Oh, yes; there is also the fact that every one of us

Comes from a dysfunctional family.

You can’t fool me.

We’ve all got skeletons in our closets.

“Parents and brothers, relatives, and friends;” Jesus explains

“And they will put some of you to death.” (21:16)

 

 

What are we to do?

 

Moving forward, Jesus tells us to testify;

Witness our faith to others.

Share what you’ve learned and what you have come to believe.

Make yourself a vessel through which the Holy Spirit can speak.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” the resurrected Jesus teaches,

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:19-20)

 

What are we to do?

Jesus is telling us here to

Focus on the long game.

Testify with endurance.

 

Empires come and go.

Nations rise and fall.

God is eternal.

God’s plan for you and me is eternal, too.

 

What are we to do?

Here, and elsewhere, Jesus tells us to remain vigilant.

Watch.

Listen for signs of the times.

Be alert to God’s emerging kingdom.

 

The view from the observation deck

Pales in comparison to the Lord’s eternal history and promise.

 

Testify.

Endure.

Remain vigilant.

Be assured, our eternal interest is God’s greatest priority.

Amen.

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