In this series of posts we will consider how Jesus Christ trained His disciples for what would happen after He ascended into Heaven. Our primary passage will be Luke 21:10-31, but we’ll begin in Luke 19:41-44. We’re choosing Luke’s account in order to retain continuity of authorship as we progress into Acts, even thought there are parallel passages in Matthew and Mark. So get out your study Bible, and let’s go to work. (By the way, if you’re reading this I’m glad you’re still with me after reading the previous post!)
Jesus is entering Jerusalem and is being hailed by the crowds as the Coming King, an event we still celebrate as Palm Sunday. Note that this event (esp. v. 38) was fully in keeping with the prophecies and expectation of Israel we have discussed at length before. The Pharisees have just demanded that He rebuke His disciples for their praise of Him, to which He replied that if his disciples became silent, the very rocks around them would cry out in their place. When the city came fully into view from His vantage point on the road, he wept over it, saying
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children with you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
This seems like a strange thing to say while surrounded by cheering people waving palm fronds and praising Him as the Coming King! But it was in response to this latest encounter with the Pharisees, who still did not see what the people could see. Note that his statements are in stark contrast to what the people were anticipating!
- Peace (the peace associated with the Millennial Kingdom) won’t happen
- The “things of peace” have been hidden from them — they are blinded to them
- Their enemies will lay siege to the city, specifically by the tactic of constructing an earthen ramp against the defensive walls up which troops can march over the walls and into the city
- They will be surrounded and hemmed in — a blockade against escape from the inside and assistance, even sustenance, from the outside
- The buildings and walls of the city, including the Temple, will be dismantled completely
- The populace and their children will also be “levelled” in the same manner as the buildings
The final statement is the strangest one of all. This would all happen because “they” had failed to recognize the Messiah when He came to them. Wasn’t that what the cheering crowd around Him was actually doing at the moment? Yes, but His focus was still on the altercation with the Pharisees, who represented the nation and were spiritually accountable for guiding her. It wasn’t that the crowds didn’t get it, it was that the Pharisees didn’t get it.
The Roman general Titus (later to become the tenth Roman Emperor) later did exactly what Jesus described, including the destruction of the Temple. Of course, Jesus in His foreknowledge as God, knew these things. Here we find God uttering a very unpleasant short-range prophecy about bitter times to come. The rapidity with which it was fulfilled must have struck those cheering around Him in much the same way that the fall of the Berlin Wall affected us in our day. What seemed impossible one moment happened the next. Truly God is in control of human events and history, and often directs to the right when we are thinking to the left.
Given His foreknowledge, how would you expect Him to begin preparing His disciples for the days ahead? And might this short-range prophecy be a part of the prophecies from Daniel concerning the Tribulation? Either way, Israel was headed into a troubling time, not the happy time expected by the crowds that greeted Him that morning on the way into Jerusalem.