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Do you see what I see

Sermon passage: (Luke 21:5-19) Spoken on: February 28, 2021
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev Enoch Keong
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Luke

Tags: LUKE 路加福音

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About Rev Enoch Keong: Rev. Keong is currently serving as a pastor in the youth, young adult and young families ministries in Jubilee Church.
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Title: Do you see what I see
Date: 28 Feb 2021
Preacher: Rev Enoch Keong
Text: Luke 21:5-19

Singaporeans enjoy travelling, but that’s something we don’t get to do these days. So I hear people lamenting for being grounded. We hear that too, right? For my family, just not being able to do our groceries shopping across the causeway is already a somewhat painful and ‘pinch-ful’ thing. Pardon me, no such word in the dictionary.

Unable to travel, many Singaporeans started to have greater appreciations of our surrounding and we are seeing many these days, more pictures of local sceneries on Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram. Huey Huey took once such picture the other day. “Do you see what I see?” I was driving, and she said with excitement. “What?” I asked. “This!”.

Similar emotions I believe was oozing from the worshippers in verse 5. When they looked at the magnificent temple, these worshippers could no longer give their 100% attention to God. Check out this YouTube video after service: “Jerusalem Temple at the Time of Jesus”. You will see in the video an animation of what they probably saw back then. Rather breathtaking to look at. So what had stolen the attention of those worshippers? To begin with[S5], the temple ground was an impressive 450m by 360m in length and width. That’s about 15 soccer fields pieced together. When a worshipper come near the temple, the external walls itself would give a sense that their God was a strong fortress. Those walls were built with massive and nicely shaped stones. Larger ones weigh more than 450kg. When entering the temple, the offerings mention in verse 5, the silver and gold donated to decorate the temple continue to extend the eye catching experience. The gates were shiny. That’s because they were silver plated. The doors further into the temple were shinier. They were overlaid with gold. Beholding the grandeur, it is no surprise that the worshippers were getting all excited and saying to one another, “Do you see what I see?”

A voice cut in suddenly, it was Jesus, who said, “Do you see what I see?” Through Luke we know what Jesus saw. And we know what Jesus said to those who got excited with the temple building had already happened during the war in AD 70. The super dupers expensive looking temple was reduced to just a section of the Western wall. It was left standing by the Roman emperor after the war probably to remind Jews of their painful defeat. Today, this section of the western wall measures about 50m long and 20m high and has become a part of a larger wall that surrounds the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqṣā Mosque. [1] None of the magnificence in days passed is left to be seen.

But what else did Jesus see apart from the impending sad state of the temple? A whole lot actually. I suggest that we zoom into 2 aspects this morning.

First, Jesus saw that the Jews could only see what was going on but not what was really going on. [2] What was going on was that the temple looked impressive. The people therefore took pride in it and celebrated its beauty. But what was really going on is that God was not pleased. God wasn’t pleased with the shape of Judaism itself. One example on this would be Jesus lashing out at some leaders at the end of Luke 20 for being ambitious and greedy. Instead of taking care of the widows, these leaders took advantage of the womenfolk who were among the most vulnerable in society. If they had no problem bullying the weakest, probably a lot of bad things were also done in the name of religion. God was not pleased. The temple that supported and harbored such evil was therefore not meant to last.

In the larger society, what was going on was Jews hoping for the Messiah to come, to help overthrow the Romans and to return sovereignty to the Jewish people. Such a hope generated something interesting in today’s passage. When Jesus mentioned the destruction of the temple, no one raised questions like, “why should such a terrible thing ever happen?” They adored the temple, they loved it so much. How come no one felt any pain about the impending destruction? Instead, they seemed excited when hearing about it. “When will these things be, and what will be the sign”, all they wanted was specifics.

Nothing is in fact out of place once we know what’s going on in minds of the Jews. The Old Testament mentions time and again that the coming of the Messiah will be accompanied with tough times. Mark calls such times “the beginning of the birth pains” (Mk 13:8). The Jews were excited because the destruction of the temple would mean tough times, which in turn signals the coming of the new era, and the opportunity launch and fight the final battle to overthrow the false powers. The excitement we read in the text was them engaging in chronological speculations and seeking for signs. Hence they asked the ‘when’ and ‘what’ questions.

But Jesus saw what was to come. He also saw that the Jews were but buying into false security and seeking for false ideas. He responded to them with words of prophesy and warnings.

The details of Jesus’ prophecy and warnings were for them, not us. The war and destruction refers to specific events at a specific time in Jewish history. But the general observations made by Jesus is applicable then, now and also in the days to come. The general observations made by Jesus are that humans have the tendency to buy into false security and seek out false ideas. The emphasis our government put into stopping scams and fake news goes to suggest as much.

Let’s talk about these observations one at a time: buying into false security.

Just as the Jews who celebrated the magnificent temple, many Christians appreciate big and impressive church buildings. Nothing wrong with that. Bigger building means increased flexibility in terms of usage and room of ministry expansions. More space probably also mean fewer tussles in the church. Yet herein is a double-edged sword: finding security in objects is a hard to kill tendency in human being. These objects could be bank accounts, cryptocurrencies, houses or solid looking church buildings; humans tend find strength and security in them.

Let’s only talk about churches for now. Europe is well known for Instagram worthy church buildings. But many such buildings have since become commercial properties. A few years back, a missionary serving at the city of Swansea in Wales shared that the church he ministered in saw the first adult baptism in 40 years. Solid buildings give a sense of awe, but it can’t nurture solid faith in God.

Jesus’ second observation on the tendency to seek out false ideas concerning the end, is something that had never run out of steam. The Jews in this passage asked the ‘when’ and ‘what’ questions. In the 2nd century there was this Christian group called the Montanists. They predicted that Jesus was coming back very soon. And down the centuries, there were end time predictions made from time to time. The latest is probably the Maya Apocalypse which predicted that the world would end on 21 Dec 2012. The picture on the screen is taken from a CNN news report, which talks about panic buying generated by the prediction. [3] Among the many predictions was this one in year 1806, known as “The prophet hen of Leeds”. In Leeds, England, there was this hen known to have laid eggs with inscription saying, “Christ is coming”. It was soon found out that it was her owner who used acid to inscribe those words and stuff it back into the poor chicken. It was reported that many people visited the hen before the hoax was exposed, and started fearing the coming judgment day. [4]So much for harping on the “when” and “what” questions instead of heeding the warning Jesus gave.

So what should be the way forward? Let’s try this, what does a person wants by saying, “Tea is ok, but coffee would be nice”? Coffee lah. Same thing is happening here. Jesus begins his response to the inquirers by warning about the fall of the temple, followed the telltale signs for the end of the world. He then reverses the timeline. In verse 12 he beginning with “But before all this…”. The rest of the heavy going 8 verses are largely about trusting in him and being a witness for him. This is our way forward.

Time to talk about the 2nd thing that Jesus saw and what that means for the Jews and also for us. Jesus saw beforehand the fall of the temple, and it happened. So Luke is using this piece of historical fact to make a point, as in all that Jesus saw and prophesized herein will come true. Jesus saw the fall of the temple, he saw the end coming, he saw that he will be with his people during the tough times to help them; he saw that those who hang on and cleave to him will not finally be shortchanged or disappointed and all this is true. In other words, Jesus saw the future, saw himself being there with his people in the future, in their deepest needs, and that he is the one they can trust.

Jesus even urges followers not to be terrified and not to make preparations for those tough times but to simply trust in him. That doesn’t mean that no harm will come upon his followers, Peter, James, Stephen and others were martyred for their faith. What Jesus meant is that he will be there with his people and he will lead them to response in ways superior to what they could come up with.

Unlike the Jews, I don’t think most of us will find any comfort in hearing such prophesies. But it was being prophesized, it being something that Jesus saw and told us beforehand, also means that those tough times are not plain disasters or accidents or chaos. Or that God is too weak to help. Or that God is not even real. The reverse is true. It the real plan of the true God, and we are asked to trust him all the way.

“Do you see what I see, and will you place you trust in me?” I guess that’s Jesus’ question to us this morning. My response to the question would be, “But how har? How to keep on trusting? How to keep on trusting during tough times?”

I think these are legit question. It is persecution, suffering and even death that we are talking about here. When times get really tough, most of us, I believe, would need something more to help us press on as witnesses. What might be that something for you?

For many it would be the love for Jesus. People are prepared face danger and to even die for love. We see that in real life. Perhaps it would it be easier for us to picture such courage from thinking about a love story, like Romeo and Juliet. For love, die; die lah.

Other may be willing to go all the way in order to achieve the greater good. We see this from the recent street protest in Myanmar. When the authorities threaten to use live rounds, meaning there’s potential life danger, the protestor simply march on for everyone’s sake .[5] Perhaps, like the protestors, we may be willing press on so that others would get to hear and see Jesus.

What is that something more we think we need? I am saying all these because I honestly think I need something more. But when we look at this morning’s text, we will nothing more. Not even the love for Jesus or the achieving of the greater good, although they are both laudable and altogether biblical.

Jesus only say trust him. And not a word is said about mustering of courage or changing of attitude or gathering of knowledge or improving on skill, but only to trust him who is God Emmanuel and who will be there when time comes.

To trust him in such manner, we might need some renovation of our hearts .[6] And if that’s indeed that case, then let’s get it done here, this morning. The passage ends with “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”So, if we know deep down in us that the faith we have is short of the ability to undergo such endurance, dismantle it. If our faith is shaky, flimsy or the ‘play play’ slot, tear them out, and then do an upgrade from shaky faith to solid faith. How to? The text is again mum about this. But one thing we already know. Faith is given by the Faithful God who calls for faithfulness. So we know how to go about doing it?

Luke 21:5–19 (Listen)

And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.