Practical teaching arising the foregoing prophecy respecting the Jerusalem and the " last things. "
And take heed to yourselves . The Master ended his discourse with an earnest practical reminder to his disciples to live ever with the sure expectation of his return to judgment. As for those who heard him then, conscious of the oncoming doom of the city, temple, and people, with the solemn procession of signs heralding the impending ruin ever before their eyes, no passions or cares of earth surely would hinder them from living the brave, pure life worthy of his servants. As for coming generations—for the warning voice of Jesus here is equally addressed to them—they too must watch for another and far more tremendous ruin falling upon their homes than ever fell upon Jerusalem. The attitude of his people in every age must be that of the "watcher" till he come.
Christian and unchristian carefulness.
Take care not to be overtaken and overweighted by care is the simple and intelligible paradox of the text; in other words, have a wise care lest you have much care that is unwise. There is a carefulness that is eminently godly and worthy, the absence of which is not only faulty and dangerous, but even guilty and fatal; but there is another carefulness which is an excess, a wrong, an injury in the last degree.
I. A WISE ORDINATION OF GOD . Surely it is in pure kindness to us that God has ordained that if we will not work neither shell we eat; that possession and enjoyment involve thoughtfulness and activity on our part. To be provided with everything we could wish for without the necessity for habitual consideration as well as regular exertion is found to be hurtful, if not positively disastrous to the spirit. The necessity for care, in the sense of a thoughtful provision for this life, involves two great blessings.
1 . The formation of many homely but valuable virtues—the cultivation of the intellect, forethought, diligence, sobriety of thought and conduct, regularity of daily habits, the practice of courtesy, and the avoidance of offense, etc.
2 . The practice of piety; there is perhaps no better field in which we can be serving God than in that of our daily duties as citizens of this world. Whether it be the counting-house, the desk, the factory, the shop, the home, the school,—in each and in all of these there is a constant opportunity for remembering and doing the will of God; there will true and genuine godliness find a field for its exercise and its growth.
II. . OCCASION FOR FILIAL TRUST . Care, in the sense of anxiety, about our temporal affairs is an evil to be met and mastered by Christian thought. Christ has said to us, "Take no thought [be not anxious] for your life" ( Matthew 6:25 ); Paul writes, "Be careful [anxious] for nothing," etc. ( Philippians 4:6 ); Peter says, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" ( 1 Peter 5:7 ). Clearly our Christian duty is to do our best with head and hand, by thoughtfulness and diligence, to ask for God's direction and blessing, and then to put our trust in him, resting humbly but confidently on his Word of promise. This is a promise where there is much occasion for filial trustfulness. When the way is dark we must not yield to an unspiritual anxiety, hut rise to a holy, childlike faith in our heavenly Father.
III. A SPHERE FOR DETERMINED LIMITATION . The great and the growing temptation is to fill our lives and hearts with the affairs of time. No more needful or seasonable counsel could be given us than this of our Lord, "Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be overcharged with.., the cares of this life." Undue and unwise carefulness about these mundane interests does two evil things: it wears out that which is good —good health, good spirits, good temper; and it shuts out that which is best —for it excludes the worship and the direct service of God; it leaves no time for devout meditation, for profitable and instructive reading, for religious exercises, for Christian work. It shuts men up to the lesser and lower activities; it dwarfs their life, it starves their soul; they "lose their life itself for the sake of the means of living." Two things are requisite, requiring a very firm and vigorous hand.
1 . To resist the temptation to enlarge our worldly activities when such enlargement means spiritual shrinkage, as it very often does.
2 . To insist upon it that the cares of life shall not exclude daily communion with God and the culture of the soul. If we do not exhibit this wise care against the unwise carefulness, we shall
"that day will come upon us unawares," and we shall not be "worthy to stand before the Son of man" (see next homily).—C.
Preliminaries of the second advent.
It would seem that, as an interlude amid his diligent teaching in Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples, on their way back to Bethany, had paused on the Mount of Olives and contemplated the temple. The building was a superb one, and so well put together that the disciples and people generally believed it would last till doomsday. Hence, amid their admiration for the gorgeous pile, came their question about the end of the world, which would, they believed, synchronize with that of the temple. Now, our Lord, while prophesying its destruction, warns them not to be mistaken about times and signs.
I. OUR LORD WARNS THE DISCIPLES AGAINST FALSE ALARMS . ( Luke 21:7-9 .) He indicates that many false Messiahs will arise, declaring their Messiahship and the speedy approach of the end. They are to be for the most part of the military type, for this was the kind of Messiah Israel wanted. The result will of necessity be "wars and tumults." But the disciples ought not to be alarmed at these mere preliminaries. The end would not be "immediately" (Revised Version). It is well known that between our Lord's time and the destruction of Jerusalem quite a number of military and mushroom Messiahs arose, "making confusion worse confounded." They were only the outcome of the people's false hopes, and of no prophetic import.
II. THE DISCIPLES , AS THEIR LORD 'S WITNESSES , WOULD EXPERIENCE BOTH PERSECUTIONS AND INSPIRATIONS . ( Luke 21:10-19 .) And here the Lord states that persecution of his people would precede national and natural troubles. War, earthquake, and pestilence would be the providential judgment upon unrighteous persecution. But the persecuted witnesses should receive the inspiration needful to speak resistlessly. They might be betrayed and martyred, but no real injury would overtake them. "There shall not an hair of your head perish." In this remarkable deliverance of our Lord about persecution he implies that his people are really imperishable. The world might do its best to annihilate them by fire and sword; their bones might be scattered, no marble tells whither; but the Lord who loves and prizes his people's dust will reorganize the scattered remains, and demonstrate how absolutely imperishable his people are. Hence he urges patience. "In your patience," he declares, "ye shall win your souls." So that it was a most wonderful preparation of these marked men for martyrdom and all preceding tribulation. Were we more dependent on Divine inspirations, we should be There calm and influential before a hostile world.
III. THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM . IS DISTINCTLY FORETOLD AS AN INSTANCE OF DESERVED VENGEANCE . ( Luke 21:20-24 .) And here the Lord gives his people directions to escape from the doomed city as soon as they should see the armies gathering round it. The siege was drawn upon it by no misconduct of theirs, but by the misconduct of their enemies: why, therefore, should the Christians lay down their lives for a false policy and cause? Their duty was, if possible, to escape. He also hires at the horrors of the siege, and how mothers with their infant children would suffer terribly. The issue of the investment would be the slaughter of multitudes and the exile of the rest, The Jews became wanderers and exiles from that moment.
"Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast,
How shall ye flee away and be at rest!
The wild dove hath her nest, the fox his cave,
Mankind their country—Israel but the grave!"
IV. REDEMPTION MAY BE DISCERNED AS DRAWING NIGH . ( Luke 21:25-33 .) Our Lord. indicates that distress of nations, perplexity, and faint-heartedness through fear will precede his second coming. But his people need be no sharers in this fear. So far from this, as soon as the judgment-signs begin they are to lift up their heads, assured that redemption is drawing nigh. The outlook may be wintry for the world, but it is summer for the saints of God. And here we may notice:
1 . The parable of the spring trees. ( Luke 21:29 , Luke 21:30 .) Our Lord reminds the disciples that every spring, in the buds and shoots of the various trees there is the promise of the summer. The progress is gradual, yet noticeable. In the same way his people are to look for the signs of coming summer, and to manifest a hopeful spirit in beautiful contrast to the despairing spirit of the world.
2 . The imperishable character of the Christian stock. ( Luke 21:31-33 .) All the world's opposition and persecution will not annihilate the Christian stock. As the martyrs fall before their persecutors, it is only to summon fresh witnesses for the Master from the ranks of their enemies. The Christian stock abides. There need be no fear. Let this be left to the unbelieving world.
V. THE LORD 'S PEOPLE OUGHT CONSEQUENTLY TO BE WATCHING AND PRAYING FOR THE ADVENT . ( Luke 21:34-38 .) And in the conclusion of this discourse our Lord clearly indicates:
1 . That it is possible to escape the judgments which are coming on the earth before the advent. For there is no merit in allowing one's self to be involved in judgments which others by their unbelief have invited. It is our duty to escape, if possible, the catastrophe.
2 . It can only be by a watchful and prayerful spirit. Self indulgence, everything that would dull our sense of the impending advent, must be avoided. It is to come as a thief and a snare upon those that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Hence the imperative necessity of watching. And it is prayer which will help us in our watching. We must wrestle with the coming King, that he may count us worthy to escape the world's judgments and to stand before him.
3 . How great a privilege it will be to be permitted to stand in the presence of the Son of man! No such privilege is afforded even by the greatest of earthly kings. It becomes us, therefore, to be in downright earnest about this privilege, and by persevering prayer to secure it.
VI. OUR LORD GAVE THE DISCIPLES THE EXAMPLE OF THE WATCHFUL PRAYER REQUIRED . ( Luke 21:37 , Luke 21:38 .) For it would seem that, in the closing days, the people came so early to the temple to be taught, that he could not go as far as Bethany to spend the night. He went out, therefore, at nightfall to the Mount of Olives, and spent the night-watches more in prayer than in sleep. He was showing what persevering prayer in the crises of history must be. Let our Lord's Gethsemane habits call each of us to privacy and patient prayer such as will alone secure the proper public spirit.—R.M.E.