(21:1-4) Jesus is observing a characteristic activity of the temple: the wealthy putting their gifts in the offering. Are they doing so ostentatiously? At any rate, their giving is observable. By contrast he then observes a poor widow who only puts in a very small amount of money. About 2/128 of a day’s wages. But this is the one who has put in more! Why? Because what counts is not how much you give, but how much you have left! Her generosity is extraordinary and commendable. How do we measure our generosity? By the amount we give, or by the amount we have left behind to enjoy for ourselves?
(21:5-9) While there in the temple, some observe how beautiful is its edifice, the stones and the offerings. Jesus then predicts what soon came to pass: not one stone left upon another. In AD 70, the temple was indeed destroyed. These things, verse 9, will take place but the end is still to come. We are to be careful that we are not deceived by people claiming the time is any moment (21:8).
(21:10-19) Now Jesus spans his vision to the end of all things. God’s clock is divided into two periods: Before Christ (BC) and After Christ, of “Anno Domini,” the year of the Lord (AD). We now live “AD,” and in that time period we are by definition in the “last times.” During these times there will be great turbulence throughout the world (21:10-12), but this will also give Jesus’ followers special opportunities to bear witness (21:13). How? Jesus’ advice is clear and encouraging. Don’t worry beforehand what to say, for he himself will give us wisdom and words that no adversary will be able to overcome. While some indeed will be witnesses in the sense of “martyrs” in an eternal perspective, not a hair on our head will perish. What matters is simply that we endure (21:18).
Perhaps you are sensing opposition for your Christian witness. Clearly, Jesus is not against planning or preparation, but he is speaking against worrying ourselves beforehand. And he has a special promise for those who will be hauled up before courts—secular or ecclesial—to accuse them and before whom they need give “witness.” Jesus himself will give us words and wisdom at that moment that none will be able to answer. That special promise has many times been proven in the lives of his people, and is a special promise that you too can rely on as you face your hour of trial. Be assured he will not leave you without his wisdom and his words.
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