When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’
‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
‘But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you eloquence and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’
Sometimes you just don’t want to hear the honest truth – or if you do – you don’t want to believe it; or, you edit what you hear.
Luke is so straightforward, like it or not, a plain-speaker. And, surely, after reading this Gospel you would wonder why anyone would have wanted to be a follower.
After knowing that history shows that these experiences have happened; continue to happen; you would wonder why, in these days, there would be any point in being a Christian.
If the early followers thought they were living in the End Days – then where must we be?
It is passages like these that suggest that very little has changed. Man’s inhumanity to man continues, with only the evolving of weaponry and excuses to enter into conflict after conflict. The peace seekers are still the persecuted ones. Trying to follow the Christian message is likely to put you in the minority. And, even Jesus suggests, there is very little you can do about that.
Except – know that you are loved.
That’s where Jesus tells us our confidence, our endurance, our faith comes from.
In our relationship with God we have to know, in our mind, our heart and our guts, that as much as we love; we are loved so much more in return. We have to know; as the martyrs and the saints that have gone before us have known.
And how do you know?
You just do.
Have you ever loved and tried to explain it to someone else. It is a treasure stealing exercise; trying to deliver a list of qualities and experiences, attractions and commonalities that will prove a feeling that cannot be measured. Using words that sound banal once they are spoken. Making excuses for a feeling that will not be excused.
Trying to convince another person is an impossible task – even if the other is the one you love.
Parents with wayward children; partners who don’t seem to have anything in common; children with irresponsible parents tend to have the most honest answer –
I love them because I do - I love them because I cannot do otherwise.
And these are the words that Jesus puts into our mouths when we are asked to bear witness. Love is enough. Love is everything. Love is Godly.
Any other reason, excuse, debate is subject to the rule of the world; that says nothing is set in stone; that nothing is ever forever, that nothing is true.
If the time ever comes when we are challenged or persecuted or betrayed; our confidence, our ability to stand tall will be fed by the Love that God has for us. And if that challenge causes us pain or exile then perhaps Jesus will put his own words into our mouth.
‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’