What do you do when the world doesn’t work the way that you expect? Governments disappoint, leaders fail, the poor are oppressed, and the refugee is neglected. Immature passion tackles every challenge with equal gusto and leads to burn out. Mature wisdom discerns an appropriate response to the challenge before us. In Luke 21 Jesus spells out a wise and appropriate response to the impending destruction of Jerusalem. This ominous news demands flight not fight with understanding and expectation of our coming redemption. Similarly, God’s Word strengthens our discernment for an appropriate response to the calamities before us. Luke 21:20–28 helps us respond to the calamities that surprise us.
First, we must discern between flight and fight (Luke 21:20–22). Previously Judas Maccabees fought the Syrians and overcame Jerusalem, and so they expected Jesus to be like Judas Maccabees to lead the fight against the Romans. Yet Jesus speaks of a coming destruction not deliverance of Jerusalem. Flight, not fight, was expected. Sometimes we must flee challenge, even when our instinct might be to fight.
This type of discernment comes from understanding the times (Luke 21:23–24). People expected Rome to be defeated, and Jerusalem to be triumphant. Instead, Jerusalem would be defeated and the Gentiles triumphant. This would fulfill “the times of the Gentiles” (21:24; cf. Rom 11:25–26). The story would not work out the way that they expect. Similarly we must recognize the times that we live in. Sometimes we may obey and face surprising defeat, but we can know how the story works out in the end.
Finally, we can expect deliverance (Luke 21:25–28). While calamities would strike the earth and people faint with fear, these would be harbingers of the coming of the Son of Man with power. As a result, these signs should not instill fear but expectation because your redemption is near (21:28). Similarly Stephen, in the moment that seemed like his greatest defeat in death was the moment when he saw the Son of Man in power (cf. Acts 7:56). We are not defeated by the challenges around us, but we straighten up and raise our heads because our redemption does draw near.
So what? We are not defeated by the challenges that we face. We respond with wise discernment because of our understanding of the times and expectation of deliverance. May we not quake with fear because of what we see in the news, but may we rise with faith because of our Good News.