Many people, groups, and countries become allies because of a common enemy. Back in last week's study, we saw that Jesus biblically answered the Sadducees' disbelief in the resurrection of the dead. In verse 29 the Scribes, who were always going head-to-head with the Sadducees over the resurrection said, "Alright! Good answer! You have spoken well! You sure showed those Sadducees a thing or two!" But unlike many of us, Jesus didn't align Himself with people just because they had a common enemy. He only aligns Himself with those who align themselves with Him. Remember that He said back in chapter 11,
Luke 11:23 "He who is not with Me is against Me..."
We see murders in the media, we see crimes in our communities, and we know that Jesus hates these things too. But hating what He hates doesn't get Him on our side. We must be on His side.
So being on the Scribes' good side lasted for about half a minute, until Jesus began to speak to the crowds...
The Scribes were teachers of the Law. And unlike the kind of leadership that Jesus calls people to - servants of people - the Scribes became leaders that were served by the people. Lording leadership over the people like authoritarians, abusing and misusing their leadership.
Jesus publicly railed on them for their pride and hypocrisy. He said, "Beware of them." They loved to appear religious, so their public prayers were long and wordy. They loved attention, so they always made sure to dress appropriately in long robes, and cruised the marketplaces waiting for people to come and reverently greet them. They loved the places of honor, and always made sure that they were in prominent position for all to see.
Jesus said that "these will receive greater condemnation." Why? Because of their pride? Because of their desire for attention? No, because they were entrusted with a ministry of teaching, and they misappropriated the Scriptures, misused the Law, and misrepresented God. James wrote,
James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.
For putting unbiblical burdens on the people, for being served instead of serving, for using the ministry as a means of personal benefit and gain, these will receive greater condemnation. Today in the church, there is a whole new breed of Scribes. You see them on television, "devouring widow's houses." Teaching that "you must send in your money now. No money? No problem! We accept all major credit cards!" Putting unbiblical burdens on the people - don't dance, don't play cards, don't listen to this, don't watch that. They misrepresent God as being one who angrily judges His people when they stumble, and blesses them with health and wealth when they are faithful. Modern day scribes. Jesus said "Beware of them, these will receive greater condemnation."
I want you to know that Jesus isn't being flippant or hateful here. He's not saying this out of self-righteous superiority - He's warning these people that He loves to stay away from such dangerous teachers and teachings. I can't emphasize enough to you to stay on track biblically - to test everything that you're taught about religion or relationship with God against what the Bible says. If you do, you'll never get swept up in the kind of hurtful and heretical situation that the Scribes of the past and the present draw people into.
We read in the gospel of Mark that...
Mark 12:41-42 ...He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
He sat down opposite the treasury to observe how people were giving. How did He notice this widow's giving? It certainly wasn't the amount, for the two copper coins she dropped in didn't amount to anything as far as the temple's bank account was concerned. But Jesus wasn't interested in how much she gave, but how she gave. This was all she had, it was complete and total sacrificial giving.
No matter what you've heard from the modern-day scribes, it's never mattered how much you give. What matters is how you give. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul said,
2Cor. 9:6-7 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.
That word "cheerful" in the Greek means "hilarious" - God's desire is that you give to Him hilariously! If you can't give to Him with a hilarious, cheerful heart, don't bother. It won't be a blessing to Him, and it'll just cause bitterness and resentment in you. Stop and think about it - can you give hilariously as you're giving sacrificially? Your giving must be hilarious, for the Lord desires it to be an act of thanksgiving, of joy. It is about joyfully giving thanks, knowing that God is the one who always taken care of you - in the hard times and the good times. He's always made sure that you had what you needed.
True thanksgiving to the Lord will also always be sacrificial. When David was called to offer a sacrifice to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he said, "Ornan, I need this threshing floor to make a sacrifice." And Ornan said, "Sure, David - take it, plus I'll give you everything - the oxen, the wood, the wheat - I'll give it all to you."
1Chr. 21:24 But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing."
"I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing." It's not a sacrifice if it's not sacrificial. Jesus was watching how the widow gave - and she gave sacrificially and hilariously. That was a blessing to Him, and He said,
Mark 12:43 ..."Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury."
It wasn't the quantity of her gift, it was the quality of her giving.
The disciples looked at this awe-inspiring building - the temple - and were enthralled with its majesty and beauty. But Jesus tells them that the days would come in which not one stone would be left upon another.
We talked at length last week about the fulfillment of this prophecy - about how in 70 AD Titus Vespasian conquered Jerusalem, and when the temple was accidentally burned, he had every stone pulled down off another to retrieve the gold that had melted inside.
In amazement, the disciples ask, "When is this going to happen? What signs should we be looking for?"
Jesus's response is, "Hey, it's easy to be mislead by looking around. For example, there will be lots of guys in the last days who claim to be from Me, who claim even to be Me. Don't believe them. They'll say the time is here, but don't believe them. Believe Me, you'll know when the time is at hand - there will be signs in the heavens, huge earthquakes, plagues, famines, and worldwide wars."
It would be very easy for me to sit here and list how famine is running rampant throughout the world, how the AIDS plague is killing millions, about how the number of recorded major earthquakes has increased exponentially, about how we've had two world wars in this century, and about all the astrological events that have happened recently. But remember, Jesus said that these are signs happening simultaneously. And for them to be signs, they must be on a larger scale than even we are used to.
All these things will happen in the Tribulation period, the seven years before Christ returns. We're going to be studying Revelation 6 soon on a Thursday night. When Jesus takes the book and breaks the seals, we will see all of these things - famine, earthquakes, wars, and signs in the heavens - and on a larger scale than has ever been known on earth before.
Couldn't the Hale-Bop comet be interpreted as a sign in the heavens? Try an asteroid that hits the earth and ruins a third of the water on the earth - making it uninhabitable and undrinkable?
Or the atmosphere being so polluted from wars and natural disasters that the sun seems black, and the moon looks as red as blood...
Aren't the pictures of Ethiopian children dying of starvation a sign of famine? The true sign of famine will come when a quart of wheat costs a day's pay - over a hundred dollars!
Isn't AIDS a horrible plague? A real sign will be three plagues that cumulatively kill a third of mankind!
Wasn't the earthquake in the San Francisco area a real tragedy? A real sign will be one like in Revelation 11 that kills 7,000 people, or in chapter 16,
Rev. 16:18-19 ...a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell.
I'll tell you what folks - we haven't seen anything yet...
Now Jesus says, "But BEFORE all these things..." He is now directing His discourse back to the things that directly affect the apostles in their immediate future. He both warns them and encourages them - "Hey, you're going to be arrested and beaten, but it will give you a chance to be a witness for Me.
It is interesting to me that when Titus first surrounded Jerusalem, nearly 40 years after Jesus had been crucified,the Jews became excited. They thought for sure that this was the hour which their Messiah would come and deliver them. But by the time all was said and done, 1.1 million Jews had been killed, and the rest were taken into other countries as slaves and captives.
But how many Christians died in that siege? Not one. You see, they took Jesus at His Word. He had told them to flee, so they left town, crossing the Jordan River to the city of Pella.
Taking the words of Jesus personally and seriously will save your life:
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Now He jumps ahead again to the signs and the times of the final days. He clearly explains that these signs will precede His second coming.
Now He gives an exhortation that applies to all people, no matter what judgment they live near - to the disciples, it was the judgment of Jerusalem, to us, it is the judgment of the world. He says, look, "If you're busy with dissipation and drunkenness, you're not going to escape these days. The tribulation will come upon you like a thief - totally unexpected, and it'll be too late.
But, if you stay alert - praying that you'll escape that time, then you'll be set - the Lord will rapture you before those days begin.
Yes, during this time He was at the peak of popularity - but already at least one man was disappointed and disillusioned - Judas Iscariot. Next week, we'll see the tables begin to turn...