Do Not Follow Them
Ordinary 33 Year C
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Luke 21: 5 — 19
This reflection brings the three year cycle of meditations on the Gospels almost to its close. The next is a finale, a celebration of the true kingship of our Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
Our reading takes us back to when our Lord was teaching in the Temple and was challenged by a group of self-assured Sadducees with the absurd case of a woman marrying seven husbands who all pre-deceased her. After being praised by some Pharisees for outflanking His opponents, Jesus warns His disciples never to put on religious airs or take on sanctimonious affectations. There was enough of that around already. He then focuses on a widow who donated to the Temple Treasury fund for the poor all that she had to live on. With that He implied His disciples would need to try hard to emulate her wonderful generosity and true piety.
Some Reflections on the Text
While some people were speaking about how the temple
was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said,
During a lull in our Lord’s “on site” commentary of what was happening around them, some of his disciples could not help remarking how staggeringly beautiful the Temple was looking. This was hardly surprising as it was widely held to be one of the great wonders of the world. The Jewish historian Josephus (born around A D 37) in his book “The Jewish War” (written about A D 73) gave the following description of the Temple:
“The whole of the outer works of the temple was in the highest
degree worthy of admiration; for it was completely covered with
gold plates, which, when the sun was shining on them, glittered
so dazzlingly that they blinded the eyes of the beholders not less
than when one gazed at the sun’s rays themselves. And on the
other sides, where there was no gold, the blocks of marble were
of such a pure white that to strangers who had never previously
seen them (from a distance) they looked like a mountain of snow.”
Jewish tradition was based on faithful obedience to God’s specifications together with a generous interpretation of standards required. In the case of the Temple, this meant nothing was too good for God. Much of Christianity continued to build beautiful places of worship in a likeminded desire to give the best back to God. (Some of Christianity’s oldest churches going back to the Roman Emperor Constantine are still used today for their exact original purpose.)
“All that you see here — the days will come when there
will not be left a stone upon another stone that will
not be thrown down.”
In response to His disciples’ comments our Lord makes a chilling statement: “You may admire the Temple now, but the time will come when it will be totally destroyed.” If there is one thing we know for certain about the Messiah’s teaching method, it is that He does not use scare tactics. Whenever He imparts knowledge of things to come, especially if they are frightening, He impresses upon His listeners how they are to conduct themselves whilst trusting in Him.
Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are
about to happen?”
“When?” gasped the disciples, “and what warning signs will we be able to see?”
The disciples of Jesus, quite naturally, were applying our Lord’s words to their situation. But His answer really pointed forwards to cover a vast age of unjust suffering and persecution which His Church would need to undergo and navigate carefully if it would keep true to its mission.
The fact that they asked for a sign indicated:
a) they realised this must be due to divine intervention;
b) they were taking it seriously.
These two responses guide us as we (like them) have to prepare for what the Lord is prophesying.
He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many
will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time
has come.’ Do not follow them!
Their sincere response brought Jesus to declare His first priority:
“Beware of false prophets and their fascinating messages, their distorted views and interpretations of Scripture. See that you are not deceived by them. It is your responsibility to remain loyal to my Church and its teaching!”
The Church has always been vulnerable to hijacking by groups with their own agendas. It was as vulnerable then as it is now, to be misled by self-appointed, self-assured and self-centred messiahs. This is our Lord’s greatest fear and He voices it first for emphasis.
Verses 9 — 17
When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be
terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will
not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty
signs will come from the sky.
“Before all this happens, 4 however, they will seize and
persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues
and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings
and governors because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all
your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives,
and friends, and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
Jesus lists a number of events which will signal the end of the era. These are NOT in chronological order; nor do they enable us to work out an “apocalyptic timetable”! Those who make constant use of such a threat to manipulate the less academic are no better than the “religious task masters” our Lord so strongly opposed.
We note in verses 14 and 15 Jesus demanded that His followers were not to pre-fabricate responses for their opponents. He does NOT mean that His followers should not be prepared. Indeed, they must carry on studying the Scriptures and improving their understanding of them. What He means is that in the hour of true crisis, they are not to turn on some pre-rehearsed theatrical performance. Jesus Himself will inspire them for bold and incontrovertible witness, and it is to Him they are to attribute this ability: both to stand firm and answer wisely.
Blaiklock wrote: “The words are not meant to excuse those who are equipped and able to prepare, from proper attention to defence and proclamation. God can and will guide in preparation as well as in utterance.”
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
Then comes a gratifying remark: “Not a hair of your head will be destroyed.” This was said in the Hebrew sense of the collective community. In other words:
“Though some will be asked to sacrifice their lives, as
a whole, as a community, the disciples will be safe.
So, do not panic!”
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
“By keeping on keeping on”, Jesus assures his disciples, “you will enter more truly into life”. This is a very wonderful consolation. Whether we will be called upon to surrender our lives for the sake of the Lord Jesus is not ours to know until the moment arrives. Jesus asks for our trust in Him. In return He promises true LIFE. Nothing can match this offer, and countless faithful have trusted His Divine Promise, and lived or died for Him according to God′s Will. We can do no better.
We should beware the common resort to fear tactics of those who proclaim the end of the world is nigh and yet live a life of amazing worldliness. It is a common phenomenon, and “one of the oldest tricks in the book” used by self-promoting preachers riding the wave of popularity. We need to remember our Lords words,” Do not follow them!” His warning implies that many will follow false leaders because their religion is ruled by emotion. They actively seek feelings of exaltation and overwhelming awe. Unless they are served up a rich diet of good feelings, sights and sounds, they will simply withdraw and go elsewhere until they find these things.
Only when they find a place where they are told what they want to hear, and are shown what they want to see, will they be convinced they have found God. This is the great deception of our age, and it is precisely from this grave danger that Jesus Messiah tries to protect His disciples.
A final quote from Glenstal Abbey monks may encourage us in the face of troubled times:
“St. Luke opportunely brings us back to what is happening
today, ‘before all this’ (namely), to our day. Even if much
seems to be crumbling, we should not seek to escape from
the present: the end of a world is not the end of the world.
What counts is to stand firm in the world no matter what
happens. In this way we shall not be deceived!”
Glenstall Bible Missal
Thank you dear Brothers.
For those who would like a detailed study resource on the
readings for Sunday, please visit:
If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.
To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:
This website is highly recommended:
“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”
(Mark 16: 15)
The real Jesus is the real answer to the real needs of the world.
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
Do Not Follow Them
Ordinary 33 Year C St. Luke 21: 5 ― 19
1. The Temple seemed that it would stand forever, such was its
2. Yet again our Lord warns all who would follow Him down through the
3. Jesus Messiah continues to call for our careful attention to prepare for
“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Let us pray for one another that we will hearken to our Lord’s constant
“Hear O Israel — the Lord our God is Lord alone!’
Luke 21: 5 — 19
Ordinary 33 Year C
5 2 While some people were speaking about how the temple was
6 “All that you see here ― the days will come when there will not
7 Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And
8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come
9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified;
10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and
11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from
12 “Before all this happens, 4 however, they will seize and
13 It will lead to your giving testimony.
14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking 5 that all your
16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives,
17 You will be hated by all because of my name,
18 but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
2 [5-36] Jesus’ eschatological discourse in Luke is inspired by Mark 13 but Luke has made some significant alterations to the words of Jesus found there. Luke maintains, though in a modified form, the belief in the early expectation of the end of the age (see ⇒ Luke 21:27, ⇒ 28, ⇒ 31, ⇒ 32, ⇒ 36), but, by focusing attention throughout the gospel on the importance of the day-to-day following of Jesus and by reinterpreting the meaning of some of the signs of the end from Mark 13 he has come to terms with what seemed to the early Christian community to be a delay of the parousia. Mark, for example, described the desecration of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans (⇒ Mark 13:14) as the apocalyptic symbol (see ⇒ Daniel 9:27; ⇒ 12:11) accompanying the end of the age and the coming of the Son of Man. Luke (⇒ Luke 21:20-24), however, removes the apocalyptic setting and separates the historical destruction of Jerusalem from the signs of the coming of the Son of Man by a period that he refers to as “the times of the Gentiles” (⇒ Luke 21:24). See also the notes on ⇒ Matthew 24:1-36 and ⇒ Mark 13:1-37.
3  The time has come: in Luke, the proclamation of the imminent end of the age has itself become a false teaching.
4  Before all this happens . . . : to Luke and his community, some of the signs of the end just described (⇒ Luke 21:10-11) still lie in the future. Now in dealing with the persecution of the disciples (⇒ Luke 21:12-19) and the destruction of Jerusalem (⇒ Luke 21:20-24) Luke is pointing to eschatological signs that have already been fulfilled.
5  A wisdom in speaking: literally, “a mouth and wisdom.”
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised