And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
The Testimony of Life.
The power and the will to sacrifice self is, after all, the grandest assurance of immortality. The things most essential to the being are those which we set about proving after, and not before, we believe. No man's belief in God rests on a demonstration. No man builds a scheme of life on the proof of the doctrine of immortality. A Divine something within moves him to live a life of which immortality is the only possible explanation.
I. The question has been often discussed, why belief in immortality plays so slight a part in the doctrinal system of the Jewish Church. It seems at first sight incredible that a legislator, so far-sighted and profound as Moses, should have overlooked so tremendous a means of influence as the idea of eternal rewards and punishments would afford. The true explanation is, I believe, a very simple one, and lies close at hand. It was because of the entire healthiness of their belief in it that they said so little about it, and made so little of it as an instrument of influence on men. This separation of the two worlds, as if they had different interests, which may possibly oppose or balance each other, is the sign of a by no means healthy spiritual state.
II. But when we are asked to believe that the horizon of sense and of time bounded the vision of these grand old heroes of the faith, we remind ourselves how they lived, and what they wrought, and ask ourselves how much such deeds, such lives involve. It is sheer idleness to ask us to believe that eternity meant less to these men than it means to us in our easy, luxurious, self-glorifying days. We know there is but one explanation of such lives, such deaths. They "endured as seeing Him who is invisible."
III. "But it shall turn to them for a testimony." The light of their lives shall shine through their forms, and reveal the inner glory in eternity. This is the eternal recompense, revelation—the revelation of the Christlike spirit in a world where to be Christlike is to be glorious and blessed; where the scars of battle are marks of honour, and the martyr's brow is anointed like Christ's with the oil of joy and gladness through eternity.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 124.
Reference: Luke 21:13.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 458.
Luke 21:19Or, as it may rather be termed, "By your endurance ye shall gain possession of your lives, ye shall secure yourselves from perils of bodily harm and death." It is also, "Ye shall save your souls," and bring your spiritual life safely through the coming troubles; though the physical salvation is more prominent in the passage.
I. There was always in the converts of Jerusalem, a strong temptation to relapse into Judaism; and in those disturbed times which preceded the fall, any man with the Jewish blood in his veins, with the traditional Jewish temper, the ancestral beliefs, the intense love for his nation and people, must have been hard beset. Why should he, too, not choose the heroic part; and cast in his lot with the defenders of the sacred walls? Why not with his dying body make a rampart against the on-pressing Romans, rather than slip away in cowardly desertion, like a traitor, leaving the glorious city to perish as it might. All patriotic instincts, all that the Jew most cherished, must have drawn the convert in that direction; it was a sore trial to have to make this choice between the Old Testament and the New. It was by endurance and self-denial that these Jewish Christians succeeded in overcoming the danger besetting them at every turn. They endured to the end; they learnt by patience to get a broader and wiser view of the true position and relation of the faith of their adoption. The sneers of the unconverted Jews, the sense that they had lost their patriotic standing-ground, the oppression and sword of their Roman masters—these were the bitter draughts which refreshed their souls, and nerved them for independence in a larger sphere of life. By these, they not only saved their souls, but ennobled their views and aims, till they were able to enter fully into the new conditions of the Faith of Christ; and thereby take an active part in the outward movements of a Missionary Church.
II. Age after age have the conditions of the world's advance called men to display something of the same firmness, endurance, and patience. Each change of time has seemed to bring with it the end, and at each successive crisis have been heard the same appeals to heaven, the same despair of earth, the same assurances that the world's end was come. And yet to those who had patience, and could endure, the evil time has always passed away, leaving the face of Heaven once more serene; and men have found themselves living in a fresh air of hope, with expanded vision, and larger powers for good. The true Christian calling, as the Apostle has it, is to "try all things," to "hold fast that which is good," to criticise, to select, to know the evil from the good, and choose aright. That is the real business for which God has sent us into the world and set us in this place, and a system of organised protection for our opinions, be they never so holy, or never so true, is but a mean way of fitting out a young man for the difficulties and dangers of his coming life, when he must take up his staff and make his way through the world. For this our faith must be robust, as well as pure; manly and fearless, as of those who endure as seeing Him that is invisible. It is not enough, to say, "Let us live the devoted, self-denying life, which befits the humble followers of Christ, and leave aside all that distresses or distracts." We have a higher duty than this. The nobler our idea of the Divine nature, the higher we rate our Christian privileges—the better our lives, the more we shall desire to testify of those things before the world of unbelief. If to our souls the revelation of Jesus Christ provides solutions for admitted ills; if it can comfort our aching hearts in sorrow, and stir us to noble acts in danger; if it weds the ideal to the commonplace, and draws man ever from himself, then, surely, we need not be afraid to be left face to face with the materialist or the sceptic. There is in the Gospel a spiritual power which bears the pilgrims safely through the waterfloods; we may tremble and be perplexed, yet we will not fail nor fall. "If God be with me, I will not fear what man can do unto me." So to us, as to the Jewish Christians to whom the Lord spoke of patience, the darkest crisis will not be fatal, frightful though it may be; but from the wrecks of the past we, too, shall emerge, strong in endurance, possessing our souls, ready for a larger future of faithful works.
G. W. Kitchin, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, March 1st, 1877.
Luke 21:19 (R.V.)
Making for Ourselves Souls.
The Revised Translation restores this word of Jesus to it original force. The Lord did not bid His disciples simply to possess their souls in patience. He told them that through endurance they were to win their souls. Souls, then, are for us to win. Literally, the word used by Jesus means, "Procure for yourselves souls." Life is to be to us, in some sense, an acquisition of soul. We usually think of human souls as so many ready-made products of nature bestowed on us at birth, so many receptacles for life of different sizes; and we are to fill them up with experience and education as best we can, as bees fill their hives. But Jesus used of the souls of His disciples a word of purchase and acquisition. In some real sense a true life will be an acquisition of soul. Its daily ambition may be—more soul and better. In what ways are we to set about procuring for ourselves souls?
I. The first thing for us to do is the thing which these men had already done to whom Jesus gave this promise that they should win their souls. They counted not the cost; they obeyed when they found themselves commanded by God in Christ. The promise, "Ye shall win your souls," was addressed to men who had surrendered themselves wholly to that which they had seen and knew of God. It was a pledge of soul made to men who had the wills of disciples. The first step in the way of acquiring our souls is the decision of discipleship.
II. We are to acquire soul by living now with all the soul we do have. If we are to win souls from life, we must put our whole souls into life, but the trouble with us is, that we often do not: we live half-hearted, and with a certain reserve, often of ourselves from our everyday life in the world. But you remember how Jesus insisted that His disciples should serve God and love man with all their souls and with all their strength. The way to gain more soul and better is to live freely and heartily with all the soul we do have. "In your patience ye shall win your souls." God gives to common people this opportunity of winning on earth souls large enough—good enough to appreciate by and by what heaven is. Patience may be the making of a soul. That regiment of men is held all the morning waiting under fire. They broke camp with enthusiasm enough—to sweep them up to any line of flame. But they are held still through long hours. They might show splendid courage in action, but the orders are to stand. Only to stand still under fire! But that day of endurance is enough to make a veteran of the recruit of yesterday. The discipline of waiting under life's fire makes veteran souls. Through the habit of endurance God trains often His best souls. If you keep up heart in your life of trial, by that patience what a soul for God's kingdom may be won!
N. Smyth, The Reality of Faith, p. 135.
References: Luke 21:23.—S. Greg, A Layman's Legacy, p. 168. Luke 21:24.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 127. Luke 21:25-33.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 472; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 290. Luke 21:27.—Ibid., vol. v., p. 31. Luke 21:28.—J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 300; Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vi., p. 479. Luke 21—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 312; C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 109; E. Thring, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 149.
And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,
As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.
Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.
And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.
But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
In your patience possess ye your souls.
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.