Summary: Questions, questions, questions! Hard times make us seek answers. Jesus is the answer! Lift up your head in hard times and look for the Son of Man.
What kinds of questions do hard times make you ask? Think of one of the hardest times in your life; what question would you like answered? Take a note card from the pew in front of you. Write out your question.
Hard times can confuse us and make us ask the wrong questions or expect wrong answers.
Luke 20 and 21 record several questions to Jesus as well as a few by Jesus himself. Some were asking him questions as a way to catch and condemn Jesus, and some were asking him questions in order to understand the condemnation Jesus spoke against the temple and all the buildings. Finally, Jesus issues a question that points us to his identity.
Hard times were coming for Jesus, just as hard times came for Jerusalem, and eventually for all of us. When those hard times come, what do we do? Where do we go? Who do we seek answers from?
The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover feast are just hours away. Crowds have already come to Jerusalem to celebrate. There is excitement in the air. A new voice is heard in the Temple courts challenging the status quo and confronting the religious leadership, which, by the way IS the Jewish leadership as far as many are concerned. All other powers, such as the Roman authorities, are foreign occupants, hated and unwanted.
These hard times have brought many Jews to their knees.
The prayers of the Jewish people day in and day out is for God to deliver them and restore the fortunes of Israel. They all hoped that when Messiah came, he would be a new David. They expected that God would fight alongside Messiah or Christ and bring all the nations around them to their knees so that Israel would rise to be the greatest nation in the world and all others would bow to them. This hope rose and fell as the years went by, but it did not die. It was this high hope that carried them through the hard days. Jesus himself speaks of this when he says: Luke 18: 7 now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Hard times can produce hard hearts and false hopes.
You see, the expectation they held didn’t look like Jesus. Their hopes were tied to God’s deliverance in ways that left Jesus out. In fact, their expectations actually caused many of them to see Jesus as a threat.
The greatest problem of the time was not hardship from the Romans but unfaithfulness to God. But if you had asked the typical man or woman in Israel, “What is the biggest challenge facing you today?” You would most likely hear something that sounds like today’s answer. It’s the economy! Good jobs are scarce and prices are ridiculous. It’s terrorism. It’s the Liberal political influence that wants to tax us to death and give everything we hold dear away. It’s the conservative loudmouths who make people angry and stir up trouble and drag us into war.
Hard times reveal who we are and test our metal.
Jenny and I are about to finish reading through the entire Bible in 90 days. Do you know what is most amazing to me? Just a casual reading of the Bible shows us that times have certainly changed, but people, and the struggles we face and the ways we face them, are the same. Many people still hold out expectations and false hopes that blind them from Jesus. Others still have pressing questions for Jesus that he simply doesn’t feel obligated to answer. But what Jesus does tell us is exactly what we need to accept and follow him through whatever we must face.
Hard times turn some away from Jesus, but others to him.
In chapter 20 we see an attempt to put on the hot-seat. The religious powers attempt to catch him in a trap of words. They come to him with questions assuming he is false. Does that not sound familiar today? But, in this case, Jesus has gained the popular vote and they know it. This only makes him all the more dangerous in their minds. They can’t stand it. This nobody from Nazareth must be stopped. They flatter Jesus in their introductions and then seek to snare him in their questions. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this. These opponents of Jesus are not simply trying to discredit him. They want to kill him. These are men with power and position, but a wrong vision.
Who are they? They are religious leaders of the people of God. They have been given a responsibility to uphold the honor of God and guide the nation of Israel in the ways and will and word of God. Jesus says that they sit in the seat of Moses but they were not doing what Moses did nor saying what Moses said. Jesus said that they put heavy burdens on men but do not so much as lift a finger to help them. Jesus calls them blind guides, hypocrites, brood of vipers, and other unpleasant things. (This from Matthew’s gospel where chapters 23-25 are one piece).