Stop reading tea leaves – Wednesday, 34th Week in ordinary time – Luke 21:12-19
Every generation since the cross has thought that theirs was the last generation and none of them were right. Worry and doubt distract us from the important job of spreading the gospel message. This is the sum and substance of what Jesus wants to teach us today.
The text of Luke 21:5-28 which forms the larger frame work of today’s pericope begins with the destruction of the temple, moves to geo-political chaos, to religious and social rejection (extending even to family) and finally to a promise of safety amidst the chaos of martyrdom. This must have come as quite a shock to the disciples who having finally arrived in Jerusalem were awaiting a triumph only to be warned that they would face persecution because of Him.
The disciples were to be brought before kings and rulers who would question them about their faith in Jesus. In the immediate context, the Jews would disown and betray them to the Romans. The actual word here, “hand over” (verse 12) is the same Greek word used to describe Judas’ betrayal of Jesus as well as the handing over of Jesus to Pilate. This act on the part of the Jews was in fact a betrayal of a fellow Israelite to a foreigner, something that was forbidden in Jewish law.
Yet the disciple was to bear witness, a witness that would bring about tension and separation from parents and family, friends and relations, and some of them would even be put to death. So Jesus gave them practical advice to deal with adversity for this adversity was to be an opportunity to share the Good News and to testify to Jesus (21:13). Just as God gave Moses and other prophets the capacity to speak to and confront their doubters and opponents ( Exodus 6:28-7:13; Jeremiah 1:6-10), Jesus himself will provide strength and wisdom for such testimony (Luke 21:15). Using a proverb that signifies divine protection, Jesus tells them that not a hair on their head will perish.
All of this that Jesus shared with the disciples and with us is not mere information but preparation. Jesus wanted his disciples and us to be prepared and hence he lays the cards on the table. You can never be prepared if you don’t know what to expect. Jesus does not want us to feel ambushed and at the same time he does not want us to be paralysed with fear. So stop reading the tea leaves.