Luke 21:13: “This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”
Luke 21:10-38 is my text for the Saturday sidewalk and Sunday sermons. Usually—at least when I have been in the pew listening—this text is a “let’s get the timing of the second coming right” (i.e., when is Jesus coming back and let’s prepare for it) text. Luke isn’t asking (or telling) the timing on the second coming, but that soon all hell is going to break loose and you need to stay faithful to Me through it all.
Luke 21:13 stands out—and it’s not usually a verse covered too much when Luke 21 is viewed as a “timing of the second coming” passage. Here it is: “This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” More straight forward, this verse, after all the disaster that is described to take place, this verse is actually, like a pause . . . like this:
“There will be wars and natural disasters and before all this you will be jailed, persecuted, and brought before authorities on account of Me . . . an opportunity for martyrdom.”
This takes all the power from us. Something even as Christians we shun and do whatever we can to retain our power. Still . . .
Yep, that’s the word here: μαρτύριον, martyrdom. Makes sense this word can be martyrdom or testimony, witness (which is how the ESV and most Bible translations render it). But we can’t loose sight over the fact this word conveys being a martyr.
When all hell breaks loose and you are persecuted and jailed and killed for being my followers, all this will present an opportunity for you to be a martyr, an opportunity for a witness.
When Jesus goes on afterward, saying don’t plan on what you’re going to say at your defense, I will give you the words (v. 14-15). Many use this to take back the power, to retain our power. Many take this as God will supernaturally give you words to say. We all like to be able to claim that—makes us out to be powerful, special to God, a force to be reckoned with; heck, God is speaking through me! Yea. No. It points in another direction: “Don’t try to defend yourself when brought before the court because you’re a follower of Me. Testify—witness, be a martyr—of Me. This will be your opportunity to be my witness, my martyr.”
This speaks. We are too prone to defend ourselves. To claim power. Rather we are called to testify (to loose all power) of Jesus, even when all hell breaks loose. Perhaps we can fathom this type of bearing witness in places like Afghanistan, Syria, China, Iran, Venezuela. Maybe, someday we’ll be in a place like that. But what about now? We can’t even take the tough times here and now and see the opportunity to be a witness, let alone when all hell breaks loose.
This is an opportunity for you to be a witness, a testimony, a martyr.
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Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.