Read the words of Jesus , really read the words of Jesus and it is very difficult to come up with an idea that the lifestyle of a disciple of Jesus is an easy one. Again, in this passage, Jesus warns his followers that they are called to a difficult task, not for the faint hearted. Still, this road of discipleship is a worthy adventure. Remember the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who lived in the time of Nazi rule: when a person follows Jesus, Jesus bids them to come a die.
This text falls under the genre of apocalyptic literature. This style of writing has characteristics of future trials and troubles as well as promises of victory. The setting for this passage is the disciples marveling at the fantastic architecture of the Temple in Jerusalem. They were amazed by this structure and rightly so, but Jesus warns them that they day will come when this building will be destroyed. In 70AD this Temple was completely destroyed by the Romans.
(Luke’s gospel was written either just prior to the destruction of the Temple, or it might have been written just after the destruction. Either way, the early readers of Luke’s gospel lived in a post-70AD era, just as we live in a post-9/11 era. It was an unsettled time.)
Talk to a Jew in the time of Jesus, and many, I suppose thought that the Temple would stand forever. Talk to a Roman in the time of Jesus when Rome was strong, and they probably thought the Roman Empire would stand forever. Talk to a Brit in the time of the British Empire, and there was probably a sense that Britain would be strong forever. Talk to an American at the beginning of the 21st century, and there is probably a sense….
Jesus tells his first followers and us contemporary followers that the road of following him is not an easy one. In the midst of Empire-shaking, there will also be religious upheaval, and times of war, and times of natural disasters. In this uncertain times, followers of Jesus will be dragged hunted, persecuted, imprisoned and hated by institutions and by family and friends. Warning! Following Jesus just might be hazardous…
Jesus is calling his followers to be a new people. In the midst of Empires, Jesus is promoting an alternative society, a counter-culture/empire society. Ths society has a new set of rules. These rules are found in the Sermon on the Mount.
This apocalyptic section does not have the sense of escape from the world, rather it has the sense of perseverance in the midst of the struggle. Jesus warns his disciples and calls them to stand firm. In the midst of Empire persecution and shaking, there will be times to share the grand story of an alternative society. In our world ruled by consumerism, individualism and systems of power and injustice, Jesus says there is a different way to live. You must not retreat, rather, in the midst of the crazyiness, tell a different story. We are to live out a different story.