Prophecy #8 – A Green Tree verses a Nation of Dry Trees

Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23.28–31)We’ve reached the eighth and final prophecy of the last eight prophecies of Christ in Luke’s version of the Jesus story. We will be returning to the fifth prophecy in Luke 27 for the ninth and final part of this series, but this week we are looking at Jesus’ words to the women weeping for him on his bloody march to Golgotha.

Jesus was just moments away from being crucified. Luke tells us that “a large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.” (Luke 23.27) It is difficult to discern whether these women were sincerely weeping for Jesus and Jerusalem’s rejection of him or because of the dashing of their hopes that this Jesus would be their Messiah. Days earlier this same crowd had ushered Jesus into Jerusalem. There is much that is missed in the details of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem by today’s Christians who still trust in militaristic saviors in our current global climate. Here Jesus is borrowing imagery used by Rome itself. It must be remembered that Caesar himself was referred to as the “son of God.” He was called “the savior of the world.” It was through the victories of Rome (i.e., Caesar) that the political propaganda of Jesus’ day proclaimed that “peace on earth” would come. It was called the Pax Romana, the “peace of Rome.” When Caesar would approach a city within the Roman Empire, emissaries from the city would go out to meet the dignitary and escort him on his way into their city. They would welcome Caesar and the “peace” that Roman occupation brought to their lives.

At a bare minimum, the fact that Jesus used the image of taking honor thought to be due only to the “Lord” Caesar would have been interpreted as a threat to Rome and could have been met with swift retribution. This is why “some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’” (Luke 19.39) They did not wish to bring on themselves the same retribution Caesar had recently exercised against the Galilean insurrectionists. (See Part 3.) As Jesus approached Jerusalem, the crowd was crying out, “Blessed is the KING who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “PEACE in heaven and glory in the highest!” But what must be noticed first and foremost is how Jesus was turning this imagery on its head. Where Caesar would have been riding a warhorse in his triumphal entry, Jesus came riding on the foal of a colt, a young donkey. Jesus was doing two things here—providing his own nonviolent, enemy-embracing imagery in contrast to Rome’s violent warhorse imagery and pointing those present that day to the words of the prophet Zechariah:

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your KING comes to you, righteous and having salvation, lowly and riding on a DONKEY, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will TAKE AWAY the CHARIOTS from Ephraim and the WARHORSES from Jerusalem, and the BATTLE BOW will be broken. He will proclaim PEACE to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9.9, emphasis added)

Jesus was trapping his audience once again in a catch-22. To admit that Jesus was their “King,” as Jesus’ fulfillment of Zechariah’s words would indicate, would be to also accept this contrast between the imagery of violence used by Caesar riding a warhorse and the nonviolent Jesus riding a donkey. He was announcing a nonviolent, enemy-embracing “peace” revolution of love and enemy-forgiveness in which the “warhorse,” “war-chariot” and “battle bow” would all be laid down by Jerusalem so that the world could be healed of its violence rather than simply liberating Jerusalem from the Romans and allowing it to become another unstoppable, violent, world-dominating, empire. That was the catch. To embrace Jesus as King was to embrace the path of nonviolence.

When Jerusalem came into view, Jesus stopped and wept. “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you PEACE—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19.42–44, emphasis added.)

We covered this passage in Part 6, but suffice it to say here that this is the same crowd in our prophecy this week, not shouting in joy, but weeping in lamentation. Crucifixion meant defeat. These people did not want to embrace their enemies, to forgive the Romans, or to learn from this prophet of nonviolence how to even love the Romans. No, they wanted a Messiah that would defeat the Romans and liberate Israel. (It should be noted that Rome would, by the fourth century, be defeated by the nonviolent revolution Jesus began, yet this was not the kind of defeat those in Jesus’ day desired.) For a Jewish Messiah to end up on a Roman cross meant that Rome had won. (Little did they realize that in reality Rome’s defeat was just beginning.) Jerusalem had rejected Jesus and his nonviolence in favor of a more militaristic hope of defeating Rome. Thus, Jesus proclaimed to those weeping:

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ then “‘they will say to the mountains, “fall on us!” And to the hills, “cover us!”’ (Luke 23.28–30)

Jerusalem, rather than learning to love its Roman enemies, would continue on the path of an eye for an eye, retribution, retaliation, and violence against Rome. And what would be the result? That path would end in its annihilation by Rome. Jesus here was quoting the prophet Hosea, who centuries before had spoken those same words referring to the way Israel would be destroyed by Assyria. “The high places of wickedness will be destroyed—it is the sin of Israel. Thorns and thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’ . . . I will come against the wayward people to punish them; and nations shall be gathered against them when they are punished for their double iniquity.” (Hosea 10.8, 10) Jesus applied Hosea’s words to how Jerusalem would be destroyed by Rome.

“As the legions charged in [the Temple], neither persuasion nor threat could check their impetuosity: passion alone was in command . . . Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught. Round the Altar the heap of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom . . . Next [the Romans] came to the last surviving colonnade of the outer court. On this women and children and a mixed crowd of citizens had found a refuge—6000 in all. Before Caesar could reach a decision about them or instruct his officers, the soldiers, carried away by their fury, fired the colonnade from below; as a result some flung themselves out of the flames to their death, others perished in the blaze: of that vast number there escaped not one.” Josephus, The Jewish War, Williamson and Smallwood, p. 359 (6.5.1; 271–76)

This is where the path of violence, of an eye for an eye, of retributive justice, and of retribution ends. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind!

Lastly, we come to Jesus’ final sentence to these weepers:

“For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23.31)

Jesus was bringing to their minds the warning given by Ezekiel in the days when Babylonian captivity loomed on the horizon:

“Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to set fire to you, and it will consume all your trees, both green and dry. The blazing flame will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will be scorched by it. Everyone will see that I the LORD have kindled it; it will not be quenched.” (Ezekiel 20.47)

Jesus clearly was the green tree, bearing the fruit of nonviolent, enemy-embracing love. This was the fruit the Father desired. This was the “will of the Father” that Jesus had referred to so many times. What Jesus is saying here is: “If Rome will do this to me—a prophet of nonviolence, leading a subversive, peaceful revolution—if Rome sees nonviolence noncooperation as a threat, how much more will they do this to Jerusalem when it—a dead tree—chooses the path of violence and insurrection under the headship of a militaristic messiah!” Jesus is proclaiming, “Do not weep for me. No, no! Weep for yourselves because the violent path you have chosen will end in horrifying events that are neither imaginable nor conceivable.”

What does this mean for us today?

The greatest victories of the church were won in its nonviolent days before Constantine. This is how bloody and violent Rome was brought to its knees by pacifistic Jesus-followers. There were no Christian armies, and every true Christian soldier was a martyr. It was martyrs who conquered Rome. Today Christians and non-Christians alike have to rediscover the sources of Christianity. It began, not as a religion, but as a pacifist movement of people placing their hopes in a nonviolent Messiah or Lord, an enemy-forgiving, loving, and embracing revolution and a final resurrection whereby the world would be restored, renewed, and healed. We must come to realize that we have, to a great extent, abandoned the early Christian ideal of peace and nonviolent action.

It is a curious thing that in the twentieth century the one great political figure who made a conscious and systematic use of Jesus’ principles for nonviolent political action was not a Christian but a Hindu. What is more curious is the fact that so many Christians today continue to think of Gandhi as some kind of eccentric whose nonviolence remains impractical, a sensational fad, or at best naïve. What may lie underneath all of this is the reality that we may have to admit that a Hindu, being oppressed by Colonial Christianity wedded to Empire, understood the meaning and intent of the nonviolent Jesus’ teaching more deeply than many post-Constantinian Christians.

Today we, much like Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, still hold to the idea that evil must be met with evil. Today we are faced with the same options Jerusalem had—nonviolence or nonexistence—both in our personal lives as well as in our global lives. According to experts, we live, every day, each moment, only five minutes away from total genocide of the entire human race either through global nuclear war or new developments in ecological science that could inflict irrevocable harm. All along those who claim to follow the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are “straining gnats” while by their silent approval they are “swallowing camels.”

The question is appropriately asked: “How are we today to live at the end of the world?” I’m suggesting we do so by beginning a new one, rooted in the nonviolent teachings of the enemy-embracing, enemy-forgiving, enemy-loving Jesus. Nonviolence, as Jesus taught it, is a steadfast love, in resistance, of those behind technologically advanced violence, behind the massive oppression that causes the masses to continually go hungry, and a global debt crisis that keeps the poor of this planet in slavery to larger and stronger empires. It is to love, in resistance, the conduits of violence in our local communities, our private and public relationships, and even within our families no matter what they do. It is the force of this kind of unrelenting love that can overcome anything.

To live the prayer of desiring Christ’s “Kingdom” to “come . . . on earth as it is in heaven” is to believe in a Kingdom whose coming will cause “swords to be beaten into plowshares.” Or in language that would be more appropriate to our culture today, it is a Kingdom where technologically advanced forms of mass violence will be abolished and the world’s masses will be freed from hunger and the poor freed from oppression.

We will discuss the two prevailing views of how Christ’s Kingdom will come in the final part of this series (Part 9) when we return to Jesus’ words in Luke 17, and I will actually offer a third option. But to believe in Christ’s Kingdom is to believe that a new world will eventually come into existence (one way or another) and to be working toward that end in our daily lives today, not just putting on display what such a world will look like! The Kingdom has come! The Kingdom is at hand! The Kingdom starts now! The Kingdom of God is within your power! All of these words, spoken originally by Jesus, are to be our proclamation to the world. His parting words in Luke were the promise of repentance [metanioa] for the forgiveness of sins” being “preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47, emphasis added)

HeartGroup Application

1.This week I want you to prayerfully meditate on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6.33: “But seek first his kingdom and his justice, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is a law of the universe, just like gravity. If we seek God’s Kingdom, God’s justice, God’s new world of nonviolence, everything we could need in life will be provided for us. To many, embracing the way Jesus tells us that life on this planet is to be done provokes fear—fear of being violated, going hungry, going without, going unloved, losing everything. What’s the meaning of Jesus’ words that if we seek to establish God’s Kingdom and God’s justice on earth as it is in heaven, all of these will be added to us? What do these words not mean?

2.Keep notes, write down any thoughts, questions, fears, anxieties, insights, or assurances—anything that Jesus gives you during your daily time of meditating on this passage.

3.Share with your HeartGroup this upcoming week any insights you have discovered about what it means to follow this enemy-embracing, enemy-loving, enemy-forgiving, nonviolent Jesus.

We live in that final time that offers humanity the same choice as the final eight prophecies of Jesus about Jerusalem in the book of Luke—the Kingdom or global holocaust. Where do we start? Put down this eSight right now, go into the bathroom, and look in the mirror. It starts right there. As the old adage goes, “As you are, so is the world.” It starts with one person at a time, beginning with today, not with Jerusalem but with each one of us. It starts with me. It starts with you. In our own lives, in our own spheres of influence, wherever this finds us today, will we be followers of the nonviolent, enemy-embracing, enemy-forgiving, enemy-loving Christ? If nonviolence does not begin here, it goes nowhere. The revolution starts now! Look deeply into that mirror, and by the power of God’s Spirit, let a new world begin today!

Till the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I love you guys.

See you next week.

Prophecy #7 – The Coming Kingdom, By Two Possible Paths

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” (Luke 21.5-9)This week we are looking at the seventh of the eight final prophecies of the nonviolent Jesus concerning the two fates that lay before Jerusalem. In each prophecy up to this point, we have seen Jesus laying out two potential paths, each having its own outcome, either life in a world made new, or annihilation. In this part, we will see that this is the final time Jesus will lay out these two contingent outcomes. In this seventh prophecy, he will do so in greater detail than he has in any prophecy up to this point. This will be the final time. His eighth prophecy, which we will look at next week, will be given while he is actually carrying his cross to Golgotha. In that moment, he will only give a warning of what is coming, for at that stage, to all appearances, Jerusalem has rejected the way of nonviolence. They have chosen a militaristic messiah instead of Jesus, a nonviolent one. But we will get to that in part 8. For this week, we have the most extended outlay of events, in cause-and-effect fashion, that we have seen up till now. Let’s dive in!

Reread the above passage, Luke 21.5-9.

The disciples are remarking about the beauty of the temple, Jesus warns of the temple’s destruction, and then the people ask how they will know when this is about to happen. What is missed by many is that the title used by the questioners for Jesus is “Teacher.” The Greek word here is didaskale. In the book of Luke, this title is never used by the disciples when addressing Jesus. It is used 11 times in the book of Luke, and in each instance it is used by the people—never by Jesus’s disciples. This will become relevant in just a moment.

As he did in the fifth prophecy, Jesus responds by warning the people not to follow false militaristic messiahs (see part 5) placing their hope in violently overpowering Rome. Stating that these violent false messiahs will come, Jesus offers the people another path, a path of hope.

What Jesus lays out next are two possible futures. In the first, Jesus describes what the future will look like if Jerusalem should, in this final hour, turn and follow Jesus’s teachings. In the second, he describes what the future will look like if she [Jerusalem] does not.

Then he said to them:”Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. (Luke 21.10-19)

Jesus initially lays out the great cosmic signs that would accompany the coming of his Kingdom, but he is doing so as if it would happen through Jerusalem, as if Jerusalem would still in the end embrace Jesus and be his conduit of an enemy-loving revolution. The context of this whole section is vital. Luke has couched this seventh prophecy within a time of Jesus’s ministry where the people (the ones asking the questions here) are actually receiving and following Jesus as their messiah. Just before the passage we are looking at this week, Luke is careful to point out the positive response of the people after Jesus’s behavior at the temple: “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words” (Luke 19.47-48). And just afterward, Luke is quick to remind us, “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple” (Luke 21.37-38). The picture we get from Luke is that this was a time in Jesus’s ministry when it looked as if Jerusalem might be turning the corner and actually beginning to embrace this “narrow way” of enemy love that Jesus was offering the people. According to Luke, Jesus is speaking here to a very large, supportive audience. Those who are presently surrounding Jesus are farmers forced by taxes and debt to become day laborers. They are also the destitute and the starving who have been drawn to Jesus given his promise that his Kingdom would restructure society in their favor. (See Luke 6.20-26.) Jerusalem, at this time, was a large center of poverty, where streets were lined with “beggars.” A significant section of the population of Jerusalem lived chiefly or even entirely on charity. Jesus’s words gave this crowd hope! Therefore, Jesus’s seventh prophecy includes what a future would look like in which Jerusalem would not be annihilated by Rome, but instead would be the avenue through which Jesus’s Kingdom is established once again on Earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus speaks of the persecution, arrest, and imprisonment this nonviolent revolution/movement, growing out of Jerusalem, would encounter. Yet God would use all of this for Jerusalem to “bear testimony.” Before the great cosmic “signs” that would accompany the coming of Jesus’s kingdom, Jesus lays out the plan for the healing of the world from the self-destructive way of violence through the Jewish followers of Jesus embracing their own crosses of nonviolent noncooperation. Jerusalem, if she would in this late hour follow Jesus, she would be brought before the judges of the Roman Empire to give their testimony. (Although Jerusalem ended up rejecting Jesus and therefore not experiencing this, we do see this is exactly what happened with the Apostles who actually did embrace this movement that began in the nonviolent teachings of Jesus.) Yes, even at the hands of loved ones Jerusalem could expect that many would be put to death, losing their lives in this revolution, but they would not perish permanently. No, though they did not fully understand, Jesus was saying that even if they lost their lives for the Kingdom, their lives would be given back to them. They would find life given back to them, not in a world as it had been, but in a whole new world, renewed, restored, healed, once again under the reign of the nonviolent Christ. Here, Jesus was offering, as an alternative to Jerusalem’s destruction, a transforming nonviolent movement that would turn Jerusalem and even the entire world around. It is well worth noting that even in this, Jesus is emphasizing the way of the cross (both his and his followers’) as the means of transformation.

(For more on this, please see the presentation “A New Way” from our new series On Earth as It Is in Heaven at https://renewedheartministries.com/AudioPresentationSeries.aspx?series=40.)

Then Jesus quickly warns of another possible outcome if Jerusalem should end up rejecting Jesus. Jerusalem’s fate was on the edge of the blade during this final week of Jesus’s life. Jesus’s Kingdom could come through them if they embraced his way of nonviolent enemy love. But if Jerusalem did, in the end, choose to remain on their path of violent, eye-for-an-eye, punitive retribution toward the Romans, Jesus is quick to warn of Jerusalem’s possible annihilation and the coming of the “times of the Nations”:

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its DESOLATION [rather then restoration] is near. THEN let those who are in Judea FLEE to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. THEY WILL FALL BY THE SWORD AND WILL BE TAKEN AS PRISONERS TO ALL THE NATIONS. JERUSALEM WILL BE TRAMPLED ON BY THE NATIONS UNTIL THE TIMES OF THE NATIONS ARE FULFILLED. (Luke 21.20-24, emphasis added.)

But this next section is the best part of Jesus’s seventh prophecy. Even if Jerusalem should be annihilated, even if the nations wiped her out, Jesus’s Kingdom would still come. The nonviolent reign of Christ would still ultimately triumph even if Jerusalem and the temple should be no more. Jesus is saying that the Kingdom could come through Jerusalem, if she so chose. Yet even if she rejected this Kingdom of nonviolent, enemy love, she would be destroyed by her enemies, and the Kingdom would still come. If Jerusalem chose the way of annihilation, the “times of the Nations” would then ensue. But even given this worst-case scenario, the “times of the Nations” would also have their limits. The prophecies of the Son of Man would be fulfilled: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion.” (Daniel 7.14). Jesus describes the coming of his Kingdom if rejection of Jesus, Jerusalem’s destruction, and the victory of the Nations (i.e. “the times of the Nations”) should be the path Jerusalem would choose.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, NATIONS will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time THEY will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21.25-32, emphasis added).

The imagery of the sea and the waves, in the culture to which Jesus was speaking, had long been used to refer to the Gentile world. “Woe to the many nations that rage! They rage like the raging sea! Woe to the peoples who roar—they roar like the roaring of great waters!” (Isaiah 17.12). “Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners” (Psalms 144.7). John, too, uses this imagery for the times of the Nations in his Apocalypse: “Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages’” (Revelation 17.15). The heavenly bodies were identified by the Jewish people with the gods of Greco-Roman religion and regarded by them as “the powers” which presided over the pagan nations. “In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below” (Isaiah 24.21). “Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it! The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is on all their armies. He will totally destroy them, he will give them over to slaughter . . . All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall” (Isaiah 34.1-4, see also Ephesians 6.12). What Jesus is explaining in the passage here from Luke is that even if Jerusalem falls to Rome, there is nothing permanent in Gentile domination. In the end, the reign of the nonviolent Christ will be restored. Jerusalem could be a significant part of that, or she could become a stepping stone herself, in her destruction, toward that end. Ultimately, all nations, including Jerusalem, would be judged in history from the standpoint of a new, nonviolent humanity centered on Christ. That the path of violence would end in destruction was not only for the Jews. Unless “the nations” would turn and be transformed, the nations too would destroy themselves by their violence, each in turn, until Christ’s Kingdom is the last Kingdom standing. (This is the mustard seed prophecy in which the Kingdom of Christ is growing subversively all while “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” till the last Kingdom standing is the Christ’s. See Luke 13.19, Revelation 11.15, and the presentation “The Revolution” at https://renewedheartministries.com/AudioPresentationSeries.aspx?series=40.)

Yet, even this second option had contingencies. Even if Jerusalem did reject and crucify Jesus, even then, she was not beyond repenting still, turning from violence and embracing Jesus’s upside-down kingdom in which the poor and suffering are given first place and in which we love our enemies: “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name TO ALL NATIONS, beginning at Jerusalem’” (Luke 24.46-47).

If Jerusalem should reject and crucify Jesus, she would be no different from any other nation, but called still to submit to the nonviolent reign of Jesus and His Kingdom, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

What we see Jesus doing here is describing a revolution, an alternative to destruction. Every generation faces these inflexible alternatives: violence and annihilation, or nonviolent, enemy-embracing, enemy-forgiving love, and thus eternal life in a world made new. Transformation or annihilation—these are the inflexible alternatives Jesus sets before us. These are the events, the alternatives, that the “generation” Jesus was speaking to that day would see transpire before them. Which path would they choose?

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21.33)

When will the nonviolent, enemy-embracing Kingdom of God come for our generation? It comes right now. Our choice right now, globally, is the same as was Jerusalem’s. It is a choice between the inflexible alternatives, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also said, of “nonviolence or nonexistence.” Our generation too will choose either the nonviolent Kingdom that Jesus told us is within our power, thereby bringing healing to the world, our we will choose the horrific alternative of annihilation. “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

I close this look at Jesus’s seventh prophecy with the hope that is found in the following passages, hoping against hope that it will give you, dear reader, the courage to believe in the healing power of Jesus’s Kingdom of nonviolent, enemy forgiveness and love as well. Our world doesn’t have to end in annihilation, but our world, as it is now, must end and a new world begin. Either way, the nonviolent reign of Christ must—and will—come. Will we be a part of that revolution, or as in Jerusalem, will it pass us by, leaving us to our own demise? I still hold out hope:

Daniel 7.14—He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; ALL NATIONS and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Revelation 15.4—Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. ALL NATIONS will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

Revelation 21.24—THE NATIONS will walk by its light, and THE KINGS OF THE EARTH will bring their splendor into it.

Revelation 22.2—On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS.

The nonviolent revolution, the enemy-embracing Kingdom, starts now! Till the only world that remains is a world where Christ’s enemy-embracing, enemy-forgiving, nonviolent, nonretaliating love reigns.

Our Lord has come! Let us follow the nonviolent Lamb.

Prophecy # 6 – The Way of Enemy-Embracing, Nonviolent Love and A God Who Changes His Mind

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”—Jesus, Luke 19.41-44This week, I want to look at prophecy number six in our eight-prophecy lineup. For me, this one is the most gut wrenching. Jesus is fully aware that Jerusalem is rejecting her only chance at life. In rejecting Jesus, this prophet of nonviolent, enemy-embracing love, she is sealing her fate. Her feet are sternly set on the path of retaliation, eye-for-an-eye, and violence toward her enemy Rome, and this path will not end well. Jesus sees where their violent path will end, and he weeps:

“Your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another.”

Yet even now, it was still not too late. Follow closely. Let’s begin with Jeremiah, who also warned of a coming destruction on Jerusalem.

If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. (Jeremiah 18.7, 8)

Jeremiah had promised that God would change his mind if there were a change of path by those who had been warned.

We see this over and over again in the narratives of the Old Testament:

From the history of Isaiah and King Hezekiah:

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, this is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.’” (Isaiah 38.1-6, emphasis added)

To Jonah’s angry rant after the repentance of Nineveh:

When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” (Jonah 3.10-4.4, emphasis added)

What Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Jonah present to us is the picture of a God who actually does change his mind, a God who repents and changes what He has foretold if we choose a different path. A great example within the Gospels is in Jesus’ dialogue with Peter, just hours before Peter’s denial.

But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Luke 22.34)

Once Jesus prophesied this outcome of events for Peter, was Peter’s future now set? Was Peter trapped within a fate beyond changing, or, on the other hand, was Peter on a path with a certain and definite intrinsic end? Yet if Peter heeded Jesus’ forewarning and changed the path upon which he was traveling, the denial would also be avoided.

Jesus words in Luke 22.31 make the point clearly: “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail.” Jesus was praying that Peter would change paths and not end up in the fate of thrice denial. Jesus was actually prophesying toward Peter, in hope that Peter would change paths, and what Jesus prophesied would then never come to pass. (Much like when the Lord told David that the men of Keilah would turn him over to Saul, so David fled and that which the Lord foretold never came to pass.) What all of this indicates is that the intended purpose of threatening prophecy is fulfilled most profoundly when its threats do NOT come to pass, rather than when they do come to pass. For if the destruction takes place that has been foretold, in this, the prophecy has failed even though it’s predication came true, for the purpose of the prophecy was that paths would be changed and the predicted destruction would never take place.

Take a moment and reread Jesus’ words in Luke 19.41-44 with all of this in mind. As final as Jesus’ words sound, they were not beyond hope. Jerusalem could still, like David, Hezekiah, and Nineveh, change paths, repent of their violence, and embrace the way of nonviolent, enemy-embracing love, and live.

Today, the most conservative experts once placed their hope in being able to deter global violence escalating into a potential global annihilation. Today, they are saying that ever since the mid-’80s, humanity today has reached, through political structures coupled with technological achievement, a point of no return, guaranteeing that at some point soon in the future the human race will cease to exist. The political structures to which I’m referring to include monopolies on resources that cause those who are hungry and oppressed around the globe to rapidly grow desperate, thus producing, to the same degree, varied forms of terrorism threats around the globe as well. By technological achievements I am referring to the rapidly advancing, daily scientific breakthroughs that allow violence to be used so massively, so efficiently and effortlessly. The mere creation of such technology simultaneously brings into being the risk of it being hijacked and potentially used by the desperately hungry and oppressed, against their oppressors. The most conservative experts, once again, are now expressing that the fears of the Cold War are miniscule compared to what will (note, not could, but will) happen once terrorism is combined with nuclear warfare.

Yet, I refuse to change “could” to “will.” A future annihilation of the human race is still simply a possibility, not a definite. I still hold out hope that Jesus and His Kingdom of nonviolent, enemy-embracing love will win in the end. Jesus is, today more than ever, the last great hope of this world. Just like with Jerusalem of old, our turning from violence and injustice would fulfill the purpose of every Biblical and Secular prophecy regarding global annihilation. Remember, prophecy is not intended to simply predict the future, but to warn of a possible future that we will definitely meet if our choices are not altered today. Are we beyond hope? I do not believe so. But I will say we have one, and only one, hope left: embrace the nonviolent, enemy love of the God revealed in the person of Jesus the Savior of the World. Again, the condition for us is the same as that which Jesus presented to pre-70 A.D. Jerusalem of old: To know the things that make for peace, to recognize the “time of our visitation from God” in the invitation to join Christ’s nonviolent Kingdom.

For most of us, we don’t have the resources at our disposal to make global change. But we do have within our power, as we looked at last week, the ability to create local change. We can start today, wherever this finds you. Within your family, within your circle of friends, even if it is simply choosing to immediately forgive the driver in front of you who will cut you off on the way home from work after an exhausting day. One person at a time, we can change the world. The revolution starts right now, with you, with me, with each of us in our daily lives.

HeartGroup Application

1. This week I want you to spend some time contemplating a section of what many have labeled, “The Lord’s Prayer.” The section is:

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6.12)

I explain what I believe Jesus is telling us in this phrase at the end of a recent presentation I gave entitled What About Prayer? that you can listen to at https://renewedheartministries.com/AudioPresentationSeries.aspx?series=36

In short, these are not debts we owe God, but debts we owe to others, given the cultural context of Jesus’ teachings here, that God will cause to be dropped by our creditors as we drop the debts of those who are indebted to us. It’s a domino effect. By our setting forgiveness in motion, we can create a revolution, by the empowerment of God’s spirit. Our forgiving of others will travel from person to person, being paid forward, until it circles back around to those whom we have hurt or offended also being willing to forgive us. What Jesus is describing in the Lord’s Prayer truly is a revolution.

2. After listening to that presentation and getting your mind around Jesus’ intent here, contemplating what this might look like, I want you to meditatively pray for God to show you ways you might set in motion His Kingdom revolution in your own daily relationships.

3. This next week, share with your HeartGroup what discoveries you wrote down.

Jesus said it best, “God did not send his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to heal the world through him.” (John 3.17) In Luke 9.2, Jesus tells us our first job in proclaiming the arrival of this new nonviolent Kingdom is to be a conduit of healing! “Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Certainly our world is sick, infected with the disease of retaliation, of demanding eye for an eye, of punitive justice rather than the Godlike healing of restorative justice. Gandhi solemnly admonished us, “We must be the change, the change we long to see in the world.” I close this week with a statement regarding Einstein’s theory of relativity I found recently from Gandhi’s secretary:

“Einstein has given us his well-known equation setting forth the relationship between matter and energy which states that when even an INFINITESIMAL PARTICLE of matter attains the velocity of light, the maximum velocity attainable in the physical world, it acquires A MASS WHICH IS INFINITE.”—Pyarelel (Gandhii’s secretary, emphasis added.)

For AS THE LIGHTNING comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Bar Enasha, the new Humanity, the nonviolent Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.—Jesus (Matthew 24.27, personal paraphrase)

Who said one “infinitesimal” person empowered by nonviolent enemy love, can’t “infinitely” change the world?

Thanks for the hope, Einstein!

Wherever this finds you this week, keep living in love toward one person, one heart at a time, putting on display the Father’s character of love as seen in Jesus, until the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I love you guys.

See you next week.

Prophecy #5 – Signs That Can Be Observed

Once Jesus was asked by a Pharisee when the kingdom of God was coming. He answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation . . . (Luke 17.20-37)In this week’s passage, Jesus is once again presenting two options to Jerusalem: nonviolent, enemy love, or nonexistence. These really are the same options that we are faced with today, but that discussion is for another time.

With brilliant clarity, Jesus lays out a contingent prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction and a statement about the transforming alternative to that destruction, saying that Jerusalem’s destruction need not happen.

Jesus provides the alternative in verses 20-21:

Once Jesus was asked by a Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming. He answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

Remember, for Jesus, the kingdom is a radical new way of orienting and doing life that is rooted in and based on a radical new picture of God and His character of loving one’s enemies. This kingdom would result in the political and social liberation of the Jewish people from the Roman Empire. The kingdom would not only accomplish this, but would also liberate the entire world from “the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” and the systemic way of death they have us enslaved with. (Ephesians 6.12, though the inclusion of this larger liberation was not in the thinking of the Jewish people in Jesus’ day.) The proclamation of this “kingdom” is the gospel! It is the centerpiece of Jesus’ entire ministry. It is also the common thread that runs through the entire story, from Anna’s words in Luke 2.38, “At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for THE REDEMPTION OF JERUSALEM“, to the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus found in Luke 24.21, “But we had hoped that he was the one to REDEEM ISRAEL.”

Pervading each step of the way is the notion of the kingdom of God:

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (Luke 8.1);

And he sent them out to proclaim THE KINGDOM OF GOD and to heal. (Luke 9.2);

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘THE KINGDOM OF GOD has come near to you.’ (Luke 10.8-9).

When the Pharisee questions Jesus, he is actually challenging Jesus as a “prophet” to present his “revolutionary vision.” What he is actually asking Jesus to do is explain what its look like when Jesus envisions the people being liberated from Rome by Yahweh. Jesus, in his customary fashion, transforms the question into a contingent prophecy with two potential outcomes: embrace nonviolent love of your enemy and be liberated or remain entrenched in the world of an eye for an eye and retribution looking for a militaristic Messiah and be destroyed.

Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you”, contain both their most cherished dreams (the favor of God on Israel) and their worst nightmares (the favor of God also on their enemies, the Romans). Loving one’s enemy and nonviolent mutual liberation of Jerusalem and Rome from the real Enemy was a path that would require Jerusalem to forgive Rome, to love Rome, and to endeavor not only to save itself from Rome, but to save Rome from its allegiance to “the Powers” and encourage Roman to follow the nonviolent, enemy loving Messiah. The potential for all of this was among them and the choice was within them.

A window into Jesus’ words, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” is given to us by Josephus. Josephus writes incidents that occurred around the mid-first century (50 A.D.) when revolutionary prophets would lead large groups of people into the desert under the pretense that, once there, God would show them signs of approaching freedom. During these incidents, the Roman procurator, Felix, regarding this as the first stage of revolt, would send cavalry and heavy infantry to cut the mob into pieces (see Josephus, The Jewish War, Williamson and Smallwood, p. 147). The most infamous of these revolutionary prophets who promised “signs to be observed” was a militaristic messiah referred to as “the Egyptian” and who is mentioned in Acts 21. 38: “Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?”

Josephus describes the event as follows:

“Arriving in the country, this man, a fraud who posed as a seer, collected about 30,000 dupes, led them round from the desert to the Mount of Olives and from there was ready to force an entry into Jerusalem, overwhelm the Roman garrison, and seize supreme power with his fellow-raiders as bodyguard.” (Josephus, The Jewish War, Williamson and Smallwood, p. 147)

In a parallel account of this event, Josephus includes the “sign” that this “Egyptian” had claimed would be shown to the people in the course of their liberating Jerusalem. It would be a sign like Joshua’s sign at the Battle of Jericho. At the “Egyptian’s” command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down so that his followers could enter and seize the city. However, before any such a sign could be attempted, the Roman cavalry and infantry slayed and captured hundreds and put the rest to flight, including the militaristic messiah, the Egyptian. (Josephus, Antiquities, 170-172)

These were not lunatic leaders, but hopeful militarist messiahs, action prophets who contemporary scholars see as attempting to lead movements of Jewish peasants in active engagements of human effort that would be accompanied by divine acts of empowerment and deliverance. The lie went something like, “Success is dependent on combining human effort with divine power.” If they wanted divine deliverance, they must first present the violent human effort for Yahweh to bless. God would meet their efforts if they acted. The rhetoric of these militaristic messiahs was steeped in the symbols of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan. (Much like Augustine’s arguments for marginalizing Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence also centered on the story details of the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan of the Old Testament. For more on this, see part 7 of the series, The Active Nonviolence of Jesus, within the eSight posts of 2012.) Today, this is called Sign Propaganda and is similar to when a politician uses symbols of the American Revolution to inspire a following. The militaristic messiahs of the mid-first century in Jerusalem used this same technique by employing symbols of the Exodus and of the Conquest of Canaan.

Josephus also describes another event where Romans massacred a thousand Jewish women and children who were acting in obedience to another Jewish militaristic messiah “prophet.” This militaristic messiah had declared to the people in Jerusalem that God had commanded them to go up to the Temple to receive the signs of deliverance. (Josephus, The Jewish War, p. 360) Elsewhere, Josephus describes a “Samaritan prophet” who was a contemporary “messiah” of Jesus during the time of Pontius Pilate. This prophet’s “sign” was to lead the people up the sacred Mount Gerizim to find holy vessels left there by Moses. Instead, the armed crowd was attacked and overwhelmed by Pilate’s troops at the foot of the mountain. (Josephus, Antiquities, 85-87)

When Jesus says “the Kingdom is not coming with signs to be observed,” he is emphatically rejecting the specific way in which popular prophets led masses of Jewish people to their deaths at the hands of Roman soldiers. The reference to such leaders becomes more specific when he warns, “They will say to you, ‘Lo there!’ or ‘Lo, here!’ Do not go, do not follow them.” (Luke 17.23) Those who followed these would-be messiahs and used violence, retribution, and retaliation would perish needlessly in horrific slaughters by Rome.

The hope that Jesus gives them is of an enemy-loving, forgiving, nonviolent, and yet noncooperative approach, a nonviolent Kingdom that would change the world through embracing a Roman cross, rather than avoiding it or by picking up of a sword. Neither flight nor fight, Jesus offered a third way, a narrow way, a narrow gate that would lead through death to life. It was counter-intuitive, but it was the way of wisdom. The way that seemed right to them [violent retaliation] would lead to their death instead (Proverbs 14.12; 16.25).

“The Kingdom of God is among you!” can also be translated as “within you.” It can also be translated as by the power of the Spirit, “within your doing.”

“But the justice that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, ON YOUR LIPS AND IN YOUR HEART” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord [rather than Caesar, and call Jesus, according to last week, “blessed.”] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Romans 10.6-9, emphasis added.)

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today IS NOT TOO HARD FOR YOU, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” NO, THE WORD IS VERY NEAR TO YOU; IT IS IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART FOR YOU TO OBSERVE. (Deuteronomy 30.11-14, emphasis added.)

Again, Jesus was presenting a way to live, but it was a way that first passed through death, not of one’s enemies, but of oneself at the hands of one’s enemies. It was a path that possessed the hope of a resurrection, believing in one’s heart that God “raised Jesus from the dead.”

Jesus was clear. To follow the illusive and falsely promising way of violence was a trap. To trust in a future hope by using violence in the present was an illusion. Jesus was not offering them the annihilation of their enemies, but the nonviolent transformation of themselves, their enemies, and the entire world. “The Kingdom of God is within your power.” This nonviolent, enemy loving and forgiving kingdom offered to them by Jesus was both a means and the end of all their hopes. Through the power of the Spirit, this path was both within them, within their doing, and also present among them or, as Jesus said in other places, “At hand!” Overthrowing kingdoms of this world through the power of the sword, through the way of violence, is rarely within our power. But to transform and change the world one person at a time by embracing your enemy, nonviolence, forgiveness, and healing love—THAT is always at your disposal. By staying connected with Jesus (John 15), those means are always within our power and waiting simply for our choosing. This centers on showing kindness toward the “ungrateful and the evil.” (Luke 6.35)

HeartGroup Application

1. This week I’d like you to spend some time contemplatively praying through these three verses:

Luke 6.27—”But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

Luke 6.32—”If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

Luke 6.35—”But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”

2. As you are praying through these passages, I want you to write down any insights that Jesus gives you into ways that you can be a part of healing the world in your daily lives.

3. Share what you discover with your HeartGroup this upcoming week.

As odd as saying it this way sounds, the reason the healing of the world is “within our power”, according to Jesus, is because the power itself is love. It is this love that Jesus wants to not only educate us in, but also empower us for. It is a way of life flowing from God’s love for us AND for our enemies. It is an indiscriminant love, showered like the rain and shining like the sun on all creation. This way of life is “within our power” because we can choose to accept God’s transforming love, not just for ourselves, but for our enemies as well. To view our enemies through the lens of what is in God’s heart for them is transforming. It transforms us! And then, by relating to our enemies, it transforms them too! Before long, we have set in motion a contagious chain of events, dominoes tipping upon dominoes, until a world where love reigns is the only world that remains. Regardless of who they may be or what they may have done to us, we must see that within our loving of them, our forgiving of them, our choosing the way of nonviolent love rather than eye-for-an-eye retribution, lies the hope of our world. Like the Samaritan of old, we will be saved by our enemies, specifically by learning how to forgive and love them. They, and the lessons that are related to them by love, are the means of our salvation.

God’s love for our enemies is the Kingdom within our power and is there for our choosing, waiting for us to affirm it’s divine power, the divine power of agape, and to begin experiencing it. Through our enemies, we meet the heart of God’s love and the possibility of salvation from the way that leads to death.

In the movie of Gandhi’s life from 1982, there is a scene where a Hindu is conscience stricken over his own violent slaying of Muslims. Gandhi offers him a way out of “hell.” Gandhi tells the Hindu to find a Muslim child who has lost their parents due to the violent fighting of the civil wars between Muslims and Hindus and to take that Muslim child into his home, his family, his heart and to raise him, not as a Hindu, but as a Muslim.

I wonder what forgiving your enemy will look like?

We’ll continue next week with prophecy number 6.

I love you guys.

See you next week.