Luke 21:29-38 – The Fig Tree and Being Watchful (Nov. 26th)

**Note: The curriculum notes will not cover all the same verses as the Sunday sermon. Since this is a 3-week series, the curriculum notes are broken down in a way that allows leaders to focus more on the pericopes in  Luke, rather than just focusing on what is covered during the sermon.

Message Notes:  These Things and This Generation Nov 26

OPENING DISCUSSION:

Spend time with your group members talking about what they have learned thus far in the miniseries on the End Times. How has this study changed, or shaped, your understanding of historical events, as well as what to expect in the future? You can also spend time talking about things you are thankful for this year (‘Tis the season!) In today’s passage, Jesus uses the life cycle of a fig tree to help us better prepare for his return and how we must be watchful each and every day.  

BIG PICTURE/MAIN IDEA:

Synopsis: Christ is coming again and has given us the signs that ought to make us pray and get ready for his coming to establish his kingdom.

With Jesus’ coming, God’s kingdom entered history in fulfillment of the OT promises. Now at the consummation the firstfruits will give way to the harvest. The church’s cries (Luke 18:7) and its fervent prayer (11:2) are answered. The Son of Man returns in glory as Luke both explicitly and implicitly taught and as the church has preached. The mustard seed has become a tree; the yeast has leavened the whole dough. The longings of Luke’s readers are now realized to the fullest.

KEY POINTS IN THE PASSAGE:

  • Jesus uses a fig tree to teach his disciples how to keep alert so as to be ready for the sudden climax.
  • Disciples need to keep alert and pay attention, so as to be ready for the sudden climax.

WHAT DOES IT SAY?

READ Luke 21:29-38 and answer the questions below:

What did Jesus tell his disciples to look at in v. 29?

What does he say is a sign that the summer months are coming?

What did Jesus say were signs that kingdom of God is near?

Who did Jesus say when all of these events would take place?

What will and will not pass away, according to Jesus?

What did Jesus say his audience would be weighed down by?

What must they do in order to prevent this from happening?

What did Jesus tell his disciples to pray for?

Where did Jesus go after he said these things?

In the Parable of the Fig Tree Jesus taught that one can tell what is coming by watching the signs. By looking at fig leaves sprouting in April, they know that summer is near. Similarly when the Great Tribulation comes, people will know that the kingdom of God is near.

The clause, this generation (genea) will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened, has caused much controversy. Some think Jesus was telling His disciples that their generation would see the destruction of the temple. That interpretation stems primarily from verses 5–7 in which the discussion pertained to the temple’s destruction. However, because of verse 31 (in which Jesus spoke of the coming of the kingdom of God), and because of Matthew 24:34, it seems preferable to say His words refer to the generation living at the time of the cosmological events that will just precede His second coming. That generation will actually see the founding of the kingdom of God—something every generation of Jewish citizens has longed for throughout the nation’s history.

Jesus warned His disciples to be ready at all times. Though a believer will be able to anticipate the coming of the kingdom by the signs, it is possible to get so entangled with the affairs of life that some will not be ready for the kingdom when it comes—unexpectedly (v. 34) and universally (v. 35)—and therefore will not enter the kingdom. It was against this wrong attitude that Jesus said, Be careful (v. 34) and be always on the watch (v. 36).

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Use the information from the text and the commentary notes below to help discern responses to the following questions. 

  • Why do you think Jesus used the fig tree to remind his disciples of the future events?
  • Why do you think Jesus them to pray for strength to stand before the Son of Man?  
  • Why do you think Jesus went over the Mount of Olives each night and returned to the temple during the day?

The present parable serves as a reassuring word for the preceding statement about the Son of Man’s coming. Even as the leafing of a fig tree announces and guarantees the coming of summer, so the signs of 21:25–26 will announce and guarantee the Son of Man’s parousia. Jesus’ teachings concerning this (see comments on 21:33) will be fulfilled. The certainty of all this is assured by two emphatic elements: the “I tell you the truth” of 21:32 and the fact that the coming of the Son of Man is a more enduring promise than the existence of heaven and earth (21:33). The latter will pass away, but not Jesus’ words. As a result “this generation” that rejected Jesus will in the last day, due to its solidarity with its descendants, experience the fulfillment of Jesus’ words and judgment as a result of its rejection of him.

Luke ended his eschatological discourse with a practical appeal consisting of two warnings unique to his Gospel. The first involves a warning to beware of being overcome with drunken revelry or worldly concerns for this life, for these may cause one to be unprepared for “that day” (21:34). The second is to be watchful and to pray in order to be prepared for “that day.” This is described as being able to stand before the Son of Man (21:36). Only by heeding these warnings will Luke’s readers be able to escape the judgment that is coming in that day and which, despite the signs of 21:25–26, will catch the rest of the world unawares (21:34b–35).

Verses 37-38 form a concluding summary not only for Jesus’ eschatological teaching (21:5–36) but also for the entire section devoted to Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem (19:28–21:38). The theme of Jesus’ teaching found in 19:47; 20:1 is repeated here, and the material is uniquely Lukan.

HOW DOES IT APPLY?

What can we learn from this passage and apply to our lives today?

Do you think that we also need to pray for strength to stand before the son of man?

What are the most important takeaways from this study on the end times that will affect how you live your life today as well as in the future?

How can we find peace in the midst of these difficult passages?

COMMENTARY NOTES:

21:29 For a similar parable involving a fig tree, cf. 13:6–9.

And all the trees. Luke may have added this to broaden the analogy for his non-Palestinian audience, who may not have been as familiar with fig trees as Jesus’ audience.

21:30 When they sprout leaves. “When they sprout leaves” is literally when they put out (probalōsin). This absolute use of the verb without a noun such as “leaves” is unusual.Summer is near. This is a conclusion all would acknowledge. This verse provides the picture part of the parable.

21:31 Even so. This introduces the reality part of the parable. When you see these things happening. “These things” are those associated with the Son of Man’s coming (21:25–26), not the things associated with Jerusalem’s fall in a.d. 70 (21:5–24). The kingdom of God is near. This is another way of saying the Son of Man’s coming is near (21:27). Compare the parallels in Mark 13:29; Matt 24:33, “You know that he is near” (RSV). The similar wording in Luke 21:28 indicates that the consummation of God’s kingdom brings the believers’ redemption. The attempt to see in this a “de-eschatologizing” of the parousia by Luke is in error, for Luke saw the coming of the kingdom and the coming of the Son of Man (21:27) as two ways of expressing the same event. The expressions are different and the emphases differ somewhat as well, but the same eschatological event is meant (see Luke 21:25–28, “Context”).

21:32 I tell you the truth. This adds solemnity to what follows. See comments on 4:24. This generation. “This generation” is often used pejoratively in Luke-Acts, and in every instance cited it refers to (or at least can also refer to) Jesus’ own generation. Here it is also pejorative and refers to the final generation that stands in solidarity both in descent and behavior with the generation of Jesus’ day. All these things. Literally all. The parallels in Mark 13:30; Matt 24:34 have “all these things.” This is best understood as referring to the signs and coming of the Son of Man (Luke 21:25–28) and not the events surrounding a.d. 70 (21:5–24).

21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away. Compare 16:17. Compare Ps 102:25–27; Isa 51:6. This verse is tied to the preceding both by its content and by the verb “pass away.” My words. Compare Luke 9:26; Isa 40:6–8; 55:10–11; Ps 119:89. The particular aspect of Jesus’ teachings referred to involves the Son of Man’s coming (cf. 9:26; 12:40; 17:22–37; 18:8). At this point Luke omitted Mark 13:32; Matt 24:36, perhaps for Christological reasons or because he had something like this in Acts 1:7.

21:34 Or your hearts will be weighed down. See comments on 6:45. Compare Exod 7:14. With dissipation, drunkenness. The first term can bring about the second, i.e., revelry in drinking leads to drunkenness. Drunkenness that results from any kind of behavior, however, is condemned. And the anxieties of life. Compare how in Luke 8:13–14 these can choke God’s word so that it becomes unfruitful. Compare 10:41; 12:22–26. That day. “That day” is the day when the Son of Man returns (21:27) and these things take place (21:31). Will close on you unexpectedly. Despite all warnings the world will be caught unprepared like the rich fool (12:16–21) and like Noah’s generation and Sodom (17:22–37). Compare 12:35–48; 1 Thess 5:2–3. Like a trap. It is uncertain textually whether this should go with what precedes (“will close upon you unexpectedly like a trap”) or what follows (“for it will come upon those … like a trap”) The former has slightly better textual support (א, B, D, it, Cop).

21:35 For it will come. “It” refers to the Son of Man (21:27) or the kingdom of God (Luke 21:31). On the face of the whole earth. As in 21:26 the cosmic scene extends to the whole earth and not just to the land of Judea (21:21, 23).

21:36 Be always on the watch. This involves not so much having a correct chronological chart of the end events or physically looking and searching for the Son of Man’s return but rather being prepared at all times for his coming. It involves a life of faithful perseverance (8:15) made possible through prayer. As a result that day will not “surprise them as a thief” (1 Thess 5:4). And pray. “Prayer” is a favorite Lukan emphasis. This injunction probably is best understood as an instrumental participle revealing the means by which one can be watchful: Be always watchful by praying. That. “That” means in order that. The purpose of this continual prayer is now given. You may be able to escape. The purpose of prayer is to escape (literally be strong enough to escape) the things that are about to take place. Only through such prayer will they be able to “not give up” (Luke 18:1) and “keep the faith” (cf. 18:8). All that is about to happen. This alludes to the “messianic woes” suggested in the signs of 21:25–26. These circumstances, which come upon the believer from outside, along with those mentioned in 21:34–35, which come from within, pose a danger. Through prayer, however, the believer will be strengthened and able to escape from apostasy and sin. And … stand before the Son of Man. This refers to escaping the wrath and judgment of the Son of Man. It is to hear “well done” (19:17) rather than “I don’t know you.… Away from me, all you evildoers” (13:25–27).

21:37 Each day Jesus was teaching. The imperfect periphrastic verb emphasizes Jesus’ continual practice of teaching in the temple. That which began in 2:46–49 is now being fulfilled. Hill called the Mount of Olives. Luke portrayed Jesus as “tenting out” each night on the Mount of Olives. Compare 22:39. This would have been quite common during the celebration of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This does not exclude the possibility that, as Matt 21:17 states, Jesus also lodged in Bethany, which lies on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives.

21:38 And all the people came. See comments on 4:15. Compare Luke 19:48. To hear him. This expresses the purpose of their coming.

Posted in Group Notes, Luke 14, Luke: A Jesus for Everyone