Luke 19:41-48 Transitional Judgment.
Too many miss the significance of the transition from old to new covenant with Jesus. Specifically, they miss that it was covenantal to the core. It was the time of old covenant lawsuit upon apostate Israel who had rejected the Messiah in their midst, but new covenant renewal for the remnant who did receive him, including the Gentiles. Jesus took no delight in this reality. He wept over the city. This is an ongoing running underlying theme. Luke already recorded Jesus lament over the city and what it represented (Lk. 13:34-35). They had killed the prophets who had preceded Him, and they had plotted His death. Though He wanted to at least gather their children together, much like the children of the wilderness community were permitted to go forward, they were so stubborn that they preferred to take their children with them in the suffering of their covenantal cursing. Instead Jesus said, “Your house is left to you desolate” (Lk. 13:35a).
This is exactly what was taking place. The physical temple was no longer the Lord’s house, for they had rejected the Master of God’s house. Jesus came to redeem all those who were members of the Father’s true house (Cf. Heb. 3:1-6). This was the day or time for the old covenant Israelite leadership to make their decision, in favour of those things that would make for their peace (v. 42a Cf. 1:77-79; Acts 10:36; Rom. 5:1). This was the same warning that was issued by the author of Hebrews in his word of exhortation of old covenant lawsuit and new covenant renewal (3:13 Cf. Ps. 95:7-8). However, the things that would be made for peace would be hidden from them, for salvation is as a result of the sovereign will of God alone (v. 42bc). Jesus then predicted the armies coming upon Jerusalem to its destruction, and the temple with it (vv. 43-44), the full prediction and accompanying events we find in 21:5-33, but especially verses 20-24.
This is what Mathew referred to from Jesus as “the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel” (24:15 Cf. Dan. 9:24-27). However, Luke records that this destruction was not coming specifically because of those of the apostate Jewish leadership who stood before Jesus. The punishment was coming because of the fathers, but the apostate of that generation who continued in that unbelief would be the ones upon whom the city and temple would literally fall, along with suffering with their apostate fathers from the past in the covenant lawsuit of which this was but one result, because they did not know the time of their “visitation” (v. 44b Cf. 21:6; Mt. 24:2; Mk. 13:2; I Kgs. 9:7-8; Is. 29:3-4; Jer. 6:6; I Pet. 2:12). Luke recorded the prophesy of Zacharias where he declared that Jesus came to establish a different house, in fulfillment of the old covenant administrations of grace that ended with the Davidic (1:67-79).
Right before Micah predicted about the mountain of the Lord’s house with the coming of the Messiah, or what he refers to as the time of “the latter days” (4:1 Cf. Heb. 1:2), he also predicted Jerusalem’s destruction. “Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest” (3:12). In other words, “the latter days” or “the last days” does not refer to some future time, whether one also regards the start as happening at the time here when Jesus spoke or also in the future. This eschatological phrase refers specifically to this time of transition, which included the destruction of the city and temple and the old covenant sacrificial system with it. This transition period would also include the period of the canonical revelatorial expansion that Joel predicted and Peter testified had also come in that generation (Acts 2:16-22; Joel 2:28-32).
All of this puts into proper context the record of Jesus clearing the temple (vv. 45-48). Jesus could not have been any clearer as to what He was talking about. Jesus in this act, in fulfillment of the word which He Himself quoted, declared that until the coming destruction, this was still His house which was intended to be a place of prayer, and not one of legitimized theft (v. 46). Again, this echoes Micah (3:8-12). That was part of a covenant lawsuit judgment as well. This very event was predicted by Malachi (3:1ff). As noted earlier, Mathew follows this event with the parable of the withered fig tree, which was apostate Israel (21:12-22), and Mark sandwiches it in between this parable (11:12-24). Like the parable of the wicked vine dressers, the apostate leadership knew that He was referring to them (20:19). As an aside, John’s record of Jesus clearing the temple may have been a second earlier occurrence (2:13-3:21).
Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, wherein the LORD teaches that it is those who “hold fast my covenant,” including the promise here to the Gentiles, who will make His house a house of prayer (vv. 1-8). However, the apostate leadership and those who follow them, will suffer judgment (vv. 9ff.). Jesus words also echo the prophet Jeremiah in his word of judgment concerning those who taught that the physical temple was inviolable (7:11). As long as it was still His house he would teach in it daily, even though “the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him” (v. 47). They would rather destroy Jesus than see the destruction of the temple that pointed in fulfillment to the One who stood before them. However, God determined that there were still people who needed to be “very attentive” to Jesus teaching, so the leadership were not yet able to fulfill their wish. Their “hour” would come and that of “the power of darkness” (22:53).
It is interesting that when it got dark Jesus did not stay in the temple rather, Luke records that He went back to “the mountain called Olivet” (Cf. 21:37-38 Cf. Mk. 11:18). Mathew notes that He also went to the city of Bethany (21:17). The bottom line was as John stated, the apostate Jewish leadership had no place in their hearts for the word of God, including the law of Moses (7:19; 8:37). The people went out to meet Jesus at the temple to be taught by Him, up until the time of the plot to kill Him (Lk. 21:38). As Luke progresses in his gospel account, the leadership intensify their public questioning of Jesus’ authority (20:1-8), especially after He teaches about them as the wicked vinedressers (vv. 9-19). This intensifying divide will lead to His prediction of the temple’s destruction with the city and ultimately to His crucifixion (21-23). However, the good news includes the reality that He is risen (24).