Once, while listening to some people praise the grandeur of the Temple, Jesus remarked, “The days are coming when there shall not be left here one stone upon another stone” (Luke 21:6). Those who heard his sober remark could not help but to ask, “When will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” Jesus’ answer to these questions is found in Luke 21:8-9, 20-24 and 28-31.
Often Christians have missed the thrust of Jesus’ concluding parable about the fig tree (Luke 21:29-31), because it includes a sophisticated Hebrew wordplay and is intricately interwoven with first-century Jewish ideas. Here, I hope to shed light on both the ingenuity of Jesus’ answer to the questions about the Temple’s demise and the meaning of his message of hope.
A Hebrew Wordplay
In verses 8-9 Jesus responded:
“See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in my name saying, ‘…The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified…the end does not follow immediately.”