Matthew 24 – Luke Actually

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Today’s PassageMatthew 24

Matthew 24 is basically Luke 21, and I’ve already talked about Luke 21, so I guess we’re done here.

In all seriousness, I do have an extensive post there about interpreting Jesus’ discourse on the end of the age. But I’d like to remind us that Jesus offers these teachings in the context of the Jerusalem temple’s predicted destruction. As the passage begins, the disciples are remarking to him on the temple’s grandeur, to which he responds: “Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (2). Later, in private on the Mount of Olives, the disciples question him about the events to come (hence the name “the Olivet Discourse”).

But Jesus gives this whole speech in the context of the Jerusalem temple’s destruction, which would occur in 70 AD. He’s answering the disciples’ three questions, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (3). As you read, it’s important to know your history, and to ask which portions of this prophecy already saw fulfillment, which portions will indicate the second coming of Christ, and which will signify the “end of the age.” If you’re not sure on some points or need further study to get a grip on Jesus’ teaching here, don’t be afraid to admit it. Lord knows I’m in that category.

That said, I’d like to turn our attention back to Luke, because Matthew omits a scene that Luke included. In this Luke-exclusive content, Jesus and the disciples watch wealthy Jews make their contributions to the temple treasury, and then a widow puts in two copper coins. Jesus tells the disciples, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4). The widow is making the greater sacrifice; others may give more by volume, but she’s giving 100%, and God measures by capacity.

The coins she gives to the treasury are Greek lepta. The first-century lepton was a physically tiny coin of cheap brass or copper. The name literally means “small” or “thin.” On top of that, it’s derived from the Greek verb for “to peel,” so you might not be too far off the mark here to translate it “shavings” instead of “coins.” And it shares its name with the subatomic particle known as the lepton. Leptons in physics are outrageously tiny particles, and leptons in currency are outrageously tiny-valued coins.

The widow and her two lepta teach us that even if you have next to nothing, God still values what you’ve got. Give him your all, and he can work with it. You might even find yourself immortalized in historical literature that we still read today–though don’t be surprised if you’re not mentioned by name.

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