Teaching in the Temple

Day 42

Holy Week – Tuesday

Luke 20 & 21


A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

As I was with Jesus today, I found myself thinking about this great hymn by Martin Luther. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

On Tuesday of the Holy Week Jesus taught publicly in the temple and then later privately on the Mount of Olives. The common denominator of Luke 20 and 21 is conflict; both the mood and the theme of Jesus’ teaching is one of conflict. Luke 20 opens with this…

“Now it happened on one of those days as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him.”

All of Luke 20 is a conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious hierarchy. Jesus tells them that soon they will no longer be the keepers of the Lord’s vineyard and they reply, “God forbid!” Then the Pharisees and the Sadducees take their respective turns in unsuccessfully trying to trip up Jesus with trick questions. The chapter closes with Jesus point-blank telling the people to beware of the scribes who are doomed to a greater condemnation.

At the beginning of chapter 21 it seems as though the disciples want to innocently distract Jesus from all of the conflict by drawing His attention to the marvelous buildings of the temple complex. But Jesus will have none of it and curtly tells them that the buildings are doomed to destruction and foretold the signs that would indicate the eminent destruction of Jerusalem. These things came to pass forty years later.

In His Olivet discourse Jesus weaves together prophecy concerning the difficult times pertaining to the destruction of Jerusalem (which happen in A.D. 70) and the difficult times that will accompany the last days. I am convinced that the events of May 14, 1948 (Israel becoming a modern nation) and June 5, 1967 (Jerusalem returning to Jewish control) are important prophetic signs indicating that we are living in the last days before the return of Christ. These days are destined to be days of great Kingdom advance amidst tremendous difficulty and conflict.

The prophetic theme of the Kingdom advancing admist danger and conflict is what drew my mind to Martin Luther’s great hymn. (One of the greatest hymns ever written — the only other two I would place in the same category would be “Amazing Grace” and “Holy, Holy, Holy”.)

Martin Luther was no stranger to conflict. From the moment he nailed his “95 Thesis” to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, he was embroiled in tremendous conflict and danger as he labored to liberate the Christian world from the oppression of dead religious tradition. Martin Luther was undoubtedly one of the most courageous men in history.

“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was the battle cry of the Reformation and I think there is no greater hymn for encouraging those who are fighting the Lord’s battle in a “world with devils filled.” Read Luke 21 one more time and then read “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and you’ll see what I mean.


Here’s something that stood out to me in Luke 21 this morning.

“They will put some of you to death…But not a hair of your head shall be lost.” –Jesus (Luke 21:16, 18)

“Some of you will be killed, but not a hair of your head will be lost.” Hmm? At first that might seem a bit contradictory. But when you remember that your destiny lies in the eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and not in this temporal life, it begins to make sense. If you stay faithful to Jesus Christ, no matter what any man or devil may do to you, it cannot touch your eternal destiny in Jesus Christ. That’s really encouraging!

A mighty fortress is our God!