Brothers & Sisters:
Despite its language and imagery of destruction, Luke 21:5-19 is ultimately a passage grounded in hope — in the hope that God remains present in the world and in one’s life even when things have gotten so bad that it feels like the world is closing in on us.
That assurance of God’s faithfulness to us in the face of difficult times is the real concern of this passage. Jesus details the persecution that his followers can expect to face: arrests; persecution; trials before government authorities; betrayal by family and friends; hatred on account of Jesus’ name; and even execution. Throughout his Gospel, Luke depicts Jesus as a prophetic figure who risks rejection and death as a result of his prophetic message (see especially Luke 4:16-30). Anyone who follows Jesus can expect the same hostility that Jesus and Israel’s great prophets endured.
But does Jesus in Luke 21:12-19 tell his audience they should lay blame on a particular person or group of people, on their society, or even on their enemies, for such treatment? No. He says that persecution is “an opportunity to testify” (21:13). Just as God gave Moses and other prophets the capacity to speak to and confront their doubters and opponents (for example Exodus 6:28-7:13; Jeremiah 1:6-10), Jesus himself will provide strength and wisdom for such testimony (Luke 21:15). Using a proverb that signifies divine protection, Jesus tells them that not a hair on their head will perish (Luke 21:18; see also 1 Samuel 14:45; 2 Samuel 14:11; 1 Kings 1:52).5 Ultimately, their experience of persecution will not end in death but in a victory for their souls (Luke 21:19). Underscoring all of these statements in 21:12-19 is the importance of trusting in God even in the midst of hardship and persecution.