In Luke 21:18 Jesus talks about hair in relation to our well-being. It’s interesting how closely people’s self-image is identified with the state of their hair.
Marcus Tulilius Cicero said, “It is fooling to cut one’s hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness.”
Dolly Parton said, “People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair. I don’t know, I’m never there.”
Martin Luther said, “The hair is the richest ornament of women.” You’d think he’d have a more spiritual response.
Bruce Willis said, “Hair loss is God’s way of telling me I’m human.
Ivana Trump said, “Gorgeous Hair is the best revenge.”
Barbara Bush said, “People who worry about their hair all the time, are, frankly, boring.
I think Dolly Parton has a good take on the importance of hair. When someone asked her “How do you feel about bald men?” Dolly said, “I love bald men. Just because you’ve lost your fuzz, don’t mean you ain’t a peach.”
She also responded when asked about blonde jokes, “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know I’m not blonde.”
Well, the good news for us is that regardless of the color of your hair, or even whether or not you have hair, is that Jesus says we don’t need to worry about the future. In the gospel reading, Jesus metaphorically says, “not a hair on your head will perish.”
In today’s passage, Jesus and his disciples had finally arrived in Jerusalem. Jesus is holding forth in the ornate temple. He is about at the end of his ministry, as we are almost at the end of the church year. The disciples were admiring the beauty of the Temple, one of the great wonders of the ancient world. The smallest stones in the walls of the massive structure weighted 2-3 tons. Many of them weighed 50 tons. The temple was many times larger than any building the disciples had ever seen. They were acting like amazed tourists. They were agog with wonder.
But Jesus kills the buzz by predicting that this magnificent Temple will one day be brought down and he warns them of wars, insurrections, earthquakes, plagues, persecution, betrayal, imprisonment, and death. “Not one stone will be left on another;” he said, “everyone will be thrown down.”
And his prediction was true. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the conquering Romans. Titus, a Roman general with 80,00 men set siege on Jerusalem, even though it was set on a hill and heavily defended. When the siege succeeded and the city was taken, Titus ordered the city and the Temple to be razed to the ground. Josephus, the historian who was actually there, tells us that 97,000 residents of the city were taken captive and made into slaves, and more than a million died. All that remains to this day is a portion of a retaining wall, called the western wall or the Wailing Wall which is the most holy place of prayer for present-day Jews.
When Jesus made this prediction of the fall of Jerusalem, the disciples probably didn’t believe him when he said that this magnificent Temple would come down. Impossible! “Teacher, they asked, when will this be and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”
But Jesus wasn’t interested in hearing about their fear and looking for signs. Instead, in verse 9 he tells them, “Do not be terrified.” And in verse 14 “I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” Very bad times are coming, but Jesus promises them protection, their souls will be saved by their endurance during these hard times.
Jesus could be talking about our time. He could be talking about any time in recorded history. There have always been wars, and rumors of wars. The have always been earthquakes, famines, and plagues. Jesus said in verse 8, “Beware that you are not led astray.” The future has always been uncertain for every generation of humanity. Jesus wanted his disciples to know that things were going to get very tough and they would need to be strong.
He wanted them to realize that it could get especially hard for them, the disciples would be persecuted and put into prison and even betrayed by friends and relatives. Most of them would eventually be killed because of their faith.
By this time the disciples must have been mortified. But Jesus turns it around and assures them, “Not a hair of your head will perish.” This doesn’t mean they won’t suffer in their earthly life, but it is a metaphor meaning that they will be safe forever with him in heaven.
Jesus is telling the disciples and us that the future is filled with uncertainty. And he is telling us that our future is also unknowable. Life is as unpredictable now as it was in Jesus’ time. The future is filled with things we cannot control. In these times of uncertainty, we too need to keep our gaze fixed on Christ’s promise. In times of distress, he is with us. In times of anxiety, he is with us. In times of loss God is with us. Life is unpredictable, but God is with us. In good times and bad, there is someone who never forgets or abandons us.
Hair is actually a great metaphor for well-being despite adversity that Christ is talking about as he promises us in verse 18, “not a hair on our head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.” That is Christ’s promise to us. He did not mean we will never go bald or suffer physically or emotionally. When Jesus said that, he did not mean we will not suffer or be exempt from catastrophes. It’s an image that means we will not be subjected to anything that cannot be overcome by God’s ultimate rule. He meant that our losses are temporary. God’s power is greater than any power that would forever crush us. God will take care of us in this world and the next.
Philosopher John Wilson wrote, “Life is difficult. God is merciful. Heaven is sure.” These things we can count on regardless of whatever life may send our way. What Jesus was saying is that ultimately, we are in God’s hands. Life is difficult, God is merciful, heaven is sure.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once told of experiencing a hurricane in a cruse around the Atlantic Ocean. After the captain managed to steer around the danger, he shared his philosophy with Peale. He said, “If the sea is smooth, it will get rough; and if it is rough, it will get smooth. But with a good ship, you can always ride it out.” Our lives are like that, no one gets a smooth ride though life and some people’s lives are constantly on stormy water.
Our ship is our faith in Christ. With a good ship, you can always ride it out. Not a hair of your head will perish,” says Jesus. Faith will help us ride out the storms.
Today let us take comfort in Jesus’ promise of safety that will take us through the tough times of life. In gratitude let us praise God for the incredible gift of Christ who saved us.
Please pray with me.
The gospel passage today is set in the time when Jesus is teaching in the ornate temple in Jerusalem. He is about at the end of his ministry, as we are almost at the end of the church year. First he tells explains that the temple will one day be demolished and then he warns them of wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, and plagues, persecution, betrayal and imprisonment and death. Not a real confidence-building way to start teaching. But then he says in verse 18, “but not a hair of your head will perish.”
Hair is a great metaphor for well-being and in the last verse of the gospel passage Jesus promises his disciples and us that not a hair on our head will perish. That is Christ’s promise to us. “Not a hair on our head will perish.” He didn’t mean they would never go bald or suffer. It’s a metaphor meaning that we will not be subjected to anything that cannot be overcome by God’s power and authority. It means we do not have to fear because God will take care of us in this world and the next.