“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles… Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake
(Matthew 10:17-18, 21-22a ESV)
We continue reading Jesus’ prepatory words to His disciples before they go out on their first practice evangelistic mission today. Previously He had told them where to go and what to say. He also told them they would receive opposition and how to react to it. Today He tells them where that opposition will come from.
Opposition to Jesus comes from three sources: false religions (synagogues), government (governors and kings), and family (brother… father… children).
The apostles did not face such persecution at this time. Jesus’ words here are prophetic. This persecution would happen after He returned to heaven and will continue until His return.
We certainly see this in our world today. False religions like Islam are rapidly persecuting Christians. Governments are cracking down on Christians who want to live by their beliefs. Even families are polarized over the message of Jesus.
Jesus Himself was a victim of this persecution. The false religious leaders (Jews) worked together with the government in power (Romans) to crucify Jesus because Jesus was a threat to their corrupt and misguided way of life. The apostles themselves eventually lost their lives similarly.
Notice that Jesus is promising there will be opposition. Four times in today’s verses Jesus uses the word will. He doesn’t say “if”. He declares that this will happen. When we studied the Beatitudes recently we saw that Jesus promised a blessing to those who are persecuted on His behalf [Matthew 5:10-12]. Today Jesus gives us the promise of that persecution.
God doesn’t want us to be naive. He wants us to understand reality of evil. Christians should never be fooled into thinking the world is a safe place. It’s sometimes easy in the relatively-peaceful Western world to think that evil could never happen here. But it is happening all over the world. Our Christian brothers and sisters are losing their lives because they are children of the one and only true God. Someday soon it will happen here as well.
But notice something cool. Whenever a Christian is hated there is a purpose: to bear witness before them. We are there for [Christ’s] sake. Being persecuted is an opportunity to reveal the truth of Jesus to those who desperately need to know Him.
I can’t imagine the fear that my Christian brothers and sisters are facing in places like Syria right now. I hope to never go through what they are going through. But nevertheless, God works all things for good, even the horrible things like the persecution these people are facing.
Of course, Satan is behind all these sources of persecution [Ephesians 6:12]. Human beings are simply his agents, albeit unsuspectingly. It is through human beings that Satan oppresses, slanders, imprisons, and kills God’s people.
Jesus tells us all this not to frighten us, but to warn us. He does not want us to stop bringing His message to a dark world. But we do need to realize that this message will not likely be welcomed with open arms. At best people will ignore it. At worst they’ll try to kill it.
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