What to Expect

Remember from last week when Jesus sent out his farm team to act as His ambassadors and preach the Gospel to the Jews while avoiding the Gentiles and Samaritans. Even though they were preaching to the “lost sheep” of God, it was still a dangerous job.

You may remember that Jesus instructed his disciples to be as shrewd as snakes and to remain as innocent as doves.

Jesus now continues his instructions as He informs the disciples of some of the hardships they will endure. And it turns out these were also prophesies.

Matthew 10:17-23 (NIV)
17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.
18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.
19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,
20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Jesus tells the disciples that there are costs to bear.

First, Jesus warns them that they have to be aware that the local people, local government and their leaders in the synagogues would torture them just for preaching Jesus was the Messiah.

The government of their time, the kings and governors, would be hauling them in to be questioned and charged and even prosecuted. The Roman government and the regional governors were very sensitive to uprisings from the people and would not hesitate to squash whatever group they felt threatened by.

The church or synagogues would turn against them and the disciples could be, and in fact were, flogged in the temples themselves.

Even their own families and neighbors would be turned against them. There seemed no place to go where there they would be safe.

Jesus told showed the disciples a glimpse of the future where the entire world would be turned on end.   Families will be split apart. Brothers will accuse brothers. Parents will betray their children and even children will cause their parents to be put to death for following Jesus.

Jesus told the disciples to get out of Dodge when they were persecuted and go on to the next town. Jesus wanted them to be able to continue preaching and not to be killed. That’s why the apostles needed to be highly aware of their surroundings.

You see, flogging was a very popular and painful punishment at the time. Originally performed with wood rods about as big as your thumb, the whip became the common instrument of inflicting pain. A claw of iron or bronze was often attached to the end of the whip.

Since the Jews limited the amount of lashes (or stripes left on the body) to 40, it became common to attach three clawed whips to a rod or long handle and hit the person 13 times, leaving 39 gashes. Needless to say, people often died from this punishment.

The apostle Paul was whipped, or scourged, like this five times we know of. Jesus’ disciples were truly amazing in their performance in spreading the Good News.

Now, the Romans, on the other hand, had no limit on how many lashes they could inflict on their prisoners and lawbreakers; breakers of the Roman law, of course.

Remember, this is Jesus’ farm team. At this point in time, the disciples are not that experienced and have a lot more to learn. Their job knowledge was on-the-job training and a lot more dangerous than other jobs. Remember Paul being whipped? Definitely dangerous.

Jesus knew this and provided a way for the Holy Spirit to speak to them.

19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,
20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

I say it again: the farm team needed help in answering the questions their enemies would present. So Jesus provides the knowledge through the Holy Spirit.

This can still happen today. A couple of time I have experienced in influx of knowledge that accompanied two of my sermons and the Holy Spirit was definitely the source.

I’m taking a little side track here and I do have a word of caution: Many people use these verses in the Bible to explain why they do not prepare for a sermon or for when they are out introducing people to Jesus.

Vernon McGee, a well-known minister, tells this story:

When I was in seminary, a fellow student, who was a little odd in more ways than one, believed that he should preach without any preparation. A friend and I decided one night that we would go and hear him preach. Well, it was painfully obvious that he had not prepared his message. On the way back to the seminary, my friend, who had even more nerve than l had, asked him, “Did you prepare that message tonight?”

“Of course, I didn’t!”

“Well, how did you get it?”

“The Spirit of God gave it to me.”

My friend said to him, “I don’t think you ought to blame that message on the Holy Spirit!”

  1. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 10”.

Remember this, as you will see it again.

See, time was of the essence; the disciples had to get out there and spread the Good News to the Jewish community before Jesus showed everyone the ultimate in signs: the Resurrection.

Indeed, Jesus was right in telling them that they would not be able to finish spreading the Gospel through Israel before the Son of Man arrived as Jesus rose from the dead.

The disciples had a long and difficult road ahead of them.

They will be hated. They will be ridiculed. They will be tortured and even killed because they knew and taught that Jesus was the Messiah.

In verse 22, Jesus tells the disciples “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” This is a charge to his disciples to stick it out to the very end, however the end may come, and they will have everlasting life in heaven.

And they were going to see lots of difficulty. Remember Paul’s whipping and even John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus, had his head cut off.

Now, we come to the part where I ask “What does all of this tell us? Are we not in a lot safer environment?” The answer is “not necessarily.”

Jesus is telling us to be aware of our surroundings and be prepared for the costs we will incur when professing our faith. Jesus definitely wants us to go out and teach others about Him and while He wants us to be safe, He knows that we cannot control people who make the choice to ridicule and persecute Christians.

Sure, we know that there are many places on earth where it is dangerous for Christians and many Christians are killed every day in these countries tat supposedly profess peace. But here in America, we have fallen for the “not in my back yard” syndrome.

I read in the news that a Christian was arrested for disturbing the peace, being a public nuisance and refusing an order from a peace officer. He was just standing by his table with tracks about God and Jesus and talking only to people who stopped by and asked him questions about Jesus.

He was not harassing others or disturbing anyone.

He just happened to be across the street was a festival, open to the public, which was celebrating Islamic teachings. They objected to the Christian across the street and threatened him with physical harm and even death if he did not go away from the area.

You see, the attraction of Jesus was so great that a few Muslims from the festival actually stopped by the table when leaving the festival to ask about Jesus! Police were called and arrested the Christian when he refused to pack up and go home.

He was following Jesus’ command and he was prosecuted for that act.

I have seen families split apart over the belief in Jesus. I have seen sons and daughters kicked out when they were 18 because they did not accept Jesus. I have also seen sons and daughters kicked out for accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I have seen people kicked out of churches because of disagreements in the way the teachings of Jesus were presented. I have seen people leave a church over differences. I have even seen churches split apart over differences in beliefs.

Jesus wants us to be acutely aware of such things so we may be successful in our Christian walks.

Jesus also wants us to prepare ourselves. Unlike the disciples where Jesus knew the short timetable, we are not aware of a time schedule.

So to be effective we need to prepare ourselves. We have the luxury of being able to study the Word of Jesus and God while we on our journey.

Remember when I told Pastor McGee’s story on preparedness? Well here is where you see it again. See, the apostles had no such help to prepare. They had to learn by on-the-job-training in Jesus’ farm team.

On the other hand, we have the Bible, the manual that has all of the words we need to know from God and those of His Son. We also have what the disciples themselves learned while they were in the farm leagues as well as their experiences in the world leagues when they earned the title of Apostles.

Jesus tells us two very important actions we must take to be successful in spreading His Word:

Be safe as you can by good preparation.

Never, ever give up. Hold out and stand firm ‘till the end.

 

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