Don't Be Surprised!
This morning we are picking back up in our study of the Gospel of Mark.
If you’re new to MCF, it would be good for you to know that we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”. What that means is we believe the Bible is best taught by taking a book of the Bible and then walking through it from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, in order to understand what it is saying in our lives today.
With that said, we are currently walking through the Gospel of Mark. A book that is meant to teach us who Jesus is, what he came to do, and what it means to follow him.
Today as we come back to our study, we are picking back up in . If you weren’t with us last week, is a unique chapter in this Gospel. Primarily because it is what we call an apocalyptic chapter. Meaning, everything that Jesus has to say in this chapter has to do with the end of life as we know it on planet earth. In other words, it’s a chapter about the end of the world.
And as we learned last week, this chapter is based on a statement Jesus makes in verse 1. It happens as Jesus and the disciples are walking out of the Temple. And it’s in this moment, as the the disciples marvel and comment on the beauty of the temple, that Jesus makes a a shocking statement. Jesus says there is a day coming soon when the temple will be destroyed.
And as we learned last week, that was an apocalyptic statement. Because for the Jews of that day, the destruction of the temple would have been a cataclysmic event that would have caused many to think, “The end is here.”
It would be no different today if all of a sudden we woke up on a Sunday morning and all our churches had been destroyed. For many Christinas, we would think the end was upon us.
But when the disciples ask Jesus to explain what he means, Jesus doesn’t begin by giving them the details of how this will take place. Instead, he begins by warning them not to be deceived.
Why this warning? Because as we learned last week, when it comes to end of the world stories and teaching, it’s easy to get deceived.
So, before Jesus answers the question, he cautions them not to be deceived by what might appear to be end time signs, but are not.
And this is important for us as well, because as we wait for Jesus’s return, we to need to know what events are the signs of his return and what events are not. So, what did Jesus say not to be deceived by?
So, what did Jesus say not to be deceived by?
First, Jesus says don’t be deceived by false teachers or teaching. In other words, if somebody says it’s the end of the world or they are claiming something about the end of the world, then we need to make sure it lines up with what the Bible says. If it doesn’t line up, Jesus says don’t listen to them. Don’t be deceived.
Second, Jesus says don’t be deceived by the natural chaos that a sin stained world has created. Examples of this would be wars, rumors of wars, and natural disasters. As we said last week, wars and natural disasters have plagued the planet for thousands of years. They are the result of the chaos sin has created in the world. They will continue until Jesus returns. So, Jesus says don’t be alarmed when a Volcano erupts in Hawaii. Don’t be surprised when an earthquake destroys an area. It’s nothing new.
Because the truth is, it’s easy to do that. Just last week I saw a Pastor post on facebook say the volcanic eruption in Hawaii was the beginning of the end of the United States. And that it was going to create a tsunami that will wipe out the West coast because of the sin of California. So, there you go. That’s why Jesus says, “Don’t be deceived. It’s just another volcanic eruption. They’ve been happening for centuries.”
So, with that foundation laid, you might think Jesus is ready to shed light on when the end is coming and how it will come. But he’s not quite there. Because Jesus has one more caution to give us before he gives us end time details.
But he’s not quite there. Because Jesus has one more caution to give us before he gets to the answer.
Because not only does he want us to avoid being deceived,Jesus also wants us to be aware of some certainties and some challenges Christians will face as the end approaches. Challenges that don’t represent the end of the world, but instead are part of the journey towards the end.
Think of it like this. If you’re driving down the road, and you see a sign that says “Sharp curve ahead”, what does that tell you? Does it mean the road is about to end? No. What it’s indicating is the road is about to change and it’s going to affect your journey. It’s going to require you to be more cautious. It’s a warning so you don’t go off the road.
That’s the kind of caution Jesus is about to give us. He wants us to understand that as his disciples, there will challenges that come up in your life that are just part of the journey. But he wants to give us a heads up so we don’t get caught off guard. Because the truth is, it’s not fun to be caught off guard, is it?
Because the truth is, it’s not fun to be caught off guard, is it?
We know this based on what Jesus says next. Beginning in verse 9 Jesus says, “But be on your guard...” (ESV)
So, before we get to far into the passage, and in order to give us some framework to work with, I want to begin by asking you a question:
Question - How many of you have ever been caught off guard by something? You know, something happened that you weren’t ready for. Maybe you got some news you weren’t expecting. Maybe somebody showed up at your house unexpected.
Or how about this, have you ever been surprised, troubled, or even startled by something you didn’t see coming? Maybe you got a bill you weren’t expecting. Maybe somebody pulled out in front of you going down the highway. Maybe you came around a corner and somebody scared you.
I know its’ hard to believe, but when I was a kid one of my favorite past times was to come up with ways to surprise and scare my younger brother. I liked to catch him off guard.
For example, when my brother was little he was scared to sleep by himself, so he would always want to sleep in my room. And if he whined enough about it, my mom would let him. Used to drive me nuts. So, one night, to teach him a lesson, I tied a string to my closet door, and while he was laying there in my bed, I started to pull the closet door open. He never slept in my room again.
Probably one of my best scares came one night right before he went to bed. My plan was, while he was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, that I would sneak in his room, and hide between the the wall and his bed. And then jump up and scare him after he got in bed. Funny, right?
So, while he was in the bathroom, I snuck in, and a few minutes later, he came in, shut the door, turned off the light, and got in bed.
But to be honest, at that point, I started feeling kinda bad because I knew it was really going to scare him. I mean, after all, he is my little brother. So, I decided, instead of scaring him, I would just quietly let him know I was there. Real soft like.
But, before I could do that, he rolled over, and his eyes locked onto my eyes, and a look of terror came over his face, as I whispered, “Ben”.
And in that moment, you would have thought a snake bit him. He came out of the bed screaming bloody murder. Next thing I know my parents are in the room, and as you can imagine, I was in big trouble.
I guess you could say I caught my brother off guard.
As we come back to this morning, Jesus doesn’t want us to get caught off guard. Instead, he wants to put all the cards on the table so we can be aware. The question then is, “For what? What does Jesus want us to be on guard for? What does he want us to be prepared for so that we aren’t surprised, startled, or troubled?”
That’s a great question. So let’s find out as we dive into our text this morning. Beginning in verse 9 Mark writes:
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (ESV)
If you’re a Christian, more than likely, at some point, you’ve faced some ridicule for your faith. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s what Jesus is warning us to be on guard for. The persecution that will come as a result of following Him.
Well, it’s not rocket science. If you haven’t figured it out yet, what Jesus wants to be on guard against is the certainty of persecution. The persecution that will come as a result of following Him.
So, in order to help us understand this warning, I want to answer two questions this morning concerning this warning of persecution.
Question #1 - “Why does Jesus warn us about persecution?” In other words, why does Jesus feel the need to warn us about persecution? Is it so we can avoid it? Is it so we can escape it? Why does Jesus warn us to beware of persecution?
Question #2 - “What kind of persecution can we expect?” In other words, what specifically can we plan on happening to us? How severe will it be? And where will it come from?
So, to get started, let’s begin with the first question, “Why does Jesus warn us?” I would like to suggest two reasons, and they go together.
That being the case, “Why do you think Jesus is warning us against persecution?” Is it so we can avoid it? Is it so we can dodge it? Is it so we can escape it? I would suggest two reasons:
First, Jesus warns us because it’s going to happen. And second, because we don’t think it will.
Here’s what I mean by that. The truth is, when you put your faith in Jesus, whether you realize it or not, you have become a target for persecution. Why? Because when you identify with Jesus, you identify with something the world hates. Jesus says so himself. In , listen to what Jesus says:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (ESV)
Jesus says, if you identify with me, if you follow me, then get ready, because the world you live in is going to hate you. And we know how much they hated him, because they crucified him.
But for some reason, we often forget that truth. For some reason, we have this idea that if we put our faith in Jesus, then life will be worry free, or at least we hope it will be. That somehow following Jesus takes away all the pain, removes all the suffering, and puts us in a place of blessing allowing us to live our best life now.
Why do we think we think that? I would suggest it’s the result of bad theology mixed with a desire for the American dream.
A great example of this can bee seen in the prosperity Gospel. A movement that teaches if you follow Jesus, and you have enough faith, Jesus can make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. In other words, Jesus can give you the American dream.
But here’s the problem. Jesus didn’t come to help us achieve the American dream. That’s not why he came. He didn’t come so we could have our best life now. He didn’t come so we could have everything our material hearts desire.
Another example would be the teaching we see in the seeker movement. A movement that teaches if you’ll follow Jesus, he can fix your life. He can fix your marriage. He can fix your finances. He can fix your kids. He can fix all the broken stuff in your life. Jesus is the great fixer.
But here’s the problem with both those teachings. problem with these teachings is there’s enough truth in them to make you think they’re true. Because the truth is, Jesus can heal broken lives. He does heal marriages. He can bring about financial miracles and prosperity.
And the problem with these teachings is there’s enough truth in them to make you think they’re true. Because the truth is, Jesus can heal broken lives. He does heal marriages. He can bring about financial miracles and prosperity.
But here’s the problem with these teachings. The truth is, Jesus didn’t come to help us achieve the American dream. That’s not his dream, its your dream. He didn’t come to fix your life and create a better version of your life. His goal isn't’ to fix your life. That’s not why He came.
He didn’t come to fix your life and create a better version of your life. He didn’t come so we could have our best life now. That’s not why He came.
So, why did he come? The truth is, he came to save you from this life. To save you from a life of sin and death. To save you from a life that has no future. To save your from a life that is fleeting and passing. Jesus came to set you free from sin and death and give you the hope of a future. The Apostle Paul puts it like this:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
Paul says Jesus came to give you the promise of a new life, a new home, and a future blessing. That’s why we follow Jesus. That’s the ultimate goal. Not to attain earthly treasure or attain a better version of our temporal life, but to embrace a heavenly promise, a life to come.
But unfortunately we lose sight of that. And then when bad things happen in our life or something doesn’t go the way we think it should, we act surprised. We're like, “What’s going on? Where’s God? Why isn’t God blessing me? I put money in the bucket. I showed up at church. Why has he allowed the cancer? Why didn’t I get the raise? Why is my marriage struggling so much? I thought following Jesus would make my life better, but it seems like life has gotten harder.”
Now, that doesn’t mean God won’t bless you in this life. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy earthly possessions. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good life now. But it’s not the best and it’s not the ultimate goal.
And what we’ve forgotten is, Jesus never promised us an easy life. In fact, what he did say is that we would have tribulation. He never said following him would give you your best life now.
But that’s not the ultimate goal. And that’s not what we are to live for.
Either we get disgruntled and mad at God, or we begin to wonder what we’ve done wrong. Maybe I don’t have enough faith. Maybe God is mad at me. Maybe I need to go to church more. Maybe I need to do more good works.
Peter had to remind the early church of this. Peter writes this concerning the persecution and trouble they were facing, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (ESV)
And the danger for many American Christians is to some degree we’ve all bought into the prosperity Gospel and seeker movement. We all to some degree have this idea that following Jesus will result in a level road with no curves, potholes, or detours.
And the danger is twofold. First, the danger comes
And the proof of that is seen in our surprise. Our surprise when persecution comes. Our surprise when bad things happen. Our surprise when
But the truth is, Jesus never promises that. He never gives us that certainty. Instead, he promises the exact opposite. Jesus says we’ll be hated. Jesus says there will be difficult days. As we learned back in , following Jesus requires you to pick up a cross.
And the danger for you and is if we forget that, we’re going to be caught off guard. We’re going to be surprised when life with Jesus doesn’t go as we planned.
In fact, Peter had to remind the early church of this. Peter writes this concerning the persecution they were facing, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (ESV)
How do I know? Because of what Peter says in . In his letter to the early church, Peter writes this concerning the persecution they were facing, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12 (ESV)
He goes on to write, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (ESV)
Peter says, “Hey guys, why are you surprised by the persecution and hardship you are facing. Remember, Jesus said this would happen.”
In fact, Peter says its the proof of our faith. Listen to what Peter goes on to say, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (ESV)
Peter says, “Your persecution is the evidence that you’re a disciple. The fact that you are being insulted for Jesus is the evidence of your faith.”
But so often we think the opposite. We think the evidence is a blessed life. We think the evidence is financial blessing. We think the evidence is a cancer free, pain free, problem free life. But Peter says, “No, the evidence comes from the persecution, not the prosperity.” That’s the opposite view of American Christianity, isn’t it?
That’s the opposite view of American Christianity. Now, that doesn’t mean God won’t bless you in this life. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy earthly possessions. That doesn’t mean God won’t heal. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a good life now. But this life is not the best and it’s not the ultimate goal.
Now, please hear me, I’m not saying God won’t bless you in this life. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy earthly possessions. I’m not saying God won’t heal, because he does. I’m not saying you can’t have a good life now, because many Christians do. But this life is not the best and it’s not the ultimate goal, and the best thing we could do as American Christians is come to terms with that.
Because the truth is, many of us have bought into the prosperity Gospel and seeker movement. We all to some degree have this idea that following Jesus will result in a level road with no curves, potholes, or detours.
But again, Jesus never promises that. Instead, he promises the exact opposite. Jesus says we’ll be hated. Jesus says there will be difficult days.
And the danger for you and is if we forget that, we’re going to be caught off guard. We’re going to be surprised when life with Jesus doesn’t go as we planned, and it may even derail us.
So, before Jesus gets into what the end of the world will look like, and what the signs of his coming are, he wants to remind us of the reality of our present life and the certainty of persecution. In other words, what we can expect as his followers while we wait for his return.
This leads us to the second question. What kind of persecution can we expect? From our passage I would like to suggest two types of persecution we can expect as Christ followers.
If you’re going to follow Jesus, you can expect public persecution.
Jesus says be on guard, “For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.” (ESV)
Jesus now explains the personal cost of following him. And it involves progressive levels of public persecution.
First, as Christians, Jesus says you will be delivered over to councils. In other words, the community you live in is going to betray you. The people you work with, the people in the local market, the people you pass walking down the street, the guy you went to school with, they will betray you if you follow me.
Why? Because you follow me. And because you identify with me, you will be singled out. Because of your stance, people will point and say, “There they are, that’s one of those Jesus freaks”.
Second, when you’re brought before public councils, you will be beaten for your faith. In other words, you will be publically shamed and humiliated because you follow me.
Third, you will stand before governing officials. In other words, you will be accused of breaking laws. You will be accused of disruptive rhetoric. You will be proclaimed as enemies of the people and of the state.
Jesus says, “While you wait for my return, this is the kind of persecution you can expect.”
And you know what, Jesus was right. Because that’s exactly what happened to the early Christians. We see it as early as as the disciples begin to proclaim the gospel, as they begin to experience Jesus’s promise of persecution. Listen to what Luke records in .
“And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.” (ESV)
Luke says as the disciples were preaching and teaching about Jesus, it was reported to the officials, somebody betrayed them, and the temple guards were sent to apprehend them. Luke goes on to write:
And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.” (ESV)
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” (ESV)
Luke says because of their witness, the disciples were brought before the public council where they are accused of causing disorder and are warned to stop teaching about Jesus.
“On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (ESV)
Luke says on the following day, they were brought before the local council and questioned. The council wanted to know where they’re authority came from. So Peter tells them. Listen to his response:
How do the disciples respond? Luke writes, “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (ESV)
Peter says, “Sorry, Charlie, not going to do it. We’re going to obey God before we obey you. We’re not going to stop telling people about Jesus.” Peter refuses to back down.
So, what happens next? Well, we don’t have time to read the entire story, but Luke says the officials were mad enough to kill them, but after a long discussion, they decide to go a different route. Listen to what Luke records, “...and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” (ESV)
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (ESV)
Luke says, they were beaten. So, there you have it. It played out just like Jesus said it would. They were singled out, they were brought before the public council, they were questioned, and then they were publicly humiliated and beaten for their faith.
With no reservation Peter tells them he comes in the authority of Jesus. The one they rejected. So, how do the authorities respond?
And this became the norm for the Christians of the first century. In fact, the Apostle Paul faced persecution like this on a continual basis. In he recounts similar persecution. He writes, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned.” (ESV)
Luke writes, “
Now, you might be thinking, “Wow pastor, that’s terrible. But how does this apply to us? Because we don’t live under that kind of persecution, right? Come on. Nobody is going to beat me because I follow Jesus.”
Well, if you think that, then you are living in Christian fairy tale land. Because the fact is, this applies to us in the same way. Because what was true for the 1st century disciples is true for us. The truth is, anybody serious about following Jesus and sharing their faith can expect the same. Let me give you a realistic scenario.
Let me ask you this, what would happen if you walked into your work place or your school tomorrow and said, “Hey everybody, I want to share some amazing news with you. Yesterday I attended church at Marysville Christian Fellowship. You know, that church out by Taco Bell. And while I was there I put my faith in Jesus and I was born again. Jesus has radically changed my life, and if you’ll put your faith in Jesus, you can be changed as well.
If you did that, what do you think would happen? I can tell you what would happen. In that moment you would be identified as “one of those” and automatically singled out for persecution.
And no, nobody is going to take you in the back room and beat you, but there’s a good chance you’ll be publicly shamed for your faith.
A good chance some of your friends are going to distance themselves from you.
A good chance some will make snide remarks and comments. Hey, there’s the Jesus freak!
Students, a good chance you might be sitting by yourself at the lunch table.
When you walk in the room, a good chance everybody is going to get quiet.
You see, that’s what happens to people who take their faith seriously. They get persecuted. They get shamed. They get publically humiliated. Let me give you a real life example of something a little more serious.
Example - Maybe you’ve heard of Aaron and Melissa Klein. They are a Christian couple who live just outside of Portland Oregon who owned a bakery called “Sweet Cakes by Melissa”, and as a Christian couple, they were living the American dream.
A business they had built and was very successful. As a Christian couple, they were living the American dream.
But that all changed in 2013 when a gay couple asked them to bake a cake for their wedding. Apparently something they had never been asked to do, and something they were unwilling to do. Because based on their convictions as Christians, the Kleins refused to bake a cake for the couples wedding. They felt by baking the cake they would be condoning something they believed was sinful.
Now, you may or may not agree with their decision, but I think we’d all probably say, “Well, that’s their right. I mean Nobody should be forced to do something they believe is morally wrong. Nobody should be forced to violate their religious convictions, right?” You would think. But that’s not what happened.
Offended by the refusal, the gay couple filed a lawsuit for emotional distress against the Kleins citing a law passed in Oregon in 2007 that protects the gay community from any type of discrimination. And the case went to trial as the Kleins held that their religious beliefs against same-sex marriage trumped the state law requiring them to serve customers equally.
Does that sound familiar. When told to back down from his faith Peter told the religious officials, “We must obey God rather than man.” That’s what the Kleins were doing.
Christian couple's insistence that their religious beliefs against same-sex marriage trump a state law requiring them to serve customers equally.
But the lawsuit was just the beginning. As news of the lawsuit began to spread, the Kleins began to experience the consequences of their stance. It wasn’t long before they were accused of being bigots, homophobes, and even received death threats. They were now being shamed in the public market not only on the local level, but the national as well.
Now at this point you might be thinking, “Well surely the Kleins won the lawsuit. After all, we have free speech, right? We have freedom of religion, right? Nobody can make us violate our religious convictions.”
If you think that, again, you’d be wrong. Because the Kleins didn’t win. In fact in 2015, the Oregon Labor Commissioner ruled against the Kleins, and imposed a fine of $135,000 on the couple. The Commissioner then made this statement to the Kleins, “not only are you wrong, you’re evil. You need to be put out of business.”
And as news of the lawsuit began to spread, the Kleins began to experience the consequences of their stance. It wasn’t long before they were accused of being bigots, homophobes, and even received death threats.
And unbelievably, the Kleins were forced to close their business in 2016.
Now, again, you might be thinking, “Wow, that’s crazy. They need to appeal that ruling.” You know what, they did. In March of 2017 the Kleins appealed the decision citing their rights for religious freedom, but in December of 2017, their appeal was turned down as the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the Oregon Labor Commissioner.
So, what are they going to do now? As you might imagine, the Kleins haven’t given up, and in March of this year, they filed an appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court and are currently awaiting their ruling.
Now please hear me, I’m not bringing this up to bash the gay community. The reason I bring this up is because it’s an example of what you can expect when you take a stand for your faith. It’s to be expected.
And if you’ve been living in Christian Fairy Tale land, and you think what happened to Christians in the first century couldn’t or won’t happen to us, then you need to wake up. Because I can tell you this, there is more of that to come. How do I know? Because Jesus says, “It’s to be expected. Don’t be surprised. The world will hate you because of me.”
The reason I bring this up because it’s an example of what you can expect when you take a stand for your faith. It’s to be expected. And if you’ve been living in Christian Fairy Tale land, and you think what happened to Christians in the first century couldn’t or won’t happen to us, then you need to wake up. Because I can tell you this, there is more of that to come. Jesus says, “It’s to be expected. Don’t be surprised. The world will hate you because of me.”
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, why does it have to be this way? Why do we have to face persecution like that? And how long will it last?” Jesus tells us in the next verse. Listen to what he says, 10 “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” (ESV)
From this statement Jesus is implying two gospel truths. First, the gospel is the reason the world hates us. Why? Because the gospel forces people to acknowledge their sin and their need for a savior. And as a result, it’s offensive. That’s why that gay couple was offended. Not because the Kleins wouldn’t bake a cake for them. But because the Gospel was saying to them, “You’re living in a way that doesn’t honor the Lord.” And it offended them.
It’s why your co-workers are offended by your faith. They’re offended because you’re living differently. Offended because you’re making them feel like the way they’re living is wrong. It’s what the gospel does. In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...” (ESV)
Second, Jesus is implying is it’s not going to stop until the Gospel is fully proclaimed. In other words, the persecution will continue until everybody has heard the Gospel. In fact, Jesus isn’t going to return until that’s the case.
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, hasn’t that happened? I mean with modern technology and communication, hasn’t everybody heard about Jesus? I mean with the internet and Facebook, hasn’t everybody heard?”
Now, this creates a delimma for us
Answer - No.
Let me give you some surprising facts. When it comes to population, there are currently 7 billion people on planet earth. Of those 7 billion, only about 3.2 billion have access to the internet. And of those 3.2 billion, just a little over a billion are on Facebook. So, just because you’re on facebook doesn’t mean everybody is. Contrary to popular belief, the world isn’t completely wired.
On top of that, according to some of the latest missions data, it’s estimated there are at least 1.5 billion people right now on planet earth who have never heard about Jesus. They don’t know who he is. And there’s billions of others who have heard about him, but know nothing about him.
Meaning, there are literally billions of people that still need to hear the gospel. And the only way it’s going to go out is if people like you and me, who say we believe in the gospel, are willing to stand up and say, “Hey, have you heard about Jesus.” Which creates a real dilemma for us, because if we do that, then we can bank on persecution.
Paul says, to the world, it’s a foolish message.
Now, you might be thinking, “Wow pastor. That’s a little scary. Scary to think what it might cost me. Scary to think that I might face some real persecution if I get serious about leading people to Jesus.”
You’re right, it is scary, But here’s the good news for you and I. Jesus doesn’t expect us to do it alone. In fact, if we’re willing to stand up for him, he’s promises to help us. Listen to what Jesus says next, “11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11 (ESV)
Jesus says, “Listen, I know it sounds scary. I know it doesn’t sound fun. But don’t worry, because when you are persecuted, when you are challenged, when you are brought before officials and accused of being a racist, a bigot, and a homophobe, I’m going to help you. By my Spirit, I’m going to give you the words to speak. I’m going to give you the strength to stand tall. I’m going to give you the courage to keep moving forward.”
Here’s what that means for you.
Young person, at school, when your classmates make fun of you, when they call you a Jesus freak, when they wont’ sit with you at lunch, God is sitting with you.
College student, what that means for you, is when your sitting in that lecture hall, and you take a stand for what you believe, God is going to give you what you need to handle your professor.
For those in the workplace, what that means is when your co-workers ridicule you, when they make fun of you, when you are singled out, God is going to equip you with what you need to stand tall. Jesus says, when you stand up for him, he stands with you.
So, we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to be anxious, we don’t have to be fearful, because when we stand Jesus stands with us.
Peter experienced this. On one occasion, when he stood before the public council, and they drilled him, listen to what Luke tells us, “8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them...” (ESV)
Luke says, in that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke through him as Peter went on to defend the gospel in a way that was beyond him. In fact it was so beyond him that the religious leaders didn’t know what to think. Luke tells us this, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.” (ESV)
The religious leaders were like, “How do they speak like this. They’re dumb fisherman. But they speak with authority.” And then it dawned on them. Luke writes, “And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (ESV)
In that moment, the religious leaders recognize these guys are acting and functioning a lot like Jesus.
And the same will be true for you and I when we stand up for Jesus. In that moment, the Holy Spirit will help you. He will comfort you, encourage you, strengthen you, and even put words in your mouth. That’s what Jesus promises for those who stand for him. Jesus says, “You won’t stand alone”.
The bottom line is this, if you’re going to follow Jesus, you can expect public persecution. It comes with the territory. This leads us to the second type of persecution.
2. If you’re going to follow Jesus, you can expect domestic persecution.
Luke writes, “12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” (ESV)
It might surprise you to hear me say this, but there are a lot of things that can divide a family, but there is nothing that will divide a family more than Jesus.
Now, I know when I say that some of you are like, “Pastor, how can you say that? Shouldn’t Jesus unite a family and not divide?”
You would think, you would hope, but it’s not always the case. Let me explain it like this.
You’ve heard the term, blood is thicker than water, right? People use that term to imply that family relations are always more important than any other type of relationship. In other words, if it comes down between choosing between a family member and a friend, you’re going to choose the family member. And for the most part, in most situations, that statement is typically true.
But when it comes to Jesus, that statement doesn’t apply. Because the fact of the matter is, for the Christian, Jesus is thicker than blood. In other words, your relationship with Jesus trumps all other relationships, including your family. Why? Let me explain it like this:
Several years ago, a family member that I was close to and care deeply for, made some poor decisions. And just to be clear, it’s not one of my brothers or my parents. And unfortunately, because of my faith, I wouldn’t condone or support his sinful actions, so he wrote me off. In fact, he refuses to speak to me, and if you were to ask him what he thinks about me, you’d hear some colorful language. And to be honest with you, it breaks my heart. Because I love this person. He’s blood. But when it comes to my faith, Jesus is thicker than blood. In other words, I care more about what he thinks than what my family member thinks.
And to be honest with you, it breaks my heart. Because I love this person.
The truth is, if you are serious about following Jesus, and you have family members that are not, or family members that think you’re crazy for following Jesus, your family relations are going to be strained and challenged, and maybe even divided.
Jesus puts it like this, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (ESV)
The fact is, the gospel divides. It forces people to make a decision. And the decision is simply this, “Make Jesus Lord or don’t make Jesus Lord.” And it’s a weighty decision. In fact, Jesus says the difference between following him and not following him is so great, that your family could begin to treat you like the world treats you. That because of Jesus, they would disown you, they would betray you, they would shame you, and even in the worse case scenario, be ok with your death, if you can imagine that.
Listen, I know that sounds awful, but some of you know what I’m talking about. Because for some of you, attending this church has caused family strain. When you got baptized it caused family strain. When you opted to get your kids dedicated rather than infant baptized, it caused family strain.
Why? Because when you stand for Jesus, when you make him Lord, everything changes.
The fact is, your decision to follow Jesus has brought division among family members. Division between a parent and a daughter. Between a parent and a Son. Division between two brothers or maybe a sister. It’s created a tension that didn’t exist before. And in some cases, it has brought death to your relationship. They have written you off. They want nothing to do with you. Following Jesus has cost you.
The truth is, that’s why some of you who live here locally are watching online. The truth is, you’d like to attend our church in person, you’d like to know more about a relationship with Jesus, but you’re afraid of what your family might think. Your afraid of the divide it might cause if you actually attended the church out by Taco Bell.
So you watch from home, in secret. And please hear me, I’m not trying to shame you, I’m glad you’re watching online, and I hope you keep watching. But let’s be honest, one of the reasons you don’t physically attend MCF is because you know what it might cost you. You know the tension it could bring among family members. You’re afraid of what your parents or your siblings might think. You’re afraid of the choice you might have to make. Because at the end of the day, Jesus is thicker than blood. And Jesus requires that we make a decision. He requires us to ask this question, “Will we follow him, or will we be more concerned with what others think, even when those others are family members.”
Listen, the reason Jesus is telling us this isn’t to discourage or shame us. He’s telling us this because he doesn’t want us to be caught off guard. He doesn’t want us to be surprised when the people we care most about aren’t ok with our decision to follow Jesus. He doesn’t want us to be surprised if even our own family members, our blood, hate us because of him. Because whether you believe it or not, it’s going to happen.
In fact, in the next verse Jesus says, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (ESV). So, be ready for it. Don’t be surprised when it happens. It comes with following me.
Jesus goes on to say in verse 13, “13 And you will be hated by all for my name's sake.”
Now, at this point you’re probably thinking, “Wow, what a discouraging message pastor. Happy Mother’s Day! So glad I came and brought mom to church”.
You know what, you’re right, today’s message is a little bit of a gut punch. And if that’s all we focused on, and if that’s all we had to look forward to, then we might all walk out of here today discouraged. But Jesus isn’t finished. As he closes out his warning, Jesus leaves us on a high note. Jesus gives us something to look forward to. Listen to what he says: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (ESV)
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” 13b (ESV)
“13 And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” 13 (ESV)
Jesus says, “Listen, following me is going to be a challenge. People are going to persecute you publically. Family members are going to think your nuts. But I promise you this. If you’ll endure the challenges. If you’ll keep your eyes on me. If you’ll stand strong. In the end, it will all be worth it. In the end, you will be saved.”
So, what does Jesus mean by that? we don’t have time this morning to look at it in detail, but in the book of Revelation there are seven churches that Jesus addresses. Metaphorically these churches represent the church at large and the varying degrees of faithfulness among different types of churches. The idea is, when you read about these churches, you would ask the question, “Which church do I attend?”
And of these seven churches there are only two churches Jesus is completely pleased with. Which tells us for the most part, only a handful of churches are actually doing what Jesus has asked.
One of these two churches is the church at Smyrna. A church in the 1st century that faced horrible persecution for their faith. IA church out by Taco Bell. Listen to what Jesus says to this church:
“8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” (ESV)
9 “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
What I want you to notice is that Jesus doesn’t promise this church earthly deliverance, riches, or prosperity. He doesn’t promise them their best life now. In fact, he says they are going to suffer unto death. But what he does promise them is a crown. Because of their faithfullness, he promises them eternal life. He says when you die, I’ll give life beyond this life.
I don’t have time to explain it in detail, but in the book of Revelation there are seven churches that Jesus addresses. Metaphorically these churches represent the church at large and the varying degrees of faithfulness among the churches.
And what he promises for them, he promises for us. Jesus says, keep your eyes on that promise, not the persecution. Because in the end, the persecution you suffered will pail in comparison to the reward you will receive.
Jesus doesn’t want us to get caught off guard. He doesn’t want us to be surprised. Following him will come at a cost. But in the end, it will be worth it. Would you bow your heads with me:
The challenge for most of us in the room today is we don’t like the idea of persecution. We don’t like messages like this. We don’t like the idea of suffering. But Jesus cares enough about us to tell us the truth. He wants us to understand what following him will require.
So, as we close this morning, I’d like to leave you with a few questions to consider when it comes to your faith.
Question 1 - Are you willing to suffer public persecution for your faith? In other words, if push came to shove, would standing up for Jesus be more important to you than pleasing the world? Would you be willing to sit alone at lunch? Would you be willing to endure the insults.
How about this, would you be willing to go as far as the Kleins went? Would you stand to the point of losing your livelihood? How far would you be willing to go to stand up for Jesus?
I think that’s a question we all have to be willing to ask and answer.
Here’s another question:
Question 2 -
Question 2 - If you’re not willing to face the persecution, why not? What’s stopping you from standing for Jesus?
Question 2 - If you’re not willing to face the persecution, why not? What’s stopping you from standing for Jesus? What are you afraid of? Is it possible your faith isn’t where it should be? Could it be when it comes to Jesus your more of an observer than a follower? Could it be that your commitment isn’t what it should be?
Is it because your scared? Scared of what might happen. Scared of what people might say. Scared of what your family might do? Scared of what the outcome might be?
Can I challenge you this morning to find comfort in the Word’s of Jesus. Jesus says for those who stand for him, He stands with them. Jesus promises to help you. He promises to give you strength. He promises to give you words. He promises to be your defender. You don’t have to be afraid. The God of the universe stands with you.
So, if you’re scared, maybe it’s time to start trusting. To trust that God is bigger than those who stand against you. To trust that he stands with you.
Or could it be you avoid the persecution because your faith isn’t where it should be? Could it be when it comes to Jesus your more of an observer than a follower? Could it be you want to be identified with Jesus, but you don’t want to pay the price for following Jesus. Because heaven forbid if somebody found out you go to this church. Heaven forbid if somebody were to call you a Jesus freak. Heaven forbid if following Jesus cost you something.
Can I challenge you with this thought. Along with two churches that Jesus is pleased with in Revelation, there are two he’s not pleased with. One in particular is the church at Sardis. Listen to Jesus’s words to this church, ““And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (ESV)
Can I challenge you this morning to quit being afraid and start trusting. Can I challenge you to put your faith in the words of Jesus.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
I ask you to consider this, “Are you like this church? Do you have the reputation of being alive, the reputation of being a follower, but the truth is, your just an observer. You follow at a distance. And as a result, spiritually speaking, your dead.”
If that’s you, Jesus’s words are the same to you as they were to that church. To you he says, “Wake up!”. Stop observing, stop avoiding, stop playing spiritual games, and start following. Because if you don’t, you are in for a surprise. Because in your spiritual somber, you’re going to miss the Lord's coming in your life. You’re going to wake up one day, and it’s going to be to late.
The bottom line is this, “Let there be no surprises. Following Jesus and leading people to him will cost you. It will bring persecution. But he will help you and in the end it will be worth it. In the end you’ll receive the crown of life he promises to those he loves.