Showing posts with the label Persecution

Disciples and Tribulation

The New Testament exhorts the followers of Jesus to expect tribulation because of their faith. While it may not be an everyday experience, neither is tribulation for the sake of the Kingdom unexpected. The chief cause of trials and persecution in the life of the disciple is his faithful witness of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. This understanding is especially prominent in the Book of Revelation .

The Cruciform Path

When Jesus dispatched his disciples to announce the “ Good News ” to the “ lost sheep of Israel ,” he warned that they would find themselves as “ sheep among wolves .” Hostile men would haul them before “ councils and whip them in their synagogues .” His followers would be hated “ by all men for my sake .” That was the harsh reality they discovered, one faced later by many in the early Church. The very men who should have welcomed Israel’s Messiah instead fought what he represented tooth and nail.

Martyrs and Overcomers

Two themes that are repeated in Revelation are closely related - “ witness ” and “ overcome .” Beginning with Jesus of Nazareth and his own martyrdom on Calvary, his followers are summoned to persevere in his “ testimony .” In this way, they will “ overcome ” and emerge victorious in the city of “ New Jerusalem .” They must “ overcome, even as I overcame .” Moreover, Jesus is presented to the “ Seven Assemblies of Asia ” as the “ FAITHFUL WITNESS, the Firstborn of the Dead, and the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth .”

Suffering and Discipleship

For followers of Jesus, retaliation and violence are not appropriate reactions to persecution. Rather than respond in kind, they must meet threats and assaults with humility, mercy, and forgiveness. That is what it means to “ deny yourself ,” “ take up his cross ,” and follow him wherever he leads. Doing good to one’s “ enemy ” is contrary to the “ wisdom of this age ,” yet doing so is how the disciple emulates his Lord and becomes “ perfect as the Heavenly Father .”

Kingdom in Adversity

Jesus started proclaiming the Kingdom of God after the arrest of John the Baptist, an incident that foreshadowed the opposition that would characterize his own ministry. Palestine consisted of three territories - Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, and the latter included a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles. His ministry commenced in the villages of Galilee. Unlike the prophets of Ancient Israel, his mission did NOT begin or center in Jerusalem, though it certainly ended there - (Matthew 4:13).