Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. [Matthew 24:9 (NLT)]
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. [John 20:19 (NLT)]
I am suspicious when a doctor or nurse says, “This isn’t going to hurt!” when we both know perfectly well that it will. I prefer honesty to sugarcoating the truth. Jesus never sugarcoated the life his disciples could expect. If anything, He was brutally honest with them. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus starts in on a series of promised woes that will be endured by the hypocritical religious leaders, wicked scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem. By the eighth woe, I imagine the disciples’ ears perked up when Jesus started mentioned the persecutions, beatings and killing of his followers. He refers to Jerusalem as the city that “kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers.” Later, he told the disciples they would arrested, persecuted and hated. The disciples couldn’t say they weren’t warned.
Nevertheless, I suspect his followers really didn’t understand what lay ahead until that fateful night when Jesus was arrested. Once He’d been tried and sentenced, I’m sure the Lord’s cautionary words echoed in their minds. It was only John and a few women followers at the foot of the cross and it was a stranger, not a follower, who carried the cross for Christ. His disciples, the men with whom he’d lived for three years, weren’t there to carry his heavy load or share his final hours. They didn’t even properly dispose of his body. That chore was left to Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council, who placed him in a borrowed tomb. The disciples’ Sabbath, rather than being a day of rest, was probably a day of disappointment, mourning and worry. Sunday morning, while the women went to the tomb, they cowered together in fear.
What turned a veritable group of cowards into men who bravely spread the good news of Christ the Savior? What turned them into people who courageously faced persecution and martyrdom? Eleven of the twelve disciples died martyrs’ deaths and yet they never changed their story. They saw the risen Christ; they spoke with him, they touched his scars, they broke bread with him and they received His Holy Spirit.
We haven’t walked with Him, but we’ve read the words of those who have. We haven’t been in the same room with Him, but we’ve heard His voice. We’ve not touched Him, but He has touched us. We haven’t seen his wounds, but He’s healed ours. We didn’t see His ascent into heaven, but we’ve experienced his Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul said, “We live by believing and not by seeing.” [2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT)]
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. [2 Peter 1:16-18 (NLT)]
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