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One Tough Crowd June 28, 2010

Posted by theronwatson in Uncategorized.
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John 16:17-33
Beginning in chapter thirteen and continuing through chapter seventeen, John provides a more detailed description of Jesus’ last moments with His disciples than the other Gospel accounts. In His last moments before He was taken away by an angry mob, Jesus tries to explain to earthly men the heavenly things they just cannot seem to grasp. Like many others, they had an expectation of what the Messiah was supposed to do and who He was supposed to be. The idea of a dead leader did not fit in their understanding.
This is how I understand it all happened. After supper, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Judas left. The rest went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, where the disciples fell asleep. Somewhere in the midst of all this, Jesus had a long talk with them. It was probably on the way to the garden or right when they got there as when He came back the last time from His final prayer, He spoke of the betrayer coming. There would not have been time to give them this long talk after praying, and His disciples were too sleepy to hear it anyway.
Jesus knew His time had come. Wanting to give His disciples some last words of advice and encouragement, He told them what is in store. He told them they would be scattered and persecuted. I wonder what was going through their minds as He told them this. “Our Leader would never let this happen, so if we stay close to Him, we should be fine.”
The scattering and persecution of the disciples was not contained within a single night. Quite the contrary. In fact, persecution against Jesus’ disciples remains even to this day. On the night of His betrayal, Peter watched from a distance and denied knowing Jesus. The remainder of the disciples ran off, except for John and a few others. At the Cross, there were only a few people there. Later, Peter decided to go fishing. A few others joined Him. There is much debate over whether Peter had given up or just wanted to keep busy. Either idea seems valid.
Then there is the persecution. There was always jealousy and rivalry between the Pharisees and Jesus and those who followed Him. When Jerusalem burned, Christians were blamed for the fire. Emperors like Nero and others hunted Christians down with a vengeance. Nero was especially sadistic in his treatment of Christians. In one example, Nero had a person wrapped in a sheet, dunked in pitch and then set to burn while hung from a post in the garden to light the path as Nero walked at night. Horrible treatment, and worse.
But, the scattering of the Christians did something positive few notice, it spread the Gospel. Anywhere and everywhere believers went, they took the message of Christ with them. There was something different about them and the people they came into contact with noticed. They shared their experiences of salvation and redemption and led many, many more people to a personal relationship with Jesus.
The persecution believers suffered did something as well. It showed the devotion and courage of those who suffered. They would not renounce their Lord even in the face of harsh punishment. Even worldly leaders made note of this in time. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is full of their stories.
Does scattering and persecution happen today? Oh, yes. When Christians are made fun of for their faith, that’s persecution. When people laugh when you tell them you follow Jesus’ example for your life, that’s persecution. When other ridicule you for what you believe, that’s persecution. Sometimes, Christians are so mistreated they must relocate. Other times it is more positive. When a job promotion takes you to a new town or state, that’s scattering. God is still moving His people around where He wants them to share His message. Missionaries take the Word everywhere, that is scattering.
We are all missionaries. We bring the Word of Truth to the world. We who are His modern disciples still learn from Jesus. We are still inspired by the Spirit. We are still scattered around the world proclaiming Truth. When the world doesn’t want it, we face the persecution that goes along with standing for the One who called us out of our darkness and into His glorious light.
We will face persecution. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2, 3
Are you ready to face the world?

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