Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 21: 12-19 (MsgB)
“But before any of this (disaster) happens, they’ll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry My name. You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters. You’ll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. There’s no telling who will hate you because of Me. Even so, every detail of your body and soul—even the hairs of your head!—is in My care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.”
When it comes to reciting the great personal promises associated with following Jesus, I don’t remember anyone in church leadership mentioning 1) being hunted down and arrested; 2) being dragged into court and jailed; 3) having accusers at your throat; 4) being betrayed by loved ones and friends, and finally; 5) being hated and even killed for your faith!
Whatever happened to that ‘come to Jesus and all your problems will be solved’ message I heard in church?
This stuff Jesus is saying here is enough to make a strong man or woman tremble!
Yet a quick survey of the New Testament and church history over the last two thousand years show that Jesus is spot on correct when He tells His friends that living out this thing called biblical Christianity will not always be easy. In truth, it can cost you everything, including your life.
On one hand, we Americans need to fall on our knees and thank the Lord, our God, for giving us the rich religious freedoms we have had here in our country for over 200 years. Many good men and women of faith have lived their lives in much less freedom, and we often forget that our freedoms of religion here in America are indeed unique when compared to the rest of the world and with church history.
Yet, as I see it, those same rich religious freedoms we have experienced here in the west for so many generations also serve to make us complacent and sloppy, at best, with our faith. And while I’m not anxious to see an increase of any religious persecution anywhere in the world, I’m wondering if a little more pressure on our religious freedoms here in America just might awaken more of us to live the life of faith Jesus is addressing here with His friends.
Keep in mind, at the time Jesus is making these statements to His disciples, it’s the last week of Jesus’ life on this planet. While He knows that His destiny is the cross, His disciples are fully expecting just the opposite. If you and I could go back in time and interview Peter James, John, or any of the other men and women following Jesus at this time, I’m sure we’d hear them speak of great celebration, Messiah-ship, overthrowing bad governments, and setting up a religious utopia in Jerusalem.
I’m guessing that this shopping list of persecutions Jesus refers to here went in one ear and out the other for most of the disciples. It was only after the fact, when the church is birthed within 40 days of these words Jesus is speaking, when the reality of these persecutions will begin to hit home personally for many of these guys and gals who have decided to follow Jesus.
A quick look over in Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts, shows plainly that these same disciples who thought they were in Jerusalem with Jesus to overthrow injustice and set up the consummated Kingdom of God are themselves thrown in front of accusing critics in cold harsh courtrooms, being interrogated for this Jesus of Nazareth thing called ‘The Way.’
While we in America have a tough time relating to this type of persecution Jesus refers to here, know that we don’t have to travel too many miles across the globe today where this type of hatred and suffering is being experienced on a daily basis by brothers and sisters in Christ. And while my prayer is that we won’t have to experience such pain and suffering, my hope is that we’d be ready for such, standing firm with Christ, holding tightly to His promises of being with us to the very end, if need be.
My prayer: Father, I can’t tell You that I know the kind of pain and suffering that Jesus refers to here. I know for a fact that there are millions of brothers and sisters in Christ who do know these experiences and I thank You for Your unique promises to sustain us when we meet such challenges. I thank You for the great religious freedoms we enjoy here in America and may I never under-estimate the uniqueness of those freedoms, for Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I allowed my rich religious freedoms to undermine the deep solidity of my faith? How would I respond to the pressures, persecutions, and challenges Jesus refers to here? What steps can I take to build up my faith in Christ during these easier times so that when and if I would be asked by God to step into such challenges, I would be much better equipped to face these things than I am today?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?
Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use.
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