Preparation to Face Persecution
AFTER instructing his apostles in methods of carrying out the preaching work, Jesus warns them about opposers. He says: “Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves . . . Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake.”
Despite the severe persecution his followers will face, Jesus reassuringly promises: “When they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you.”
“Further,” Jesus continues, “brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and will have them put to death.” He adds: “You will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name; but he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”
The preaching is of primary importance. For this reason Jesus emphasizes the need for discretion in order to remain free to carry out the work. “When they persecute you in one city, flee to another,” he says, “for truly I say to you, You will by no means complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives.”
It is true that Jesus gave this instruction, warning, and encouragement to his 12 apostles, but it was also meant for those who would share in the worldwide preaching after his death and resurrection. This is shown by his saying that his disciples would be ‘hated by all people,’ not just by the Israelites to whom the apostles were sent to preach. Further, the apostles evidently were not haled before governors and kings when Jesus sent them out on their short preaching campaign. Moreover, believers were not then delivered up to death by family members.
So when saying that his disciples would not complete their circuit of preaching “until the Son of man arrives,” Jesus was prophetically telling us that his disciples would not complete the circuit of the entire inhabited earth with the preaching about God’s established Kingdom before the glorified King Jesus Christ would arrive as Jehovah’s executional officer at Armageddon.
Continuing his preaching instructions, Jesus says: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his lord.” So Jesus’ followers must expect to receive the same ill-treatment and persecution as he did for preaching God’s Kingdom. Yet he admonishes: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”
Jesus was to set the example in this matter. He would fearlessly endure death rather than compromise his loyalty to the One with all power, Jehovah God. Yes, it is Jehovah who can destroy one’s “soul” (meaning in this instance one’s future prospects as a living soul) or can instead resurrect a person to enjoy everlasting life. What a loving, compassionate heavenly Father Jehovah is!
Jesus next encourages his disciples with an illustration that highlights Jehovah’s loving care for them. “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value?” he asks. “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The Kingdom message Jesus commissions his disciples to proclaim will divide households, as certain family members accept it and others reject it. “Do not think I came to put peace upon the earth,” he explains. “I came to put, not peace, but a sword.” Thus, for a family member to embrace Bible truth requires courage. “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me,” Jesus observes, “and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.”
Concluding his instructions, Jesus explains that those who receive his disciples receive him also. “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:16-42.
▪ What warnings does Jesus provide his disciples?
▪ What encouragement and comfort does he give them?
▪ Why do Jesus’ instructions apply also to modern-day Christians?
▪ In what way is a disciple of Jesus not above his teacher?