Jesus has told His followers that He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. That those they are sent to will charge them and arrest them, being them before the local government and mistreat them. That, “Brother will betray brother to death, and […] All men will hate you because of me.” That His disciples will be persecuted from one place to another, even as they flee for their lives! He now begins His conclusion to this set of comments with, “So do not be afraid of them.”
In Jesus’ reasoning, the reason for the persecution is obvious. His disciples are testifying about Him and doing as He does. They will be effective witnesses, and so by the world’s hand they receive similar treatment as Himself. He knows they will arrest Him, hand Him over to the council, mistreat Him and kill Him, therefore it follows that His followers must expect likewise, for the disciple cannot expect to be better than the Master.
Yet it must be recognized that if the disciple is so like the master that they are similarly treated, then the disciple is worthy of the same reward as the master. That is not something to be overlooked! Jesus was resurrected, and so shall we be. To this point Rom 6 says, “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Not only a new life in the here and now, but after we physically die – as 1Cor 6:14 says, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” More than that, Jesus was made immortal. So we shall be also – as 1Cor 15:49 says, “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
If we know these things, we cannot be afraid of persecution or suffering. For while it is brought about by our own witness of Jesus, it is ironically also a witness to us. Suffering is a witness to us who suffer; a witness that Jesus is fulfilling the promise made to us. That we shall be resurrected. That we shall be made immortal. That we shall be made like Him! Made fit for heaven and well able to enter the Father’s home and invited to sit at His table.
Far from being afraid, we ought to be full of joy and gladness when such treatment comes. As Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Therefore there is no cause for us to fear when we are threatened with persecution, or are being persecuted, or are being delivered over to mistreatment and even death. God is still on the throne, well able to see and remember what is being done, and God will yet make all things right. More than right – He will amply reward the faithful!
To that point we must remember the exhortation of Scripture to others who have suffered before us, “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Amen.
In periods of persecution, we may seem to be losing, but only temporarily. In the end, God’s kingdom will triumph. It is not limited by time and space; it holds sway over Heaven and earth, over life and death. His kingdom is forever, and in His kingdom there is neither hunger nor thirst nor pain nor suffering anymore.LeRoy Lawson
To consider our future in advance prepares us for the future we know is coming. Take time to ponder it and pray it through, so that when it happens you can receive it with joy.