Scattered and Suffering Saints: Carrying the Cross During the Days of the Sword

Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the final two chapters of the book—chapter fifteen and sixteen. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the narrative of Jesus being carried away from the Sanhedrin where the chief priests, the scribes,  and the elders of Israel held council against Him that they might not only accuse Him, but also condemn Him. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will discover the chief priests taking Jesus from that place they wrongly and falsely accused Him, and where they would condemn Him to death, and bringing Him to the place where Pontius Pilate was stationed. Upon reading the words found in this narrative you will see that the religious system and community within the land of Judaea, and within the city of Jerusalem would themselves not put Jesus to death, but would instead deliver Him up unto Pontius Pilate that he might ultimately condemn Him to death. The words located in the opening chapter of the fifteenth chapter reveals Jesus standing before this Roman who was stationed within the land of Judaea as a means of overseeing it under the Roman law and government. The beginning of the fifteenth chapter of this gospel narrative begins and opens with Jesus not only being accused and condemned by His own, but also being delivered up into the hands of sinners—those who would care and show absolutely no regard for Him at all. What we must realize and recognize is that this should not surprise us, for you will recall within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew that there were at least four specific times when Jesus spoke of His betrayal by one of His own, of the many things He must suffer at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, how He would be delivered into the hands of sinners who would mock and scourge Him, and how He would ultimately be crucified and put to earth. The words we see before us in this passage of Scripture—as well as the words we find in the final chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew should not take us by surprise, nor should it have taken the disciples by surprise, for Jesus spoke of these very things before they would even happen.

            As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning His own suffering and death, as well as the words which Jesus would speak concerning the suffering, the affliction, the opposition and persecution of His own disciples. It would be very easy to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and think of them solely on terms of Jesus’ suffering alone, and yet the truth of the matter is that while Jesus’ suffering accomplished the divine will and purpose of the Father to bring about the salvation and redemption of man, as well as provide an atonement for sin, it would also be a powerful witness, a powerful statement and a powerful testimony unto the disciples concerning the suffering they themselves would face, experience and endure. We dare not read the narrative concerning the suffering of Jesus—and not only the suffering of Jesus, but also how He was delivered up into the hands of the Sanhedrin, and how He was delivered into the hands of sinners—for you will recall that Jesus spoke the same type of reality for His disciples. While it is indeed true that Jesus would suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, as well as at the hands of sinners, His disciples would also experience a similar reality and manifestation within their own lives. It would be Jesus Himself who would speak of and foretell of His suffering and subsequent death at the hands of the sinners, and it would be Jesus Himself who would speak of the disciples’ own witness and testimony within the earth, and how the disciples would themselves be delivered up unto councils, and before governors, and before rulers of this age for a witness and a testimony against them. You cannot read the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles without and apart from seeing this come to pass and play out within their lives exactly as Jesus the Christ had spoken unto them.

            It is with this in mind I feel it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God spoke unto the disciples concerning His own suffering and subsequent death. The more we read the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John Mark—together with the gospel narratives which were written by the apostles Matthew and John, and that which was written by the beloved physician Luke—the more we should not be surprised when the suffering actually begins. SUFFERING SHOULD NOT SURPRISE YOU! SUFFERING SHOULD NOT TAKE YOU BY SURPRISE! SUFFERING SHOULD NOT SHOCK YOU! Pause for a moment and consider the fact that the suffering of Jesus should not have surprised the disciples, for it would be Jesus who spoke unto and taught them how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, and how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of sinners. When the suffering of Jesus actually began after His betrayal in the garden it should not have come as a shock, nor should it have come as a surprise for the disciples, as Jesus Himself would teach and speak unto them concerning the suffering He would face and endure within this life. When we read the four gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ we have the advantage of reading it as part of the full and complete revelation of the living God within Scripture. The truth of the matter, however, is that it is one thing to read the narrative of the betrayal and the suffering of Jesus the Christ, and it’s another thing to actually live during those days. It’s one thing to witness and behold the suffering of Jesus at the hands of sinners, and ultimately His crucifixion upon the cross, and another thing to actually witness and behold it during those days and during those times. We read these words as part of the full and complete revelation of Jesus the Christ as found within the gospel narratives, and yet it would have been something else entirely and altogether for the disciples to experience it in real time.

            One of the things we must  needs recognize and understand when reading these words pertaining to the suffering of Jesus the Christ is that the events that took place during those days should not have come as a shock, nor should they have come as a surprise for the disciples, as Jesus would speak unto and teach them how He must needs suffer many things at the hands of both the religious leaders of Judaea and Jerusalem, as well as at the hands of sinners. Jesus spoke of and foretold of the many things He must needs suffer at the hands of religion and sinners when speaking unto the disciples, and Jesus would prepare and make them ready for that suffering. If there is one thing I find so absolutely astonishing and remarkable when considering the suffering of Jesus the Christ, it’s that not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for His suffering which would be experienced within this life, but Jesus also prepared them for the suffering they themselves would face and experience. There is not a doubt in my mind that we cannot truly understand the suffering of Jesus the Christ without and apart from understanding the suffering of the disciples, and vice versa. We cannot truly understand the suffering of the disciples without and apart from understanding and recognizing the suffering of Jesus the Christ, as the two are intrinsically linked and connected to each other. If and as you read the words which are found in the four gospel narratives which were written by the gospel authors you will find that Jesus didn’t merely prepare them for His suffering, but Jesus would also prepare them for their own suffering—suffering that would and could not be avoided, averted, nor removed from the narrative of their witness and testimony within the earth. The more you read and the more you consider the words found in the four New Testament gospel narratives written by these authors and writers the more you will be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus took the time to speak to and prepare His disciples for His suffering—and not only His suffering, but also His resurrection and subsequent ascension unto the right hand of His Father in heaven—as well as speaking unto them concerning their own suffering which they would experience within this life upon the earth.

            Upon reading the words found in the four New Testament gospels you will find that not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for the suffering He would experience, not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for His subsequent death as a result of the suffering, and not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for His resurrection, but Jesus would also prepare the disciples for His departure from among them in the earth, and His subsequent ascension unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. You cannot read the words found in the gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful reality that Jesus would prepare His disciples for His suffering, as well as for His death. With this being said, it’s also incredibly important to realize and understand when reading the words which Jesus spoke concerning His suffering and His death that He would also speak of His resurrection. You cannot read the words Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning His suffering and death and not encounter and not come face to face with the fact that Jesus would also speak of His resurrection. While it was indeed and was in fact true Jesus would speak to His disciples concerning His death—and even His crucifixion—it was also true Jesus would speak unto His disciples concerning His resurrection from the dead on the third day. NOT ONLY SHOULD SUFFERING SURPRISE YOU, BUT NEITHER SHOULD RESURRECTION! If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that in between suffering and resurrection is the cross, and that the disciples ought not to have been surprised, nor taken back by the suffering of Jesus, nor by the resurrection of Jesus. Before Jesus would ever be betrayed into the hands of sinners, and before Jesus would face and experience suffering at the hands of religion and at the hands of sinners, He would speak unto the disciples and make them aware of what would take place—from His betrayal, to His suffering, to His death, and ultimately to His resurrection. It is important that we recognize and understand this, for when the suffering of Jesus would actually begin, it should not have come as a shock and surprise for the disciples, as Jesus would speak directly unto them on more than one occasion concerning what would take place. It is with this in mind I now invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew which provide us with words Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning His suffering, death and resurrection:

            “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).

            “And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill him, and the third day He shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry” (Matthew 17:22-23).

            “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19).

            “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said unto His disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:1-2).

            With each of these passages a picture begins to emerge within the gospel narrative written and recorded by the apostle Matthew concerning the suffering of Jesus, and how Jesus would not only suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel, but also how Jesus would suffer many things at the hands of sinners. It would be while in the hands of sinners Jesus would not only be mocked and scourged, but would also be crucified and put to death. The words which we find and see within these four passages paint a powerful and clear picture of the suffering Jesus would face and experience within this life, and how Jesus would teach, speak unto and prepare the disciples for the suffering He would face within this life. When that actual suffering began within His life it should not have surprised, nor should it have shocked the disciples, for Jesus spoke unto and taught them on at least four different occasions how He would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and how He would be delivered into the hands of sinners. One of the greatest realities found within the gospel narratives which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is that not only did Jesus prepare and make ready His disciples for His own suffering, but Jesus would also speak unto and make them ready for their own suffering. It was indeed true Jesus would speak unto the disciples concerning the suffering He would experience , however, we must also recognize that the four gospels were not merely narratives surrounding the suffering Jesus would experience, but also narratives surrounding the suffering the disciples would experience. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that in addition to Jesus preparing His disciples for the suffering and subsequent crucifixion He would experience, He would also prepare them for the suffering they themselves would experience. Jesus would emphatically declare unto His disciples that a servant is not above their master, nor a disciple above their teacher, and that just as Jesus Himself would face and experience suffering within this life that the purposes of the Father, so also would the disciples themselves face and experience suffering.

            Perhaps one of the most striking and alarming realities within the four gospel narratives is that there seems to be this intrinsic and apparent link between the suffering of Jesus the Christ which He would experience within this life and the suffering which the disciples themselves would face and experience. The more you read the words found in the four gospel narratives at the beginning of the New Testament the more you will come face to face with the fact as much as Jesus prepared His disciples for the suffering He would experience, He also prepared them for the suffering they themselves would experience. In all reality, I would dare say that suffering is a universal language which the disciples and their Lord would share and speak one to another, as in the days after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension the disciples would themselves face and experience their own suffering. What’s more, is that if and as you read the words found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find this suffering happening and taking place almost immediately after the day of Pentecost. It’s almost as if the Day of Pentecost would enable and empower the disciples to not only be witnesses for and unto the Lord Jesus Christ, but would also position and prepare them for the suffering they themselves would face and experience within this life. I would dare say that the day of Pentecost would indeed and would in fact be the catalyst that would position and prepare the disciples for the suffering they would experience—not only at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, but also eventually at the hands of Rome itself. The book of Acts not only points to and reveals the persecution which would initially break out against the Christians within the city of Jerusalem, however, we must needs recognize and understand that an even greater persecution would break out against the early Church and Christians, for Rome itself would become engaged in persecution against the early Church and Christians and would be set upon a reign of terror and tyranny against the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ. With this in mind I invite you to consider the words which are found in the tenth, sixteenth and twenty-fourth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John:

            “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of the wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governrs and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:16-39).

            “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? OR what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).

            “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:5-14).

            “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to Him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:1-8).

            It is with each of these passages found within the New Testament we encounter the tremendous and undeniable truth that while it was indeed true that Jesus prepared the disciples for His own suffering and death, He would also prepare them for their own suffering, and even for their own death. If you read the words found in the tenth and twenty-fourth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that not only did Jesus emphatically declare unto His disciples that they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake, but they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake. Perhaps one of the greatest realities we must needs understand when considering the four gospel narratives found in the New Testament is that Jesus did not prepare His disciples to be welcomed, to be embraced, to be affirmed, to be loved, and to be received by men, but rather to be hated of all men for His name’s sake. It would be Jesus who would on the one hand prepare and make ready the disciples for the suffering which He Himself would face and experience, while on the other hand preparing and making them ready for the suffering they themselves would experience. We must recognize and understand that within the dialogues, the exchanges, and the conversations Jesus would have with His disciples—not only would He prepare and make them ready for the suffering He Himself would face and experience, but He would also make them ready and prepare them for the suffering they would experience. There is this growing temptation and tendency to believe that Jesus suffered in this life, and that Jesus died while on this earth that we ought not have any need to. There are those who would dare believe that Jesus suffered in the flesh in this world, and that Jesus was crucified in the flesh in this life that we as His disciples might not have to. The truth of the matter, however, is that before Jesus ever spoke of the cross concerning Himself, He first mentioned and spoke of the cross in direct connection and relation to His disciples. It would be in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus declaring that those who take not their cross and follow after Him are not worthy of Him, while it would be in the sixteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel we find Jesus declaring that if any man wishes to come after Him, they must needs deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him.

            Oh how absolutely necessary it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, nor did He suffer in the flesh in this world that we would not have to. Jesus didn’t suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, at the hands of the scribes,, at the hands of the elders, and even at the hands of sinners that we might not have to, but rather as a witness, as a testimony, and as an example for us. What makes this even more interesting and intriguing is when you look at the pattern and progression of Jesus’ own suffering—not only in the words He spoke unto His disciples, but also in the direct manifestation and fulfillment of it—for the same pattern and progression of Jesus’ suffering and death would be the same pattern and progression the disciples themselves would experience. If you read the words found in the New Testament gospel narratives written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that He would be betrayed by one of His own into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel, and how it would be in their hands He would be falsely accused, maligned, ridiculed, and ultimately condemned unto death. It would be the scribes, the chief priests, and the elders of Israel who would then take Jesus and deliver Him into the hands of sinners as they would not only bring Him before Herod, but they would ultimately bring Him before Pontius Pilate. It would be Pontius Pilate who would not only give the order for Jesus to be scourged and tortured, but it would also be Pilate who would ultimately give the command and the instruction to crucify and to kill Jesus. What would initially begin with and at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel would continue and ultimately be manifested in the midst of the hands of sinners as Jesus would be handed over into the hands of the Romans. It would be Pontius Pilate who would give the command for His being scourged, flogged, tortured and beaten by Roman soldiers, and it would be Pontius Pilate who would give the command that would ultimately lead to the death of Jesus the Christ. It would be at the hands of Pontius Pilate and at the hands of the Romans the crown of thorns would be fashioned and plated upon Jesus’ head, and it would be at the hands of the Romans Jesus would be scourged in the Praetorium. Moreover, it would be at the hands of the Romans Jesus would be forced to carry His cross unto Golgotha—unto the place of the skull—and it would be there at the place of the skull Jesus would be nailed to the cross as the cross was raised to its place.

            If and as you read the words found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that when Jesus first began speaking of His suffering and death, He would first speak of His betrayal into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and how He would suffer many things at the hands of the religious system and community within His day, and would then speak of His suffering at the hands of sinners. The words which Jesus spoke concerning His suffering and His death would first be centered upon that which He would face and experience at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, yet it would ultimately transition to His being delivered into the hands of sinners who would not only mock and scourge Him, but would also crucify Him. As you read the words which are found within the New Testament book of the Acts, and as you read and consider the narrative that is found in the history of the early Church, you will find that the suffering and persecution which would break out against the early Church would initially break out and rise up against the disciples at the hands of the Sanhedrin—the council of chief priests, scribes and the elders of Israel. In the opening chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the Sanhedrin engaging themselves in persecution against the disciples and apostles of Jesus the Christ, and how upon coming to the seventh chapter you will find an apparent shift and transition from suffering happening solely within the lives of the apostles, as Stephen would become the first martyr of the early Church. It would be during the days of Saul of Tarsus who would consent to the death of Stephen that an even greater persecution would begin to rise up and break out against the early Church, as in the opening verse of the eighth chapter we find Saul consenting to Stephen’s death, and how a great persecution would break out against the early Church in Jerusalem, thus forcing it to scatter throughout the surrounding cities, towns, villages, and lands round about Jerusalem and Judaea. The persecution which would break out against the early Church would initially begin within Jerusalem against the apostles, would continue with the martyrdom of Stephen, and would ultimately manifest itself in a persecution which would break out against the Church as a whole. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Peter beginning with the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter:

            “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

            “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).

            BELOVED, THINK IT NOT STRANGE CONCERNING THE FIERY TRIAL WHICH IS TO TRY YOU, AS THOUGH SOME STRANGE THIN HAPPENED UNTO YOU! I absolutely love these words which are found in the first epistle of the apostle Peter, for not only were they written unto saints which were scattered, but there is not a doubt in my mind they were written unto saints which were suffering. SCATTERED AND SUFFERING SAINTS! The more I think about and consider the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I find myself being brought face to face with the fact that these words were written unto saints which were scattered throughout Asia—saints which would experience tremendous suffering at the hands of both Jews and sinners alike. It would be during these times Rome would engage in a powerful persecution against the Christians and saints of God, and would rise up against them with unprecedented ferocity and tenacity. What’s more, is that when the apostle Peter wrote these words he was emphatically declaring and writing unto suffering saints which had been scattered throughout Asia that the fiery trial which was to try them should not seem as strange unto them, as though something strange had happened unto them. When writing unto the saints which were scattered throughout Asia the apostle Peter sought to encourage them concerning their suffering that it is not something which should take them by surprise, nor should it be something which should shock them. In all reality, I would dare say the apostle Peter sought to bring the suffering and scattered saints to terms with the fact that being a disciple and follower of Jesus the Christ did not mean immunity and exemption from suffering, from affliction, from opposition, and from persecution. The apostle Peter recognized and understood the words which Jesus the Christ had spoken unto both he and the other disciples concerning suffering, and how Jesus had sought to prepare them for the suffering, the affliction, the opposition, and the persecution they would face.

            The more I sit here thinking about and considering this reality the more I can’t help but encounter the awesome truth that not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for His own suffering and death, but Jesus also prepared the disciples for the suffering they would experience in this life. It’s incredibly intriguing and captivating to think about the fact that when Jesus sent His disciples out He did not send them out with the expectation that they would be loved, welcomed, received and embraced, but rather that they would be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. When Jesus sent His disciples out into the world He sent them out knowing they would indeed face persecution, suffering, affliction and opposition. Jesus sent His disciples out into the world knowing they would be handed over into the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel, and that they would face some of the very same things He experienced. If you read and study the four gospel narratives which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will encounter the powerful reality that nowhere did Jesus ever prepare the disciples for “their best life now,” nor did He ever prepare them for a life absent suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition. Jesus never prepared His disciples for a life of ease, a life of security, a life of comfort, nor even a life of peace and rest. In fact Jesus declared that He did not come to the earth to bring peace but a sword, and instructed His disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Moreover, Jesus would declare unto His disciples that anyone who did not take up their cross was not worthy to be called a disciple of His, and were actually those who would choose to save and find their life within their days. THE SWORD AND THE CROSS! It is within the gospels Jesus proclaims and declares that He came to the earth to bring a sword, and in the midst of that sword being upon the earth the disciples were to carry up their cross. CARRYING THE CROSS DURING THE DAYS AND TIMES OF THE SWORD! When Jesus sent His disciples out into the world He did not send them with the expectation—much less the anticipation—that they would be loved, welcomed, embraced and received, but rather that they would be hated. Jesus sent His disciples out knowing they would face and experience suffering and persecution, and it’s almost as if the call upon their lives would and could not be complete without and apart from persecution, suffering and affliction.

            I sit here today pondering the words which we find in the four gospel narratives written by the gospel authors and I am confronted with the fact that Jesus prepared His disciples for His own suffering which would be experienced at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of Israel, as wel as at the hands of the sinners. It’s worth noting Jesus didn’t tell the disciples who the sinners were who would mock, scourge and crucify Him, however, at that time crucifixion was known to be means of torture and death utilized by and at the hands of the Romans. It would be as He came closer to His suffering and death Jesus would not only reveal the means of His death and how it would take place, but also who it would be that would put Him to death. By speaking of His being crucified Jesus not only indicated the type of death He would experience, but also the people who would put Him to death. IT’s worth noting that it was not only the Romans who would crucify Jesus the Christ, and it was not only the Romans who would destroy the physical Temple of the LORD which stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, but it would be the Romans who would persecute the Christians and early Church. It would be the Romans who would engage themselves in a tremendous campaign of persecution against the Church of Jesus Christ, and this should not cause us to marvel, for it was the Romans who would crucify and put Jesus to death while He was in the flesh. It was the Romans who mocked and scourged Jesus, it was the Romans who plated a crown of thorns and put it on the brow of Jesus, and it was the Romans who would force Jesus to carry His cross to the place where they would ultimately crucify Him upon that very cross.

            If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that the suffering of Jesus the Christ should not surprise, nor should it shock His disciples, for on at least four different occasions—at least within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew—we find Jesus speaking unto His disciples concerning His suffering, His death, and ultimately His resurrection. The more I read the gospel narratives the more I am brought to terms with the fact that not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for His suffering, and not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for His death, but Jesus also prepared them for His resurrection and for His ascension. SUFFERING, DEATH, RESURRECTION, ASCENSION, RETURN! It is something truly astonishing to read and consider the words which are found in the four gospel narratives written by the gospel authors, for Jesus would take the time to ready and prepare His disciples for that time of suffering which He would face and experience within this life. Jesus would prepare His disciples for that suffering, that affliction, that opposition, and that persecution He would face and experience, and yet the truth of the matter is that He experienced persecution throughout His public ministry. You cannot read the four gospel narratives—particularly and especially the gospel narrative written by the apostle John—and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and tremendous reality that Jesus would not only suffer persecution at the hands of the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel, but Jesus would also suffer persecution at the hands of the Jews. There were countless times when the Jews took great offense to the words which He would speak, and took great offense to His teaching, and would seek to slay and put Him to death. In fact, it is as you read the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you not only find the Jews persecuting Jesus, but also seeking to put Him to death. It would be in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find the Jews persecuting and seeking to slay Jesus, while in the very next chapter we find a number of Jesus’ disciples turning back and walking no more with Him because of the words which He spoke concerning His body and His blood. It is impossible to read the gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that within and throughout the public ministry of Jesus the Christ He would face and experience suffering and persecution at the hands of the Jews, as well as at the hands of the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel. That persecution would come to a head during that final week leading up to His crucifixion as Jesus would enter into the Temple and overturn the money tables, drive out those who bought and sold within the Temple, and the money changers.

            When I come to the fifteenth and sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John Mark I can’t help but find myself coming face to face with the awesome truth and reality that when the suffering of Jesus actually began to take place it should not have come as a surprise to any of the disciples. Jesus taught His disciples concerning the suffering He must needs face and experience within this life—and not only the suffering He must needs face and experience, but also the death He would experience as a direct result of that suffering. One of the greatest truths I find myself thinking about and considering when reading the words found in the New Testament gospel narratives written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ it’s that the disciples should not have been surprised, nor should they have been shocked concerning the suffering of Jesus when it began, and they should not have been shocked and surprised at the suffering they would experience within and during their own lives within and upon the earth. The apostle Peter wrote unto the suffering and scattered saints that they ought not to think it strange and unusual concerning the fiery trial which was to test and try them as though it was something strange which was happening unto them. The apostle Peter would write and speak unto these saints which were suffering and scattered throughout the provinces of Asia and would declare unto them that they ought not be surprised at and by the suffering they would face and experience within this life, for so long as they were disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ in this life they would face and experience suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition. In fact, I would dare say that if we call ourselves disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ—and not only if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus the Christ, but are also true disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ—we must needs expect and anticipate suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition. I am convinced that one of the greatest dangers and tragedies facing many Christians within and during these days is that many do not expect, and many do not anticipate suffering within this life. There are countless Christians among us within this generation who simply do not expect suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition, and who expect this life to be one of comfort, one of ease, and one of peace and security. It is perhaps for this reason why when Jesus spoke the parable concerning the seed and the sower He spoke of those who would experience persecution in this life and would grow offended as a direct result of that persecution, suffering and affliction.

            THESE THINGS HAVE I SPOKEN UNTO YOU, THAT YE SHOULD NOT BE OFFENDED! It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for it is within the opening verse of the sixteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find one of the most profound truths concerning suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition. Even more than this—that which we find within the opening verse of the sixteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John is a powerful declaration and truth given and spoken unto the disciples that they should not only expect and anticipate suffering, but that Jesus warned and prepared them before it that they would not be offended. You will notice in the opening verse of the sixteenth chapter Jesus emphatically declares unto the disciples all the words HE would speak unto them on the night in which He was betrayed that they would not be offended. What’s more, is that immediately after this Jesus would declare unto them how they would be put out of the synagogues, and how the time was coming when those who killed them would think that they did a service unto the living God. It is important that we recognize and pay close attention to the words found in the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John, for the words we find within these verses paint the powerful picture that Jesus spoke of and revealed unto the disciples the tremendous suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition they would face so they would be prepared—and not only that they might be prepared, but also that they might not be offended. This concept of being offended in the midst of suffering is not only found in the parable of the sower, as well as in Jesus’ words concerning the Last Days, but also in the narrative and account that was found concerning John the Baptist and words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples of John when he sent them unto Him asking if He was indeed the Messiah. This concept of offense—not only offense in the suffering of Jesus, but also offended in the suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition we face within this life. IF we are truly willing to be honest we must needs admit the awesome and tremendous fact that it is not only possible for us to be offended in the suffering(s) of Jesus, but also offended in our own suffering. There is not a doubt in my mind that it was easy for the disciples to be offended in the suffering of Jesus when it actually came to pass—this despite the fact that Jesus warned and prepared them of it before it would actually take place.

            The words which the apostle John recorded from the mouth of Jesus in the sixteenth chapter this gospel narrative is absolutely remarkable and astounding when you truly take the time to consider it, for if we are being honest with ourselves, as well as with the LORD, we must needs admit that it is not only easy to grow offended with the suffering(s) of Jesus, but also offended when we ourselves face and experience suffering within our hearts and lives. Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot in the midst of the garden of Gethsemane, and it would be there in the garden of Gethsemane each of the disciples would be offended in Jesus and would scatter away from Him and out of His presence. Scripture records and reveals how each of the disciples would in that moment be offended in Jesus, and as a direct result of that offense—offense in the midst of suffering, offense in the midst of persecution, offense in the midst of affliction, and offense in the midst of opposition. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is a great need within our hearts and our lives to guard against being offended in the midst of suffering, and offended in the midst of persecution. If this were not the case then I firmly believe we would not have the words we do in the sixteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John, and it would not be found and written and recorded in the parable of the sower, the words which Jesus spoke concerning the Last Days, and even the narrative written concerning John the Baptist in prison. Perhaps one of—if not the most remarkable truths surrounding the danger of being offended in Christ, as well as being offended in the midst of suffering is found in the narrative of John the Baptist when he was imprisoned by Herod. It would be Herod who would imprison John the Baptist, and it would be in response to John the Baptist’s disciples coming unto Jesus the Son of God would emphatically declare unto John the Baptist, saying, “Blessed is that one who is not offended in me.” Oh dear reader, there is a great and powerful need to recognize and understand that we must needs guard our hearts and our lives—not only from being offended in Jesus the Christ, but also offended in suffering, and offended in persecution. The words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples of John the Baptist and sent back unto him there in prison was and is a powerful word of caution to any and every individual who professes to be a follower and disciple of Jesus the Christ. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the parable of the sower, the words found in the words Jesus spoke concerning the Last Days, as well as the narrative concerning John the Baptist:

            “…But He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matthew 13:20-21).

            “…Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:9-13).

            “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding His twelve disciples, He departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:1-6).

            “And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another? When the men were come unto Him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answered said unto them, God your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:18-23).

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I feel it absolutely remarkable and astounding to think about and consider the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus not only warned and prepared His disciples for the suffering He Himself would face and experience, but also for the suffering they themselves would face and experience. I find it absolutely incredible that not only did Jesus prepare His disciples for the suffering they would experience, but He also prepared them that they might not offended, and that they might not be surprised when it actually takes place and is fulfilled in their lifetime. Jesus made it very clear the disciples would and could face a tremendous amount of tribulation, suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition, and He fully prepared them for that suffering and tribulation—not only so they would not be surprised by it, but also that they might not be offended in the midst of it. I am absolutely and completely convinced that two of the greatest necessities in the midst of suffering and persecution is not only our ability to endure and to stand firm in the midst of it, but also us guarding our hearts and our minds from being offended in the midst of it. Jesus warned and prepared His disciples for His suffering, and intrinsically linked and connected to His suffering would be their own suffering which they would experience after His departure, and after He would send the Promise of the Father which was the Holy Spirit. We must needs recognize and understand this awesome and incredible truth within our hearts and lives, for it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we guard our hearts against growing offended in the midst of suffering, tribulation, persecution, affliction and offense, and that we would be able to endure. Oh that we would ask ourselves if we have the faith, if we have the confidence, if we have the trust, if we have the boldness, and if we have the endurance to be able to withstand in the midst of suffering, in the midst of affliction, and in the midst of persecution within this life, and whether we will be offended when suffering, persecution, affliction, tribulation and opposition rise up for the sake of the Word, and for the sake of the name of Jesus the Christ.

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