What did I learn about Jesus?
- Jesus is more concerned with the motivation of the heart than the quantity (verses 1-4).
- Jesus would not have us be surprised by the global assault on the Church that we are seeing; this IS the present for our brothers and sisters around the globe (verses 10-28).
What did I learn about disciple-making?
- The times of our persecution are the opportunities we have to wear witness to Christ (verse 13).
- “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (verse 28).
Extended thoughts and observations from Pastor Mark:
Many of you have been asking why Jesus forbade people to speak about the miracles
of healing and exorcism that he performed. He was so unabashedly critical of the
Pharisees and scribes, as we have seen repeatedly, that to do otherwise would have
invited premature persecution and death. I say “premature” because ultimately, he knew
that his death was inevitable and necessary; ultimately, it was the way that the King of
Heaven had decided to save his people. Amazing.
Yet here, we sense that Jesus is ready and resigned to his fate. Each night, he was
sleeping in the same place, Mt. of Olives (which is not very large nor difficult to search).
Each day he was teaching in the temple, smack dab in the middle of the institution he
was so boldly condemning and of the buildings that he, unbelievably, predicted would
one day be razed. If you had seen those massive buildings, if you had seen the size of
the stones, you would have been astounded to hear him predict that every single stone
would be pulled down.
As in Matthew, and as with the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus conflates two
times: the now and the not yet. He clearly predicts the “now” of the fall of Jerusalem in
70 AD, (a date every Bible student should memorize) when the Romans, finally fed up
with Jewish rebellion, came in, crushed that rebellion and destroyed the temple, its
surrounding facilities and much of Jerusalem. But he is also looking ahead to a time that
has “not yet” come, the ultimate end times when the forces of the devil and the forces of
heaven would do battle. Heaven wins, but not before evil exacts a terrible price.
I think Bart Brynestad was the one that mentioned this earlier, but for me, the
commands, warnings and promises to believers stand out in this chapter:
- 14-“Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.”
- 17-19- “All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish.By standing firm you will gain life.” INTERESTING since, in the immediately previous verse, he says that “they will put some of you to death.” Notice the difference between death in Christ and REALLY perishing. They can kill our body– whoever “they” might be– enemies, cancer, etc.– but not a hair on us will perish. Hallelujah!)
- 28- “…stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.” (Don’t you love that image…in the face of oppression, stand tall, lift up your chin, look to heaven…your deliverance is nigh!)
- 34- “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down…” (and finally)
- 36- “Be always on the watch and pray… that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Friends, we don’t know when the final tribulation will strike. But whenever it is, one day
OUR final tribulation will come. Whether it is violent, as the thousands of Christian
martyrs around the world are experiencing today even as we live in relative peace
(more martyrs, by the way, than ever in the history of Christianity!) or whether it is a
quiet vigil as we face our own death, the death of a loved one, the death of a marriage,
the death of our dreams, every one of these pieces of advice and encouragement calls
out to us: make up your mind not to worry… stand firm and gain life… stand up and lift
up your heads… be careful not to let your hearts be weighed down… be always on
watch and pray!
Do these things and we shall live victorious lives, whatever we face! Again, hallelujah!!!!