March 13, 2020 – Friday
Matthew 10:21-23 NRSV
21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
22 and you will be hated by all because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
If you wish to read this section in its entirety start with verse sixteen and read through verse twenty-five for in many Bible versions this section is properly titled Coming Persecutions or Predicted Persecutions. Notice above Jesus does not say in verse twenty-three If they persecute you in one town, but says When they persecute you in one town. It is coming – persecution – it will happen.
Make no mistake, happened then and it is happening to this very day. In North Korea, in China, in India, in Nigeria, even in Canada, and even in the United States Christian persecution takes place. Christian persecution is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ or as a Christian. Compared to what our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer in many other countries what we face in the United States and Canada is relatively mild, but it still exists. We need to expect it and plan to live with it identifying with Jesus to the end of our time in this life.
Above Jesus said Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of My name. Christian were at times put to death, stoned to death as Stephen was while Saul (soon to be Paul) held the cloaks of those stoning him. Even when one was not stoned, they were ostracized and were treated as if they were dead. The saying ‘You are dead to me’ was taken more literally in Jewish society as those who followed Christ would often see their families holding a funeral for them as they became dead to them. To follow Jesus the Christ was no small matter and Jesus wanted His followers to be aware of the cost and of the reward as the one who endures to the end will be saved. In 2019 death was the result for 150,000 believers, 12,500 per month on average, over 400 per day. Make no mistake about it, the persecution of our brothers and sisters is real, very real.
Jesus had an instruction for His disciples when they ran into persecution, When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. Here Jesus is clearly telling His disciples it was wrong for them seek out persecution and martyrdom. If they ended up in a location where they were being persecuted, they were not to remain there, but to literally flee to another town.
Jesus concludes His instructions by saying for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. There is much confusion on this statement, but the explanation of David Guzik makes the most sense when he states [I]t is better to see His “coming” in this passage as His coming in judgment upon Judea in AD 70 which did happen before the gospel came to every city in Israel. And further, This is the fulfillment of the day of judgment warned of in Matthew 10:15. In many ways, the judgment poured out by God upon Judea through the Roman armies in AD 70 was worse than the judgment that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah. An incredible judgment on Israel it was, as it was not until 1948 AD, one thousand eight hundred and seventy eight years later, until Israel was once again a nation.
So let us pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who face incredible persecution compared to what we face. And when we go to church this weekend to worship freely and openly, let us lift them up in corporate prayer as well.
Riley D. Driver-Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton