“They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.” John 16:2–4
Most likely, as the disciples listened to Jesus tell them they would be expelled from the synagogues and even killed, it went in one ear and out the other. Sure, it may have disturbed them a bit, but they most likely moved on rather quickly not worrying too much about it. But this is why Jesus said, “I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.” And you can be certain that when the disciples were persecuted by the scribes and Pharisees, they did remember these words of Jesus.
It must have been a heavy cross for them to receive such persecution from their religious leaders. Here, the people who were supposed to point them to God, were wreaking havoc in their lives. They would have been tempted to despair and lose their faith. But Jesus anticipated this heavy trial and, for that reason, warned them that it would come.
But what’s interesting is what Jesus did not say. He did not tell them they should fight back, start a riot, form a revolution, etc. Rather, if you read the context to this statement, we see Jesus telling them that the Holy Spirit will take care of all things, will lead them and will enable them to testify to Jesus. To testify to Jesus is to be His witness. And to be a witness to Jesus is to be a martyr. Thus, Jesus prepared His disciples for their heavy cross of persecution by the religious leaders by letting them know that they would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to give witness and testimony to Him. And once this began to take place, the disciples began to recall all that Jesus had told them.
You, too, must realize that being a Christian means persecution. We see this persecution in our world today through various terrorist attacks upon Christians. Some see it also, at times, within the “Domestic Church,” the family, when they experience ridicule and harsh treatment for trying to live out their faith. And, sadly, it’s even found within the Church itself when we see fighting, anger, disagreement and judgment.
The key is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays a significant role right now in our world. That role is to strengthen us in our witness to Christ and to ignore any way the evil one would attack. So if you feel the pressure of persecution in any way, realize that Jesus spoke these words not only for His first disciples, but also for you.
Reflect, today, upon any way that you experience persecution in your life. Allow it to become an opportunity for hope and trust in the Lord through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He will never leave your side if you trust in Him.
Lord, when I feel the weight of the world or persecution, give me peace of mind and heart. Help strengthen me by the Holy Spirit that I may give joyful witness to You. Jesus, I trust in You.