"16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
It is estimated that persecution of Christians claims more than 150,000 lives every year. With the number one source being Islamic oppression. Islamist who reject the Gospel message who refuse to leave it at passive unbelief. Jesus warned His followers we would be countered with serious and even deadly opposition. No one knows that better than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. They hated His message because He confronted their sin and they crucified Him. Ironically, rather than silencing the true church of Jesus Christ, it spread rapidly. And it continues to grow today, for the exact same reasons. Obviously, this not their intended result. Let me tell you something, even threat of death can not defeat a soul set ablaze!
Genesis 50:20 says "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
"But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes."
Let's be honest, Jesus' words concerning ministry are not very encouraging as He begins telling His disciples what to expect.
Two thousand years later, not much has changed. We are still treated like second class citizens, and out casts, we are discriminated against in just about every aspect of life. Pastors are being cancelled on social media platforms, arrested for "hate speech" for teaching Genesis, even receiving deaths threats for "offensive language." Hostility and hated for Christianity is the general attitude of the fallen world. In order to describe the situation, Jesus uses four types of animals. God's people are like sheep, especially those He calls to preach the Gospel. Evil, wicked men are like wolves: violent, clever, aggressive, and skilled at prowling, stalking and attacking their prey. Yet, rather than to be fearful and go off and hide, we are called by Christ, whom we serve to face the opposition and meet the adversity head on, in order to protect and defend the Truth in which we have been entrusted. Preaching and teaching the Word of God.
It's deeply saddening to me that the
church has become more involved in the social and political issues of
our day and less about the business of our Father! We cannot grumble and
complain that our political leaders are deceiving us when we ourselves
are not willing to stand for the Truth. That’s not Christianity, that’s
hypocrisy, it's unreasonable to expect others to do we aren’t willing to
The preaching from the pulpit, of Christ’s church, is not to be something that is to be decided by the immorality of the culture or by the wants and desires of a congregation. And certainly not what the preacher deems to be more culturally relevant! It’s not about you, it’s about God and Jesus Christ Who is the Head of the Church. To do otherwise is little more than tickling the ears of the hearers! The church is called to preach and teach the Word of God in Truth!
Jesus was well aware of the social and political issues in His day. But He certainly didn't involve Himself in them. He was about His Fathers business. We read in Luke chapter 2, "His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up there according to the custom of the feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days required, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents were unaware of it. Instead, they thought that He was somewhere in the caravan, and they went a day’s journey; and then they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances."
Let's look at verses 16-18, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles."
I believe this is a very interesting opening statement, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." If you have ever been around sheep, you quickly realize the helplessness and dependency of sheep. My great grandparent had a large farm, so I was exposed to all sorts of animals. While I certainly am no expert on sheep, and even less of an expert on wolves, I do know they were a major problem to farming, to the point a bounty was placed on them until were fully extinguished in the area. However, wolves have left their biological footprint in the form of wolf-coyote hybrids.
Growing up around sheep, I learned they are very timid and very easily frightened. Because they are totally defenseless, nor designed for speed, they vulnerable to just about everything, all they can do is run when any kind of danger comes. The disciples would have understood the severity of the task of the shepherd who has to defend his sheep. Since the shepherd worked for the sheep owner, if a sheep had been killed, you had to prove a wild animal had killed by bringing a piece of it's flesh or you could lose your life, because people would steal them.
Notice Jesus tells them they will be like sheep in the midst of wolves. I believe it's significant to note, that He didn't say be careful because wolves will be arriving. He warns they're already here. Scripture often refers to our Lord as the Good Shepherd and those of us who serve Him as sheep; He knows His sheep. He loves His sheep; He cares for His sheep. So, in His warning to them, He gives His shepherds this very graphic illustration of the helplessness of sheep and the fearfulness of the Christ-rejecting, God-hating world as they confront them a with the message of the Kingdom. This is not difficult concept for us to understand because in the world today, there are many wolves are among us. In fact, many of them are inside the church, masquerading as sheep. Jesus clearly warns us that’s how it’s going be in ministry, He sees us as sheep among wolves.
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus warns us to "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." By the way, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to lose, even though we don’t have the resource in ourselves, we have the power of God behind us, but it will be dangerous. Christ our Good Shepherd will defend and protect us.
Jesus' honesty is very refreshing to me, something we do not often see in the churches today, There is no mention of sin, of confession or repentance. There's no mention of the Lordship of Christ, the cost of discipleship, obedience and the narrow way. There's no warning about the coming judgment. Just a watered down, seeker friendly gospel, aimed at saving everyone through a counterfeit Christianity. This is a stark contrast to what Jesus offered, a life of hardship and the constant threat of death. I really cannot understand the concept of bringing people to Christ under a false pretense and not the truth. Deceptively telling them they’re saved when the reality is they're on the broad road to hell.
Verse 18, "and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles."
Here He’s not taking about religious institutions; He’s talking about the states, they will persecute. Governments have always persecuted the saints. We are actually witnessing this happening more and more in our world today, pastors being charged with hate speech for preaching the Gospel of Salvation. It's important to understand, that those who hate you do so because they hate Christ. That's where their viciousness comes from, the world considers us to be disgusting, and filth, something to be scrubbed off, we're fools in their eyes. Because men love the darkness and hate the Light, they want to force you compromise. It's always been same reaction toward the truth.
Persecution for the sake of Jesus and His Kingdom is an opportunity for further testimony. Those who teach will be dragged off, judged and punished by not only religious people but also by the secular world. Because I represent Christ, because He is in me, because I stand on the Truth in opposition to the world, they constantly verbally attack me. In contrast, if Christ is not made manifest, if you do have strong convictions regarding the Truth of God, affirming sin, nobody’s going to challenge you or your teaching. There is no middle ground.
In John 15:19 Jesus said "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." If you represent Christ, you can expect persecution. God often purposes opposition to make His disciples witnesses to the ungodly. How’s that for a call to the ministry?
Look at verse 19, "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say."
I'd like you to notice that Jesus shifts His focus away from preparing the twelve to go out and encountering difficulty to focusing on Himself and His authority. We don't need to be anxious about what we're going to say, God will give it to you. Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, it will be bestowed upon you. You don't need to have your defense ready.When the time comes, the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say, He's our defender. I personally know this to be true, because I've experienced it many times in my life, I have never been concerned or anxious when I've been cornered in a situation. Which by the way, happens frequently. We only need to be ready to confess Jesus Christ. By the way, the verb "didómi," or given to you, is used some 400 times in the New Testament.
Verse 20, "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."
I believe when Stephen stood before those who would ultimately take his life, when Peter and James stood before the Sanhedrin, and when Paul stood before the ones who brought him to trial, without thinking or planning, they all spoke the Word of God. It was not their own words. Beloved, we have that divine promise it will be given to you in that hour. How much more can we trust that when they sat down to pen the Word of God, that every word they wrote was inspired. The Bible is clear on the matter of biblical purity, inspiration and inerrancy.
Now, verse 21, "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death."
What He's saying is we will betrayed by those in our own families, even our own households. Persecution will also come through the family. I've talked with a number of Christians who were beaten by their husbands, turned into the government by their children or parents. Family members beheaded for turning away from Islamic teaching. Stronger than natural love is the love of hell. Do not be deceived. the lost has greater loyalty to this fallen world system than their own family.
That’s the way it is in many parts of the world, just for being a Christian. And they say Islam is a peaceful religion? Tell that to these people! I hear many Christians talk about being persecute for Christ, being discriminated against or fired because they spoke about Jesus to a co-worker, let me assure of this, the conflict in some areas unbelievable, we know nothing of that kind of persecution in this nation, yet, but believe me it's coming. Yet, in spite of this Jesus tells us the gospel must be preached to all the nations, and when we preach the Gospel of Christ, the world reacts! Never once did Christ compromise the Truth, even when they nailed Him to the cross, and neither should we.
Verse 22, Jesus spells it out in no uncertain terms, "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved."
James said in James 4 "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
The wicked, evil men of this world will do all they can to slaughter God's people, because they cannot tolerate righteousness but all they can do it kill the body. We are not saved because we endure, we endure because we are saved. Your deliverance may come in death; If they kill you, you’re the one being delivered. Christ has dealt honestly and faithfully with us, in telling us the worst we can expect meet. It is a difficult teaching, but the primary allegiance of those who profess to follow Christ must be to Jesus and to their family in the of Kingdom God, not to their natural families. Endurance through persecution is the mark of genuine salvation.
In John 8, Jesus said "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
That brings us to our last verse today, verse 23, "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes."
Jesus is saying don’t just stay in one place until they kill you. Don't just sit there waiting for them to kill you, keep moving, sharing the Gospel. When we are confronting a sinful society, we must preach the Word until we're unable to preach any more, and then leave and go somewhere else, preaching the Word as we go there's too much to work be done. Go from place to place, preaching the Word, Jesus tells us we will not cover all the territory, we won't finish the task which we've been assigned before the Son of Man comes. There's just too many places and people to reach. We must keep moving to the people who are receptive places, knowing that all the while God is with us, regardless of what Satan does. Trusting in His Sovereignty, knowing that God controls everything.
I believe it's important to understand that enduring and persevering is not the same as never failing. It means getting back up when we're knocked down, continuing the course, doing the work of Christ. We will face persecution and opposition, it's unavoidable if we are standing firm in the Truth. Sin can only forgiven when it's acknowledged and confessed. It's unrealistic to expect there will not be those who hate us for exposing their sin. However, if even one more person comes to Christ, it's all worth it.
Jesus is preparing us to expect opposition even from those whom we might expect support. I do not believe that He who loves you enough to die for you, wouldn't needlessly send you into harms way. Whatever challenges and difficulties we encounter in this world will not only be temporary, they will used to deliver us into the arms of our Savior!
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
Now and forever, in Jesus' name