“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” 
It is reported that a copy of the Quran is burned and news reports tell of mobs of Muslims storming embassies and killing innocent people.  A Muslim cleric states that a mentally handicapped child desecrates a copy of the Koran, and the child is jailed and threatened with lynching.  A cartoonist draws caricatures of Mohammed and his life is threatened.  Muslims react with fury and rage if they even imagine Mohammed is slighted or even ridiculed.  These violent responses are all reported in recent years, and even within the past month. Candidly, hardly a month passes without a report of Muslim violence and protests.
During this same period, a notorious artist had an exhibition (an appropriate term) of his ridicule of the Faith of Christ the Lord.  No Catholics rioted because he placed a crucifix in a jar of his own urine. Recently, students at Harvard planned a “satanic mass.”  Despite vigorous protests from various Christian groups, there were neither riots nor threats of violence against the school or the misguided students. No Christians stormed an art museum because of a painting of the Virgin created with elephant dung.  When cartoons show the virgin menstruating, ridicule the Son of God  or reduce the Faith to a comedy routine,  no Baptists or Presbyterians threatened to behead a single artist or comedian who deliberately attempted to provoke ridicule or desecrate the Faith. The response of various Christian groups is notable for its lack of violence or threats, despite the constant whine by some groups that Christians are hateful.
These series of responses to what both Christians and Muslims consider insults illustrates a vital difference between the two approaches to God. Adherents of Islam respond to mocking of the central figure of their religion with outrage and violence, demonstrating a significant difference between their religion and the Faith of Christ the Lord. The work of Mohammed is based on being honoured; the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This essential difference produces two distinct reactions to mockery and provocation. Christians will say that Jesus’ uniqueness and beauty is on display whenever His followers respond to such provocation with grace and gentleness.
Recently, when Muslims, outraged by a reported desecration of a Qu’ran, attacked a Hindu temple, a Muslim scholar said, “Our religion, Islam, preaches peace, love and forbearance. However, it is also necessary that the followers of other religions should respect the sentiments of the Muslims.”  The message of this Chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, be good Dhimmis and submit to your Muslim betters! To allow non-Muslims to act in any way other than as slaves is an insult to Mohammed. It is the height of arrogance; and it is the essence of Muslim religious doctrine.
Contrast that response to the biblical teaching concerning the Faith of Christ the Lord. “[The Son of Man] will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon” [LUKE 18:32]. Based on this response of the Master to insult, we are taught, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God” [1 PETER 4:14-17]?
Again, recall the teaching Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount near the beginning of His ministry, ““Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” [MATTHEW 5:11].
The teaching of Jesus was not a distortion of Jewish response to insult and mocking. We read of the example of Moses when reproached because of his heritage. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” [HEBREWS 11:23-27].
Now you can see the application of the truth stated in the text. The Master pictured His followers as sheep surrounded by wolves. Believers should know they will be attacked—their Faith will be ridiculed, they will be mocked and hated, even being attacked because they follow the Prince of Peace. Tragically, these assaults against the faithful will come even from their closest family members. Focus on the final statements the Master gave, holding them in mind. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” [MATTHEW 10:24, 25].
Too frequently, the professed people of God have chosen to live as though we are already living in the Millennium. The message from many pulpits in this generation are so focused on personal comfort and self-gratification that we have scant time to do the things we are commanded to do. Candidly, in popular thought, and especially among professed followers of the Lamb, the Faith is reduced to a formula—say the right words and you get a fire insurance policy. In this day, what is too often substituted as though it was the Faith differs little from Gnosticism—knowledge of the magic formula puts one on easy street. However, Jesus presented quite a different view of how life would be as a Christian.
It is worth our while, and especially in light of the constant agitation of Muslims for “respect,” to remind ourselves of why Christ is insulted and Mohammed is honoured. In order to do this, I invite you to consider again the instructions Jesus gave His disciples as He sent them out into the world. The text is found in MATTHEW 10:16-25.
THE DISCIPLES’ EXPECTATION — It appears that Jesus shattered the disciples’ expectations. They, as is true for so professed Christians in our day, appear to have supposed that because they believed Jesus was the Son of God, they would be welcomed in the world. Yet, throughout His time preparing the disciples for His exodus, Jesus warned repeatedly of opposition and conflict. It must have been terribly confusing and somewhat daunting for these men; their expectations were at odds with what Jesus was teaching.
Superficially, if we were creating a religion to appeal to people, it would be much like Islam—we would demand honour for our god; we would expect people to acknowledge our superior reasoning. Human pride does not allow an individual to accept anything less than honour for his religious principles. Whenever the Christian Faith has been taken over by men who substitute their concepts for the revelation of the Lord of Glory, that newly minted religion has sought to compel others to accept what is taught. Thus, Jesus’ warning has been realised, “Their teachings are but rules taught by men” [MATTHEW 15:9 NIV].
The disciples’ focus was often on their own greatness. Consider one instance where this was on full display. “The disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” [MATTHEW 18:1]?
Another example is found in a request of Jesus by His cousins, John and James. “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” [MARK 10:35-37]. These two men were prompted by their mother, who wanted great things for her boys [see MATTHEW 20:20 ff.]. It was a natural request, based on Jesus’ own revelation, “When the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” [MATTHEW 19:28]. Like us, the disciples seized on the promises of the Master; and they wanted them fulfilled immediately.
The disciples wanted to be honoured for making the right choice; they wanted to be recognised as wise and decisive in following the Master; they wanted the world to acknowledge their superior intellect and abilities. We are cut from the same cloth. Thus, were we creating our religion, we would seek honour and glory.
As the little band drew ever nearer to the Master’s Passion, the jockeying for position grew greater and the competition intensified. Even as they shared the final Pascal Meal and witnessed the institution of the Lord’s Table, the disciples were vying for position with the Master. “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” [LUKE 22:24-27].
To be certain, Jesus continued His teach by promising yet again that these disciples would receive divine acknowledgment in the coming Kingdom. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” [LUKE 22:28-30]. The disciples wanted recognition now, however. They wanted the world to justify their faith because of its raw power and because of the way in which it would coerce people. However, such was not to be.
James Chancellor, Professor of Christian Missions and World Religions at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes of an exchange between a Muslim cleric and a group of university students. The incident of which he writes illustrates what is expected by a religion made by man. Doctor Chancellor writes, “Some years ago I attended a lecture given by a leading North African Muslim cleric to a group of university students in the United States. He naturally chose the Law as his topic. The address was given through a translator. As he concluded, he opened the session to a few questions, and the first came from a young co-ed who asked him, ‘Don’t you know that you can’t legislate morality?’ The question was translated, and the cleric looked perturbed and asked for the question to be repeated. The process was repeated, at which time the cleric became angry, pounded his fist to the lecture stand, and shouted in Arabic, ‘I will not do this again without a competent translator.’ The concepts that a society could have morality without law, that the law could or should be based on anything but divine revelation, and that the law could function without political enforcement were so foreign, so inconceivable, that he assumed a faulty translation.
“The missionary vision of Islam includes the eventual personal conversion of individuals, but begins with the establishment of ‘God’s reign on the earth.’ This can only be accomplished under a Muslim ruler who accepts the advice and direction of Islamic religious and legal experts. In all times and places, political structures are established and maintained through force. Violence is endemic to Islam, but not because Muslim people are more violent by nature; in general they are not. It is not so because Muslim people are more ‘fanatical’ or ‘fundamentalist.’ Nor is it so because Muslims are more irrational or driven by passions. It is so because Islam, by its very nature, involves the reordering of human political structures and institutions. And at all times and places, such reordering has and will require the use of force.” 
The Christian Faith is not built on the precepts of man, nor may it ever be extended by force. Held to answer by the authorities of this world, Jesus looked into the eyes of the Roman Procurator and asserted, “My kingdom is not of this world” [JOHN 18:36]. Mohammed never made such a statement.
THE MASTER’S EXAMPLE — Jesus is unique; and Christians believe there is a divine beauty in the mocking to which He willingly subjected Himself to by becoming man. We realise that the mocking, the reviling, the bruising and the dying was endured for us—it was the price of our salvation. Had Christ not been insulted, there would be no salvation. His saving work compelled Him to be insulted and finally to die in order to rescue sinners from the wrath of God.
Mocking the Christ was not something that occurred only after He presented Himself as Saviour—ridicule and derision of the Son of God was foretold throughout the Old Testament. That the Messiah would be mocked is made evident in the Psalms. In one Psalm that reads more like history than it reads like prophecy, David wrote,
“All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads.”
Writing of the Suffering Servant, Isaiah wrote:
“He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
We can only focus on the physical suffering and the humiliation Jesus suffered because of us. Reading the accounts, we recoil in horror. “They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head” [MATTHEW 27:28-30]. Even that seems somehow unreal to us. However, I suggest that the true contrast between the glory that Jesus had shared with the Father and what He endured for our sake can never be understood by mere mortals. Paul’s words hide the reality of His experience, “Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” [PHILIPPIANS 2:8].
Jesus’ response was patient endurance. This, also, had been foretold by Isaiah.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.”
Of Christ’s suffering, the Apostle Peter has written, “What credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” [1 PETER 2:20-24]. Our example in enduring ridicule and mockery is Christ Himself.
Islam cannot conceive of a prophet of God suffering, much less the Son of God. Muslims have been taught that Jesus was not crucified. They insist because of what is written in the Quran that Jesus only appeared to be dead , not unlike other manmade religions. The Muslim impulse is to avoid the scandal of the Cross. In fact, Muslims will sometimes argue that they honour Jesus more than Christians because they refuse to believe that God would permit Him to suffer death on the cross!  Thus, Muslims fall under the censure pronounced by the Apostle to the Gentiles when he wrote, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” [1 CORINTHIANS 1:23-25].
This points out a fundamental difference between Christ and Mohammed, just as it reveals a fundamental difference between a follower of Christ and a Muslim. For Christ, enduring the mockery of the Cross was necessary to fulfilment of His mission. In fact, the suffering was the essence of His coming to earth. In that same spirit, the true follower of the Christ must patiently endure suffering if he or she will glorify the Lord; this is the essence of obedience. ““Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” [MATTHEW 5:11, 12].
THE CHRISTIAN’S EXPERIENCE — Peter cautioned believers, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” [1 PETER 4:14-16]. How unlike the common expectation! How unlike the response of man-made religions!
Among other names, during His life in the flesh, the Son of God was called a bastard [JOHN 8:41], a glutton and a drunkard [MATTHEW 11:19], a blasphemer [MATTHEW 26:65] and a devil [MATTHEW 10:25]. Even on the Cross, the Son of God was mocked and taunted for what the religious leaders perceived as His lack of power. “Those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also reviled him” [MARK 15:29-32]. During His days with the disciples, the Master promised His followers they would receive the same treatment. Jesus said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” [MATTHEW 10:25].
The mocking of Christ the Lord continues to this day. In fact, it appears that it is growing more intense. Think of some of the major movies presented within the past decade or so. In “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Martin Scorsese presents Jesus as wracked with doubt and struggling with fear, reluctance, depression and lust. The film depicts Jesus imagining Himself engaged in sexual activities. Andres Serrano, with government funding, portrayed Jesus on a cross sunk in a bottle of urine. The Da Vinci Code presented Jesus as a mere mortal who married and fathered children.
Hostility toward those who live godly lives appears to be increasing in this day. Should a Christian actually speak of obedience to God, the world responds with choler and vituperation. I have frequently cited the instruction the Master gave concerning persecution because I do not wish anyone to come into the Faith as result of my words without knowing what she will face.
Jesus cautioned, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause’” [JOHN 15:18-25].
Earlier, I cited Dr. James Chancellor. In that same journal article previously cited, Dr. Chancellor writes of an incident that occurred during a dialogue with a group of Muslim leaders. “I was once involved in an interfaith dialogue with a number of Muslim leaders. One seemed particularly obsessed with the Crusades and went on and on about the savagery and brutality of the ‘Christian’ armies. I finally had heard enough and responded that while the Crusades were terrible, it was not as if Muslims had not swung a sword or two as well. In all seriousness, he looked across the table from me and said, ‘That is true, but Jesus told you not to.’ He was right; Jesus did tell me not to. And Mohammed, by his teachings and his deeds, not only employed violence, but also fully validated it as a means to achieve the religious vision that is Islam.”  Muslims rely on violence to achieve their religious goals. Christians rely on truth and persuasion of the Spirit of God to advance the Faith.
In order to verify this contention, one need but think of the situation now facing Meriam Ibrahim.  This pregnant mother has been sentenced to hanging because she will not renounce her Christian Faith. She is to be flogged with one hundred lashes because she married a Christian man, and thus to the Muslim mind she is guilty of outrageous behaviour. Christians everywhere should pray for her, just as they do for fellow believers persecuted in Iran, in Syria, in Egypt and in Indonesia.
How should those who follow Jesus respond? On the one hand, we are grieved and angered at the assaults against the Faith and even against our persons. On the other hand, we identify with Christ and we embrace his suffering. We rejoice in the midst of persecution and opposition, reminding ourselves that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Thus, we are determined to love our enemies and to win them with the truth of God’s Good News. If Christ did his work by being insulted, then we must do ours likewise.
A religion with a saviour that has not suffered is a religion that cannot endure insults to win those who scoff. A religion that cannot endure insults must bear the impossible load of upholding the honour of one who did not give his life because of the helpless condition of those whom he loved and did not rise from the dead to make salvation possible for his followers. Christians, however, as stated by the Apostle to the Gentiles, strive to “know him and the power of his resurrection,” so that we “may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” [PHILIPPIANS 3:10].
Brothers, “Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” [HEBREWS 6:1]. Amen.
 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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