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Positive Persecution

Walking with Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Is suffering for your faith a blessing or something to be avoided? When did you suffer last for your beliefs? Let's take a look a Jesus' position on suffering for having faith.

Notes & Transcripts | Handout
The church grows and increases through blood.—Martin Luther
INTRO - In terms of percentage, Mark highlights the theme of suffering more than any other Gospel.
TRANS - One evening the soldiers talked about a girl they had raped many times in the course of the afternoon. Through it all, the girl sang hymns, strange evangelical songs, and she kept on singing, even after they shot her in the chest. She lay on the ground with the blood flowing from her chest, but she kept on singing—a bit weaker than before, but still singing. Then the soldiers grew tired of this and shot her again, but still she sang. And then the soldiers became afraid. Terrified of the girl, they fell upon her with machetes, and at last the singing stopped.
For the last two thousand years, someone has always been trying to stop the singing of Christ’s followers. This report came from the New Yorker magazine (December 6, 1993), and it describes contemporary events.
More followers of Jesus Christ have died during the 20th century than in any other time in history. About 150,000 each year are martyred. About two million are actively persecuted. And millions more are living with their religious freedoms severely restricted.
What will the 21st century look like?
Well, if the trend holds, and it looks as if it will, I expect.

What does it say?

Mark 14:1–2 ESV
It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

What does it mean?

God over Persecution

What are the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread?
Passover was the festival where Jews recalled and celebrated their freedom from slavery in Egypt.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed Passover recalling the haste of their departure from Egypt.
The two were often merged and treated as the seven-day “feast of the Passover.”
We know the history of the persecution of God’s people in Egypt.
We know God delivered them from those who persecuted them.
We know God continues to have plans for his people when men once again cause them harm.
ILL - Consider how, in the same land, God’s people are again persecuted.
One Sunday morning this past April hundreds of Coptic Christians woke up in Egypt, put on their best clothes and went to church to celebrate Palm Sunday. 
As they faithfully settled into their seats and joyfully sang in the pews with branches of palm in hand, suicide bombers detonated themselves inside two separate churches. 
The carnage was immediate. Dozens were killed just one week before Easter, one of Christianity’s most sacred holidays.
Even knowing they may face murder, Coptic Christians continue to be faithful in areas far less safe to practice Christianity than here in Minneola, FL.
I wonder what it might look like if FBC Minneola started to really celebrate our freedom from persecution?
Even more, I wonder what God might do if we fail to”

Power over Persecution

How did such festivals change the climate in Jerusalem?
People visited the city during feasts increasing the total number of people from 50k to 250k.
Riots and demonstrations were expected, especially among the excitable Galileans, who were potential supporters of Jesus.
The reference to the “uproar from the people” is undoubtedly due to the noise and confusion, and the excited crowds.
The mob fever was intensified by the hope for redemption associated with the Passover leading the people to become uncontrollable.
Note: these Jesus haters were afraid of the power of the people should they strike out against their leader.
Christians need to take note that even misguided will respect our voice when we act together in one accord.
The Bible does teach us to strive for unity.
Just a side lesson here, but most noteworthy.

Jesus over Persecution

What theological connection does Mark want us to make by mentioning the Passover in conjunction with Jesus’ approaching death?
The Passover recalls the events of the deliverance from bondage.
The commemoration week of Passover Feast, recalls the unleavened bread, and later, the dedication of the firstborn who were spared by the sprinkling of blood.
It is possible that Moses adopted some ancient ceremonials such as the Unleavened Bread from the older agricultural festival.
And, the Passover from the older nomadic and pastoral celebrations.
In addition, Passover may have original links with circumcision, demonism, fertility cult, or the offering of the first-born.
Unlike the Samaritans, the Jews make use of the lamb during the feast.
So, what we know about Passover and its association with Jesus.
death passed over the doors sprinkled by blood, Jesus’ blood covers sin that otherwise places one in eternal death and torment in hell.
The sacrificed lamb, and sacrificed Jesus
The familiar “Christ our Passover’, ‘Lamb of God,” is familiar from the NT.
Now, a widespread precedent was that no bone of the Passover victim was broken.
That was true of Christ.
John 19:36 ESV
For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
Following the destruction of the Temple, ritual slaughtering became impossible.
Similarly, the mountain where the Samaritans is today a graveyard for Muslims.
The ritual places no longer exist.
The Passover reverted to become a family meal as it was in the earliest days.
The church and the synagogue went separate ways.
Today we celebrate The Lord’s Supper which replaced, as Jesus intended, the Jewish ordinance just as baptism came to replace circumcision.
Perhaps the greatest lesson about Jesus over persecution is knowing that Christians will never face persecution alone.
When Christians do face, and we will, persecution, we should do so while thanking God that we are considered worthy to suffer for Jesus.

Christians over Persecution

Why did the religious leaders fear the people would riot in response to Jesus’ arrest and execution?
The Feast of the Passover was two days off and the chief priests and scribes wanted to take Jesus into custody by some kind of trick.
They didn’t want to do it during the feast because the great number of people.
Because, if rioting, they would cause a huge problem.
Both Matthew and Mark’s accounts of this part of Jesus’ ministry add the reason for their fear was that an arrest during the feast might cause the people to riot.
ILL - Saudi Arabia—Perhaps the most oppressive of all countries when it comes to Christians practicing their faith. The practice of the Christian faith and the public display of any Christian symbol is forbidden. Christian workers from outside the country are forbidden from praying or holding Bible studies in their homes. Evangelism and conversion to Christianity is punishable by death by beheading.
That’s just one crazy country with whom America has great ties.
Can you imagine if American Christians stood together demanding our government bring down sanctions on countries that persecute Christians for their faith?
I hope you will remember that your vote counts come election days and to know how American Christians should use every resource we have to fight against persecution.
When we work and act together, great things do happen.

What is God asking from me?

They persecuted Jesus and he promised his followers would experience the same.
John 15:20 ESV
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.
2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
The persecuted should rejoice, its a blessing, and places us in good company.
Matthew 5:10–12 ESV
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “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.
How about you, do you count the blessing when others respond negatively to our faith in Jesus?
ILL - Cassie Bernall, seventeen, was in the library at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999, studying the Bible as she did every day at lunch, when she heard shooting erupt. As the gunman entered the room, Cassie reportedly knelt and prayed which angered the attacker. He approached her, asked her sarcastically if she believed in God. She paused, then said one word: “Yes.” The gunman asked her “Why?” but Cassie had no time to answer before she was shot to death. Cassie, who had been a Christian for two years, was known for carrying her Bible to school every day and wearing a “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet. Three days before the shooting, she had skipped her prom to help with a Denver Area Youth For Christ banquet.
“She is a martyr, the best martyr,” Pastor George Kristen told two thousand mourners at the memorial service. “Cassie died a martyr’s death. She went to the martyr’s hall of fame.” And at that service over seventy-five kids made first-time commitments to Christ.
In this coming week, as you go out of your way to share Christ with someone you just meet, if they respond negatively, remember that sharing in Jesus’ suffering in a privilege and opportunity to prove yourself faithful.
Let’s pray for persecuted Christians and that God give us opportunity to suffer for him today.
Also, let’s use this persecution to call Christians to work and act together.
Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Every persecution is powerful in the hands or our Almighty God.
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