by Roger McCay
4 November 2018
Sermon Passage: Mark 13:9-13
Link to Audio Version
I’m sure ya’ll have taken notice of the various attacks on politicians and members of opposing political parties that seem to have upped in volume in recent times. The news reports numerous attacks by groups and individuals who hate “the other party” with a hell-burning loathing. These attacks seem to happen all the time these days: refusal of service by restaurant owners; belligerent verbal assaults by patrons of the restaurant, while the member of the opposing party is trying to get a bite to eat; false accusations in order to destroy reputations; destruction of property; attempts to kill them in various ways, including shooting, chemical warfare, and mail bombs; the nasty spewing of hatred and slander both in the news and social media; the pointless and hate-filled marches; and the calls for violence by elected officials against their opposing party.
It is clear that the veneer of civilization on fallen humanity is wearing thin when we see these things. It is like the beast within is breaking out and viciously attacking, beyond all reason, those who think differently and believe differently.
But these “haters” are nothing new. Followers of Christ, when seeing these politicians attacked are like, “Welcome to my world.” For the world has been hating Jesus since he came, and it has been attacking his disciples for almost a couple of millennia now.
This reality is a major point of warning that Jesus gives to his disciples, as he continues his discourse on the Mount of Olives in our passage today. For the world hates Jesus, and that hatred fuels the persecution of his disciples.
Nevertheless, although the thrust of Jesus’ warning is that persecution will occur to those who are his disciples, he does not just leave us with a warning. He gives us encouragement, promising the Holy Spirit’s help in times of trouble, and salvation for the ones who make it to the end—eternal life.
In our passage today, in vv. 9-12, the language Jesus uses is stark. It covers every aspect of society, the religious and secular authorities, parents and children. Jesus is not referring to some imaginary place where people hate you and persecute you, either. These are your neighbors, your family, your coworkers, and your government leaders—people you interact with every day.
But it is important to understand that this persecution happens when you are an actual follower of Christ. Those who label themselves as Christian with no true faith and who do not follow Jesus will fall away at the first sign of persecution.
You may remember, from a few months ago, our study of Mark 4. There, Jesus gave a parable concerning these people who fall away in the “parable of the sower sowing seeds.” In vv. 5 and 6 he says concerning one group of seeds that they “fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.”
Jesus later interprets this parable for the disciples in v. 16-17:
16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
But (if you are a true disciple of Christ; if you have denied yourself, taken up your cross, and you follow him in faith – Mark 8:34), then you are not one of these sad souls. The true disciple lives a life that is radically different from the world, despite opposition, for the world takes notice and does not approve. The world hated Jesus, our Lord, and killed him. The world hates you, if you follow him as his disciple.
So, do not be surprised when the world persecutes you or seeks to kill you. Jesus told us this very plainly in our passage today, also in John 15:18-20:
18 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 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. 20 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.
The Apostle Paul further highlights this reality in 2 Timothy 3:12 saying, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”