Persecutions will come – Jesus told his disciples then, and he tells us now too – because we are now part of God’s Kingdom and on a different side to the majority of the world’s inhabitants. We will be surprised, after the return of Jesus, to learn just how many of the strange and incomprehensible events in our lives were caused by a spiritually motivated attack on us. The apostle Paul said: “We are not unaware of the Devil’s schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Jesus was warning his disciples – and us – not to be surprised by the viciousness of the attacks, and the perversity of the attackers.
“A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service God” (v2). Persecution of true believers has occurred in this way over the last two thousand years, and it is justified on the basis that they/we are the heretics, and that God needs humans to do his dirty work. The Jews began this work of persecution, it was continued by the Roman Empire until the time of Constantine, it reared its head in the Inquisitions of the Middle Ages, and continues to this day in the Middle East, North Korea, Syria, and Iraq – to mention just a few regimes. We are blessed at the present time in Western Europe that we don’t suffer these levels of pressure, but it does seem – from scripture – that this is a relatively short period of calm. Jesus warned us to expect it, and told us in advance, so that the shock does not make us fall away from the faith.
In the very short term, the disciples were experiencing a form of grieving, because Jesus had just told them that he was going away from them. Later, he would be coming back to them. In fact, there was to be a succession of disappearances and appearances of Christ. He would go to the cross and the tomb. He would reappear on the Sunday for forty days. He would then disappear again at his Ascension, only to reappear in the form of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, remaining with us. Finally, he will return in person at the end of this age to bring in the Age to Come.
And so today, the Spirit will also guide us into truth and remind of the words of Jesus, taking from the glory of the Son and giving it to us. From our baptism onwards, we receive and inherit a glorious stream of wisdom and blessings from the Father, via the Son, via the Spirit. They will speak up for us when things get tough. And the tough times will not last too long; just as a woman in labour soon forgets the pain when she sees her child, for us the painful times will be mercifully short and the years of joy long. In the meantime, ask what you want from the Father, in the Name of Jesus. If you don’t think you are joyful enough (16:24) then ask for some more!