“The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?”—John 18:19–22
In reading this passage, I was struck by the similarity of the treatment Jesus received under the religious leaders to what is happening all around the world today. The religious authorities’ treatment of Jesus is being repeated in surprising detail this very moment.
Since starting Barnabas1040 ministries, I have had the privilege of meeting men and women across China, Vietnam, Laos, and other Asian countries who told me of experiences which sounded eerily like the one our Lord endured in Jerusalem the night of His betrayal.
- They were betrayed by friends who reported them to the religious police.
- They were called before the authorities at night.
- They were asked concerning their teaching.
- They were asked to report the names of other believers.
- When they did not turn over the names, they received some type of punishment, ranging from threats and fines to physical punishment or incarceration.
It should be no surprise to us that these things and worse are happening all around the world today. This is exactly what Jesus told us to expect.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.—Matthew 10:16–18
The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.—Matthew 10:24
American Christians have become so accustomed to the great freedoms afforded to us by our founding fathers that we sometimes forget that most of the world knows nothing of religious freedom. The reality is that the majority of our brothers and sisters in Christ have never known the freedoms that we take for granted. They were born in countries that do not consider individual liberty as a basic human right, and they were born again while living under political systems that deny basic human rights.
Even now, many Christians are languishing in prison cells separated from family and friends, not knowing if they will ever be reunited with those they love. In many cases their families do not even know if they are alive. Some researchers have estimated that 80 percent of the world’s believers are living in persecution.
As I thought about what happened to Jesus, and those I have met whose stories are mirrored in His, I realized that they not only identify in effect, but also in cause. The reason Jesus stood before the religious police was because He “spoke openly…to the world.”
My friends were not called to the police station because they were “believers” but because they were “followers.” They took seriously their Lord’s instructions to speak and teach those things that they had learned from God’s Word. They “spoke openly” and as a result they found themselves in conflict with an authoritarian system.
None of these men or women were seeking persecution, but neither did they shrink from it. They are not bitter, nor do they have self-pity. They are humble servants of Christ who are simply trying to live their lives as His followers. Some are pastors, most are not, but all of them are focused on eternity. They believe that this life is only preparation for the next, and their chief desire is to glorify God. They are not perfect. They struggle with all the temptations that are common to our race, but somehow they have caught a glimpse of the world to come. They are living with eternity in view.
It is my great privilege to attempt to be a friend and helper to those who are walking with Jesus in hard places.