“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you.” John 16.1-4
It’s always enlightening to read Scripture after returning from the Holy Land. After completing my most recent trip, I learned something about Jewish synagogues from the Archeological Museum in Jerusalem. They have relocated three synagogues and have them on display. They all look like old traditional churches, just out of order. They have a pulpit, an “altar” (which they call an ark) and pews for sitting and hearing the Word of God.
It was great to be able to see this as I read Jesus’ warning to his disciples about being “put out of the synagogue.” The early churches were modeled after these synagogues with a few modifications and additions. They became homes to these early believers who had to find a way to worship since Judaism closed their doors to Jesus and his movement.
With this relocation came the possibility of death by those who think they are serving God by killing Christians. Which makes me think of the bloody history of all religions (mainly Islam, Judaism and Christianity) as they either seek to co-exist or to eliminate one another. What Jesus predicted would come to pass — all but one of the disciples was said to have been martyred, and this continued for the next two hundred years until Rome adopted Christianity as its’ official religion.
Jesus reminds us that this persecution happens because unbelievers do not know him or the Father. There is a different spirit at work among humanity which causes others to do thinks contrary to the Law of God. Jesus communicated these words to his followers just moments before his own arrest, beating, flogging and death.
Not only did persecution come to the early believers, it comes for us too. As long as we are in this world we will have trouble but take heart, Jesus has overcome the world (John 16.33).
“O Lord God, recuperating from Israel means reflecting upon it. Seeing where you lived, moved and had your being is always such a joy. Sometimes we make too much though about earthly locations. You lived in Israel but now you’ve been resurrected and by your Holy Spirit live in all who believe. Give us the courage to face opposition in this life by taking a stand for your gospel with love, truth and grace. Help us face the world with your Word and your Spirit so that all might find salvation and hope in your name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen