Testimony, Mission, Endurance

SYNOPSIS – Next, Jesus warns that persecution will provide the disciples with the opportunity to testify to the nations for him – Mark 13:9-13

Globe - small - Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unspla
The next paragraph in the ‘Olivet Discourse’ expands on the opening warning against “deceivers” who work from within the church to deceive the “elect.” Both paragraphs begin with the same clause – “Take ye heed to yourselves,” and this is no coincidence.

The disciples also will experience persecution before Jewish and pagan authorities. However, there is a method to this madness, for the very act of putting a disciple on trial will provide him or her with the opportunity to testify for Jesus. This is an integral part of how the gospel of the kingdom of God is proclaimed to all nations.

  • (Mark 13:9) – “But take ye heed to yourselves: for they will deliver you up to councils; and in synagogues will you be beaten; and before governors and kings will you stand for my sake, for a testimony to them.
The disciples will be “delivered up to councils.” The last term translates the Greek noun synedrion, the term used elsewhere for the “Sanhedrin.” Here, the plural form is used to indicate persecution by the many local Jewish councils in Judea with the authority to punish Jews who deviated from doctrinal norms and practices. This points to persecution within Jewish contexts.

Delivered up” represents the same Greek verb applied elsewhere in Mark to the betrayals of John the Baptist and Jesus for arrest and execution – (paradidômi). The usage is not coincidental. Disciples of Jesus are called upon to endure the same kind of treatment that their Lord endured:
  • (Mark 1:14) – “Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.”
  • (Mark 10:33) – “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered unto the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles.
You shall be beaten in synagogues.” In Matthew, the clause uses a different Greek verb and reads, “flogged in synagogues.” The book of Acts provides examples of early Christians being flogged and otherwise punished by synagogue rulers - (Acts 4:1-21, 5:17-40, 6:11-15, 22:19, 23:1-2).

To give testimony before “governors and kings” is part of the mission to proclaim the gospel to all nations. The description points to a broader Gentile context for the early church when it expanded its missionary efforts beyond Jewish groups and individuals. with some examined before pagan authorities - “Governors and kings.” Thus, Jesus predicted the persecution of his followers by both Jewish and secular authorities.

  • (Mark 13:10) – “And the gospel must first be preached unto all the nations.”
In the gospel of Mark, it is not immediately clear what Jesus meant by “first.” However, in the larger context, it must mean that this task must occur before “all these things are accomplished” – (“What shall be the sign when these things are all about to be accomplished?”).

This understanding is confirmed by the fuller statements from the version of the ‘Discourse’ found in Matthew:
  • (Matthew 24:3, 14) – “What shall be the sign of your coming, and of the conclusion of the age?...And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole habitable earth for a testimony to all the nations; and then will the end come.
At the start of the ‘Discourse,’ the disciples asked Jesus “when” would the Temple be destroyed, and “what” would be the “sign” of his return and the end of the age? Up to this point, he has not answered the first question; however, at least in part, he has provided the answer to the second one – The completion of the proclamation of his gospel “to all the nations.”

  • (Mark 13:11-13) – “And when they lead you to judgment and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what you will speak: but whatsoever will be given you in that hour, that speak - for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child; and children will rise against parents and cause them to be put to death. And ye will be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end, the same will be saved.
Note well the stress on disciples being betrayed by “brothers” - Persecution will cause some disciples to turn against one another, outing fellow believers to persecuting authorities. But faithful believers must not despair – What their enemies intend for their humiliation and destruction God will turn into opportunities for witness. Not only so, but He will provide them the very words needed to do so by His Spirit.

You will be hated by all men for my name.” The gospel of Matthew reads, “hated by all nations.” It boils down to the same thing. The gospel proclaimed by Jesus is contrary to the “wisdom” and the ways of the present fallen age, especially those of the religious and political establishments – The hatred and persecution of anyone who dares to emulate his life and teachings are inevitable - (Compare - Acts 16:20-24, 24:1, 25:1-26:32).

At this point in Matthew, Jesus adds - “And many false prophets shall arise and deceive many.” Betraying fellow believers to persecuting authorities is not just a self-defense mechanism. The influences of the “deceivers” and “false prophets” operating within the church will contribute to this sad reality. A time will come when “brothers” and friends that betray fellow believers to persecuting authorities will think they are doing God a favor.

What counts in the end is faithful endurance in witness AND tribulations. Regardless of the efforts by deceivers and persecutors, only “he who endures throughout shall be saved.” Persecution for his sake is not an aberration but an integral part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Persecution is the fertile ground in which the gospel flourishes - It creates the opportunity to testify to the nations about Jesus.


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