“Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right” (Celtic Daily Prayer). Pray that today.
Read Mark 3:20-35
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). It happened to Jesus, to Paul, and it can happen to us.
Mark now draws attention to the growing intensity of Jesus’ conflict with the religious authorities. A group of scribes, experts in Jewish Law, had been sent from Jerusalem for the sole purpose of attacking and discrediting Jesus. The absurdity of their accusations, indicative of their level of desperation, would have been utterly laughable if not for their evil intent (6). Jesus’ defense was simple and undeniable: the purity and effectiveness of his actions. The casting out of demons, a transparent act of opposition to Satan, demonstrated the power of absolute good over evil.
What can explain the Pharisees’ implacable and vehement hostility to Jesus? How could his actions and teaching have generated such enmity? Jesus’ holiness was an offense to their hypocrisy and selfishness, and his authority and power was a potent threat to their status and security. But was there more to it? Were they so blinded by their misplaced ambitions that they actually believed what they were saying about Jesus, that he was a tool of Satan? This would explain Jesus’ dreadful warning in v. 29.
Bitter and irrational hostility has confronted the incoming kingdom of God in every age. Jesus warned that this would happen (Matt. 10:16-20). Even as I write, Christian sisters and brothers are being persecuted, often violently, and denied the freedom to worship for no other reason than the malevolence or insecurity of political or religious leaders. In other places, the faith that sustains us is publicly caricatured and ridiculed with venom far beyond any reasonable satire of the church’s inevitable foibles. This is different, of course, from the antagonism and opposition generated by Christians behaving badly which, sadly, is also part of the church’s history.
Focus your mind and heart on the plight of Christians whose faithfulness to Christ is putting them in danger today. Then, pray for some you know of.
Holy Father, I lift up to You my brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith. Empower and enable them, and be to them an overwhelming, helping presence.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.