Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:23b “. . .for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the
cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”
Jesus urged prudence. It is okay to flee persecution as long as we do not deny Christ or hurt the faith. Martyrdom appears noble, but can be wasteful. Leaving can be as heroic as staying, for much work always needs to be done elsewhere.
It is difficult to know what “till the Son of man be come” refers to. Possibilities include the end of this short-term mission trip, the Transfiguration, Christ’s resurrection, Pentecost, the destruction of Jerusalem, or Jesus’ Second Coming.
Whatever it refers to, its intent is clear. Don’t needlessly sacrifice a life, for even with every one of the disciples working together as long and hard as possible, they will not accomplish all that needs to be done before Jesus comes back to end their individual and/or collective work. Lives are too few and too short to accomplish all Christ wants done. Thus we must all stay at it with all our might till Jesus Himself comes to end our efforts. He alone can decide when our work is done.
Matt. 10:24 “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his
Even with permission granted to flee persecution, Christ’s followers often find their lot difficult. In the school of life, Jesus is Teacher, we are pupils; He is Master, we are disciples; He is Lord, we are servants; He is exalted, we are underlings. Therefore, believers should never expect to be treated better than Jesus was. Our Leader was persecuted, we followers should not anticipate kinder treatment.
Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. . . .If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (JN 15:18,20).
Is Jesus revered in our culture? Yes, if you mean the mythical, sissified, spineless figure people often make Him out to be. It is easy to like a Jesus created in our own image, made after our likeness, who agrees with everything we believe, and okays all we do. Is Jesus revered in our culture? No, if you mean the historical, true, actual figure of the Bible. Our society does not revere Jesus when His words about being the only way to Heaven are heard, when His commands on holiness are brought forth, when His standards of clean living are plainly stated.
The world does not like the real Jesus, and since He is not revered, we His followers should not expect to be respected. What Jesus stands for, we stand for.
What prompted society at large to persecute Christ is also in us. If we never receive flak from the world, do self-inventory. It may indicate we have more of the world’s spirit in us than the Master’s, for the world loves its own (JN 15:19).
Matt. 10:25a “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master,. . .”
Expect no better lot than Jesus had, and don’t ask for it. It is “enough” to be like Him. It is sufficient, okay, to be like Him. We are contented to share His lot. “The disciple desires nothing more and settles for nothing less” (MacArthur).
William Bagby, pioneer Southern Baptist missionary, arrived in Brazil in 1881. While preaching, a thrown brick gashed open his forehead. For the rest of his life, Bagby considered the huge scar on his forehead a trophy, a badge of honor. Why? Because he believed it is enough for the disciple to be like his master.
Gautimozin, Mexican Emperor, and his noblemen were tortured on the rack by soldiers of Cortez. One nobleman kept complaining of the pain until the Emperor said, “Do you think I lie on roses?” With that, he ceased complaining, and died in silence, being reminded, it is enough for the disciple to be like his master.
When our sufferings seem unbearable, remember Christ, and pity self no longer. The Teacher was humble and lowly, the pupil should be, too. The exalted One shouldered abuse, the underling should, too. The Lord was ill treated, the servant should acquiesce to it, too. It is enough for the disciple to be like his master.
The issue is resemblance. We may follow with faltering step, but we follow nonetheless, as the first believers did. John, like his Master, loved. Stephen, like his Leader, prayed for those who slew him. Paul, like his Teacher, embraced Gentiles. Peter, like his Lord, cared for Jews. The underlings resembled the exalted One. People “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (AC 4:13).
The purpose of Christian discipleship is to become increasingly like the Master we love and admire. Jesus set the example for us. He strove to be like someone else He loved and admired, His Father. Jesus sought to reproduce what He saw His Father doing. To Christ, the issue ultimately was not Himself, but someone else, a valued role model, the Father. Similarly, for saints it’s not about us, it’s about someone else we cherish and want to imitate, Jesus, who said, “Everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (LK 6:40 NAS).
In our culture, we rarely see apprenticeships, discipleship as it were, where a student is expected to conform to a teacher’s image and likeness. We certainly learn much from our teachers, and want to emulate them in many ways, but this does not come anywhere close to approaching what Christian discipleship entails.
I draw an example from the “Star Wars” movies that have fascinated our culture the last twenty years. In that series, Jedi Knight apprentices are expected to uphold good by becoming like their masters. In one of the series’ final scenes, famous for Yoda’s quote, “When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not,” the aged master, who remained good for centuries, dies with young Luke at his side. The message comes through loud and clear. Through the ages, Yoda’s stand on behalf of good has been unwavering. He has withstood evil, made a positive difference, lived a life worth imitating. The only hope for good to prevail over evil is for young Luke to live the rest of his days being just like Yoda. Luke was finally able to do this because he accurately assessed the value of Yoda’s life.
We Christians instinctively want our lives to count. For this to happen, we must realize our individual lives are not that consequential in and of themselves.
For our lives to count, we have to move more and more toward the one life that counted most, that ultimately mattered in human history, the life of Jesus. He is Master-Teacher in the sense of being our Ideal of what the best, noblest life is.
Do we appreciate the worth and beauty of Jesus’ life? Do we believe He lived the best life ever lived? Until we accept His life as having been the supreme life worth living, we will not want to reproduce it in our lives. As long as it’s about us, we won’t let our life be swayed by the deep seated principles that swayed Him.
The Christian life entails living again the life of Christ, reenacting His ways, ideas, and perspectives. A worthy disciple of Jesus does consciously and eventually almost unconsciously what he has seen his Master do. We walk His footsteps, see with His eyes, hear with His ears, feel with His heart, touch with His hand.
In sharing the Master’s knowledge, attitude, character, and treatment we are assured we also share the Master’s life. Resemblance gives confidence we’re His.
A missionary, feeling warm blood streaming down from a wound inflicted on him due to his faith, exclaimed, “Now I am a Christian.” Blandina the martyr, being tortured, cried out often in her agony, “Christiana sum,” “A Christian I am.”
These two were not talking about being born again, as if suffering causes salvation. They were saying that in their willingness to be persecuted as Christ was, in their being like Him, they were sensing they truly were His followers. May we find the joy of knowing it is enough for the disciple to be like his master.