JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES’ FUTURE
Just as much as He prepared them to be His witnesses whenever and wherever the opportunity presented, Jesus also made sure that His disciples were well prepared for what lay ahead for them as loyal followers. Life for them would not be a bed of roses. Association with Him meant danger and possible death because they were not above their Master. As He was, so were they in the world.
Jesus had much to say about His disciples’ future, again not to satisfy their curiosity but to enable them to face it with the right attitude and the right equipment. Unlike our many prophecy boffins who are passionate about setting up time-lines, Jesus did not give them a time-table so that they could tick off events as they happened, but He gave them signs which they would be able to recognise, to know that His return was going to happen.
Our prophecy teachers draw charts, make predictions and presumptuous interpretations and love to place us somewhere… here… on the chart. Jesus, on the other hand, gave guidelines to His disciples so that they would always be ready, no matter when He comes. He did not give them any opportunity to sail as close to the wind as possible. Life was about being a mirror of their rabbi so that they would always represent Him to the world around them, no matter what, when or where.
Jesus told them many things about their immediate future. For them it was not a rosy picture! They would share the same hatred and rejection that He experienced because they were His followers. They had to understand that the human race was at enmity with God. Anyone who stood on God’s side would share the treatment He got – therefore it should not take them by surprise. How were they to respond?
Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matt. 10: 17-20)
Whatever Jesus had to say about the future of the individual disciple or all of His disciples was intended to prepare them so that, when it happened, they would know exactly how to handle each situation. He was sending them out like lambs among wolves but they would have a divine companion who was not only with them but in them. The Holy Spirit in them would equip them with the truth. Like Jesus, they were to use the weapon of the Word with which to fight. The outcome was not their responsibility. If people refused to believe the truth, they would have to face the consequences of their choices.
Jesus not only equipped them with information about the future so that they would know what to expect and how to respond in times of adversity; He also warned them against developing wrong attitudes to the apparent delay of His return.
The people in Noah’s day refused to believe Noah’s warning that the flood was coming. They continued to live their God-denying lives until the moment when the rain fell and they were swept away in the flood. Jesus’s return will be as unexpected as that!
The home-owner has no idea that a thief is about to break into his house. Had he known, he would have kept watch to protect his possessions. The household servant who gets tired of waiting for the master’s return begins to carouse and to abuse his fellow servants. When the master returns unexpectedly and finds the household in disarray and the duties left undone, the head steward will be punished for his neglect and abuse.
The point of these stories was to warn His disciples not to fall into the trap of neglect. For them it was less important to know when Jesus was returning than to know that He was coming back. It was not about doing the right thing when He returned as it was about being faithful all the time, regardless of when He returned. This is the heart of a true servant – not putting on an act for the Master to see, but being faithful to the task whether He is there or not. It was this attitude that would safeguard His disciples against being caught off guard.
As followers of Jesus, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that it does not matter how we live as long as we believe in Jesus. We must also not think, like some of the people of the world think, that we can live as we like until the last minute and then put things right with God. If we have followed through this series, we have learned that being a disciple of Jesus means that we have learned to walk in the truth of God’s Word which is the only way to the Father. When we choose our own way, we get lost in the wilderness and will die in the desert without the sustenance of God’s life in us.
How important it is for us to stay on the path by following the voice of our Shepherd! This is the only guarantee that we shall reach our destination and enjoy the life of God forever in His eternal kingdom.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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