John 15.20-21 cont.
20 Remember the word I said to you; a slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will Keep yours.
21 But, because of My name, they will do all these things to you, since they do not know the One who sent Me.
The persecution of the first believers started within the Jewish community. This began with the persecution of Jesus. As we know the Jewish authorities and the religious leaders were opposed to Jesus. He was even called Beelzebub, the prince of demons.
It was the Jewish authorities that arrested Jesus, took Him to Pilate and demanded His crucifixion.
It was the Jewish authorities from whom the disciples were hiding. It was the Jewish authorities who pursued the first believers, threatening them, imprisoning them. This was the mission that Saul (Paul) was on when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus.
As we know he was gloriously converted to Jesus.
He had to make his escape from Damascus for fear of the Jewish authorities.
Whereas most of the persecution was at the instigation of the Jews, it is also true to say that most of the first followers of Jesus were also Jews.
Their persecution was from amongst their own people.
W Barclay tells us that as the church grew and spread across the empire the Jews would have been instrumental in fuelling the persecution of the Christians. He tells us that Nero’s favourite actor was someone called Aliturus, who followed the Jewish faith. As did one of Nero’s wives, Popaea.
There were a number of Jewish adherents who had influence in high places, and who probably let their contempt for the Christians be known.
In the early days of the Church there were a number of accusations that the Christians were accused of, and for which they suffered persecution.
- They were accused of cannibalism. This was because during the breaking of bread the words of Jesus which were:
22) And as they were eating He took bread, blessing it He broke it and He gave it to them and said: “Take, this is my body.”
23) And He took a cup, giving thanks, He gave it to them and they all drank from it.
24) And He said to them: “This is my blood of the covenant that is being poured out on behalf of many” – Mark 14.22-24.
We still use these words today.
It can be easily seen how these words could be misinterpreted and used against the Christians, who celebrated the Lord’s Super in private.