Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
“I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will
put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those
who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.
And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.
But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you about them. I did not say these
things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”
It is treasured as the earliest known representation of Jesus and earliest known representation of His crucifixion. Historians date the image to A.D. 200 and the persecution of Christians by Roman Emperor Severus. Ironically, the image was not crafted as an aid to worship but as mockery of Jesus and any who worship Him.
This crude graffito was carved into plaster on a beam in the Paedagogium, a school for training young slaves for service in the emperor’s palace in Rome. The drawing depicts Jesus as a man with a donkey’s head, nailed to a cross. There is a man standing alongside Jesus with hand raised in worship toward Him. Etched into the plaster graffito are the Greek words: Alexamenos sebetai theon, “Alexamenos worships [his] God.” This earliest surviving image of our crucified Lord was meant to mock both Jesus and a Christian man named Alexamenos.
Tonight in the Upper Room Jesus forewarns His friends: “They will put you out of the synagogues.” Those are chilling words! “Without the protection of being recognized as part of the Jewish community, believers in Jesus…could lose their exemption from the imperial cult and (in some circumstances) be subject to charges of disloyalty to the state.” (New International Version Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible) Jewish disciples would know that being put out of the synagogues would have far-reaching consequences. They would be hunted down, persecuted, and even crucified for being Jesus’ friends.
Jesus says He forewarns His friends to keep them from “stumbling”. The Greek word translated “stumbling” is skandalizo, from which we get our word “scandalize”. It has the idea of being scandalized or offended by a person so as to lose trust in that person. Jesus does not want His friends to be scandalized, or lose faith in Him, by the persecution they will face. Persecution goes with the territory. From a Roman, underground dungeon, Paul wrote in his last surviving letter: “Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
For the “crime” of translating the Bible into English, William Tyndale was strangled to death, his body burned at the stake. When Tyndale was asked why he was so determined, even in the face of persecution, he replied: “I never expected anything else.” (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible)
Amy Carmichael went to India in the nineteenth century as a young, single, Irish woman. There she endured suffering and opposition as she ministered to young girls and rescued women from prostitution in pagan temples. Amy wrote a moving poem “Hast Thou No Scar?” in which she writes of Jesus as: “Wounded by the archers, spent. / Leaned against the tree to die, and rent / By ravening beasts that compass me…” Then Amy concludes with the question:
“Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound or scar?”
Jesus did say, “As Master shall the servant be.” Do I have wounds? Do I have scars? Have I followed Him far?
- What thoughts, what feelings, does Amy Carmichael’s poem stir in me?
Talk to Jesus about these.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)