Dimitri was concerned about his boys. They knew little about their faith and their God. Living in rural Russia the closest church a 3 day walk, Dimitri realized that only he could do something to help them grow in their faith as followers of Jesus. So he began reading to them the Bible.
· That reading turned into weekly teaching that the family loved and embraced...a kind of Sunday School. In time they added songs and worship
· And eventually because the houses were close together others heard/noticed and asked if they could listen and participate
· Though not trained Dimitri did his best to lead this pop up church
· This little church grew to 25 and got the attention of communist authorities who began threatening Dimitri
· At 50 people - Dimitri was fired from his job , wife lost teaching position , boys expelled from school
· At 75 they ran out of room in his small home …one night door burst open officer and soldiers rushed in, slapped Dimitri and threatened imprisonment …which only fueled the passion for the church
· At 150 they arrested him sent to jail. And for the next 17 years His family lived in poverty and misery, pain and tragedy.
This is persecution. Persecution is a normal and expected outcome in the life of a follower of Jesus who courageously and insistently proclaims the name of Jesus calling others to repentance and faith.
Where the name of Jesus is proclaimed there will be persecution.
· Note: “proclaimed” = courageously and insistently among those who do not believe.
o Not talking about public church services among believers
o Not talking about private worship experiences with your family in your home
o Not talking about taking moral stands on issues
o This is about in-your-face evangelism to skeptics, cynics and unbelievers.
Where the name of Jesus is proclaimed there will be persecution…and accompanying miracles.
· Where the name of Jesus is not proclaimed courageously and insistently there will be no persecution nor any accompanying miracles.
Since early June we’ve been exploring our nick name – Christian. Our thesis or strongly felt suspicion is that it has lost whatever meaning it had.
· It began as an insult – these little Christs
· It was adopted as a badge of honor - yes, I am a little Christ
· But it has become a vaguely religious nickname – more political than spiritual.
· It bears little resemblance to its original heroic association with Jesus.
So…we’ve been trying to figure out who we are now. For those of us who have thoughtlessly called ourselves Christian…what did Jesus have in mind for us? How do we recapture the original wonder and power of a person who associates themselves with Jesus Christ, the son the living God?
Mark 6: 1 page ____________
In this part of the story Jesus and his disciples had been hanging out on the north side of the Sea of Galilee but they suddenly turn west…
1 Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown (40 miles away) 2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. 4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. Mark 6:1-6
· Nazareth (not in the passage but implied) – hometown
o Obviously born in Bethlehem but grew up in Nazareth
§ Nazareth obscure outside of the gospels - What little we know indicate that it was about 500 people in a village in 60 acres cut into a rocky hillside
· Clearly his reputation had preceded him – “where did he get the wisdom and power to do miracles”
o And…Because of his reputation and influence he was given the opportunity to speak as a visiting teacher in the synagogue
o This was likely the first chance for his fellow Nazarenes to hear him
· Though amazed clearly they were skeptical:
o V2 “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?”
o They knew him and his family:` watched him grow up
§ Jesus had at least 4 brothers and an uncertain number of sisters
§ Likely his father had died by this time
o They knew what his history - Carpenter
§ Or stone mason or black smith
§ Tradesman…respected but NOT a rabbi
§ And…not linked to a known rabbi
· i.e. he didn’t have a degree…
Here we see the roots of persecution being formed.
· Began with V 3 - scoffing (implied) and patronization.
o Who does he think he is?
· Mocking and belittling
o “son of Mary” – not normal to refer to him by his mom and not his dad (tho he be dead)
§ May have been a reference to the rumor that he was illegitimate
§ Note: other gospels indicated his siblings thought he was out of his mind
· Personal Offense
o They were scandalized = upset to the point of abandonment
o They may have even seen his power as coming from an evil source
· Ultimately Unbelief in Jesus
Jesus reaction was to take a common phrase of the day and tweek it a bit… “Prophet without honor in his own country”
· Familiarity breeds contempt – how many of you have experienced this? Family or friends who scoff at your faith?
Now I want to repeat…this only shows us the roots of persecution …This was only the beginning because Jesus made it clear that persecution would go much deeper and ultimately be more deadly:
Other of Jesus’ predictions:
Do you remember what I told you? Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. John 15:20
Beware! You will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. Matthew 10:17
You will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. Matthew 24:9
You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. Luke 21:12
Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Luke 10:3
Where the name of Jesus is proclaimed there will be persecution.
Reminder: “proclaimed” = courageously and insistently among those who do not believe.
· Persecution…violence akin to wolf attacking sheep is a product of evangelism not morality
I hear from time to time this concern that Christians are being persecuted because Starbucks doesn’t put Merry Christmas on their cups. Please.
· Or because 10 Commandments aren’t permitted on the lawn of some state capital
· Or because we can’t pray in school anymore.
That’s not persecution. Call it dismissal or even discrimination if you’d like but please don’t call it persecution.
· Real persecution is what Iraqi Christians are today facing true violent persecution as are Egyptian Coptic Christians
o personal injury, property destruction, loss of employment, imprisonment, slavery, rape, harm and death.
· Real Persecution is what Brother Carlton and his family have been facing in Calcutta, IN :
o Friend of Maron and Jed Gaffron
· Lord Jesus Ministry – Calcutta – school focuses on street kids
· Persecution began in 2003
· In a recent letter to Maron:
o The Muslim property owner where we were residing as tenants for more than a hundred years began to spread rumors that we were converting Muslims to Christianity and giving them pork to eat. Day by day the protestors grew to hundreds then thousands. From time to time they would go to my house and terrorize my family with weapons and a number of times my family members got injured. 3 times during this period they planned to murder me
o In 2009,duing the month of Ramadan they police appeared with a fabricated order from the court to demolish one of our rooms of my home where my children were sleeping,And did not permit us to even clean up the rubble or bring repairs. The home is still covered with plastic and we must bail out the water in a monsoon.
o May family and kids have suffered…without proper meals and clothing. We have had to beg door to door looking for help.
o Many time the Muslim priest came to me and said you can continue with the social work but you need to change the name to Mohamed, unfortunately many Christian people surprised me and said that your suffering is because of the name of Lord Jesus all you need to do is change the name and there will be no problem.
That is persecution and as bad as it is…even Brother Carlton’s persecution pales in comparison to the stories I have been reading this past month in the book the Insanity of God.
· Nik Ripken – years in Somalia
o Horrors and tragedy
o Death of 4 believers
o Death of his own son
· Left him reeling with questions:
o How is it possible for faith to survive in an insane environment?
o How can someone live the abundant Christian life in the world’s hardest places?
o Can Christianity work outside of western dressed-up, well ordered nations?
o Is the gospel strong enough to overcome the forces of evil?
o Is Jesus the answer to the human condition or is he not?
· On a quest to find those who had seen the power of God in action
o 600 interviews – 75 nations
Here are some of his conclusions:
One of the most accurate ways to detect and measure the activity of God is to note the amount of opposition that is present. The stronger the persecution the more significant the spiritual vitality of the believers.
Where there is persecution you will find the courageous proclamation of Jesus. If there is no courageous proclamation of Jesus, you will not find any persecution.
Nik Ripken, the Insanity of God
So, American Christians…what are we to make of all this?
What does this say of our so called faith?
Are we living as lambs among wolves as Jesus said we would, if we indeed bear his name?
Where the name of Jesus is proclaimed there will be persecution and accompanying miracles.
Where the name of Jesus is not proclaimed courageously and insistently there will be no persecution nor any accompanying miracles.
Finish the Story of Dimitri