Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me…. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9, 14
Traian Dorz, a 20th century Romanian poet and Christian, spent over 16 years of his life in prison under the communist regime. As the spiritual leader of a renewal movement in the Romanian Orthodox Church, Dorz was severely persecuted for his missionary activities and writings. In prison he wrote over 200 hymns, and his lifetime work includes 5,000 works of poetry and prose emphasizing the victory of the crucified and resurrected Christ. Dorz was released from prison in 1964 under a general amnesty, but he spent the rest of his life under house arrest until his death in 1989. Though unknown to most of the world outside of Romania, Dorz is a modern example of proclamation, faithfulness, and perseverance in the face of persecution and suffering, something Jesus spoke of bluntly to his first followers.
Jesus’ disciples wanted to know when Jesus was going to establish his Messianic rule on earth. They wanted to know when the things Jesus spoke of regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple would take place. They were assuming that Jesus would establish his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem and that it would last forever. And they wanted to know when. Jesus’ shocking answer was that suffering and persecution should be expected. He described a very sobering reality for his disciples, but then he exhorted and comforted them. They should be faithful and wise, and they should persevere in the midst of all the chaos that would be normal (vv. 5-12). He promised them the gospel of the kingdom would be proclaimed and heralded to the whole world before the end would come.
Suffering. Persecution. Turmoil. Proclamation. Perseverance. Faithfulness. These have all held true in every age since Jesus’ time. According to tradition, all the first apostles died as martyrs, with the exception of John. Today, Christians are still the most persecuted religious group in the world. Yet in the midst of it, the church is called to proclaim the gospel to the whole word, to persevere, and to remain faithful.
PONDER: What has been your response to persecution or suffering because of your faith?
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• SONGS OUT OF SUFFERING •
Appointed as Bishop of Orléans by Charlemagne, Theodulf served as a scholar, church reformer, educator, and theological advisor to the emperor. After the death of Charlemagne in 814, his empire began to crumble as his sons battled for power over his empire. One of these sons, Louis the Pious, suspected Theodulf of treason and stripped him of his position and honors. He was imprisoned in a monastery for the rest of his life. Alone in his cell, he composed the verses of this great hymn of faith often sung on Palm Sunday, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.” Theodulf lost the favor of an earthly emperor but continued to praise his heavenly emperor.
All glory, laud, and honor to you, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring. You are the King of Israel and David’s royal Son,
now in the Lord’s name coming,
the King and Blessed One.
The company of angels is praising you on high;
and we with all creation in chorus make reply.
The people of the Hebrews with palms before you went; our praise and prayer and anthems
before you we present.
To you before your passion they sang their hymns of praise; to you, now high exalted, our melody we raise.
As you received their praises,
accept the prayers we bring,
for you delight in goodness, O good and gracious King!
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Jesus had many private discussions with his disciples. Read Matthew 24:3-14. In this passage he is explaining what it will be like before he returns. What does it mean for you to stand firm in your faith? Who in your life needs to hear the Good News about Jesus? Why is it important that the news of Jesus spreads to the whole world?
The disciples suffered many things for their belief and proclamation of the gospel, as still happens for many believers around the world today. In verses 13 and 14, Jesus gives us hope that believers who stand firm and preach the news of the kingdom will be saved. How far are you willing to go to see the news of the kingdom spread?