Watch out, for there will be men who will arrest you and take you to court and they will whip you in the synagogues. For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles.
When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
[Jesus’ 12 disciples are sent out on a mission trip with these instructions. For background see Days 83-84.]
Jesus is sending his disciples out to heal and proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God. It seems like it should be innocuous enough. However, even if they do not share the revolutionary teachings of Jesus, they may be persecuted simply because they are his followers. And whipped in the synagogues? Can you imagine?
Yes, it was a very different world back then. In Jesus’ world there was no Internet, no phones, no television, no radio, no newspapers, no books, no communication. The only way information was disbursed was by word of mouth. Even so, word gets around when someone is causing a stir, expecially if that man has a reputation as a healer and a prophet.
Jesus has already said that he is sending his disciples out like sheep into a pack of wolves. He has tried to prepare them and manage their expectations. He is giving them both bad and good news.
The bad news: they will be arrested, physically tortured, and brought to trial.
The good news: the Holy Spirit will speak for them in court and in this manner their cause will be presented to the Gentiles.
I thought about this – getting arrested and using your court appearance as a public stage to get your message out. Nelson Mandela came to mind.
Of course everyone knows Nelson Mandela, the South African elder statesman who led the country out of the darkness of apartheid and racism to a new day of racial integration and equality. But there was a time when Nelson Mandela was not a beloved government official. There was a time when he was considered to be a both a dangerous terrorist and a communist.
Mandela became involved in politics at an early age and received a degree in law. Although he originally believed in non-violence, he eventually collaborated with the communists and co-founded an organization that led a bombing campaign orchestrated to overthrow the South African government. He was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964. At the opening of his trial, known as the Rivonia Trial, he delivered a powerful and brilliant statement about the cause for which he was about to be tried, about his own personal history, the history of his nation, and a detailed list of atrocities committed by the racist government. It’s a long speech, best remembered for the following statement:
This is the struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society, in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But, if needs be, my Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Mandela served 27 years in prison. As pressure to end apartheid mounted, South Africa was eventually pressured by the international community to release Mandela in 1990 amidst escalating civil strife. Mandela worked with the government to end institutional racism and end the violence. He was elected President and the rest is history.
One little detail here that I find interesting is that Jesus says the Spirit of God will speak through the disciples. I have heard some say that the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) wasn’t around until after Jesus died. Obviously this is not the case. Just thought I’d point that out. The Spirit wasn’t born in that upper room in Acts 2. The Spirit is God, and God has always been around and at work in human lives. People come up with a lot of goofy stuff.
Given that I don’t plan to be arrested any time soon, the main thing that I will take away from this is that you should never waste any opportunity to express the message of your heart if the public spotlight drifts your way. I always notice at those awards shows how the black people always give thanks to God, while the white people thank their families. I’m grateful for my family but it’s good to give God the glory whenever possible. But only if that’s what the Holy Spirit wants in that time and place. Jesus reminds us that the Spirit is both a great publicist and an excellent speech writer, so always ask the Spirit first. Always ask God.
What does this scripture say to you?