Day 210: Matthew 24:10

Many will give up their faith at that time; they will betray one another and hate one another.

[This is the one of 15 scriptures in which Jesus provides his disciples with some details about the Second Coming of Christ.  For more on the Second Coming see Day 150.  For more on the Messiah see Day 145.  For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]

How will the disciples know when the end of the age is at hand?

Clue #5 – There will be discouragement, betrayal and hatred.

For the short term this was certainly true.  One of Jesus’ disciples (Judas) betrayed him, but in doing this he also betrayed the whole group.  Peter, the disciple whom Jesus calls the “rock” on which he will build his church (Day 146), denied Jesus three times to save his own skin.  When Jesus is crucified, the disciples were nowhere to be found.  The men have all run away.   Plenty of discouragement and betrayal.

When Jesus was crucified the only ones who remained faithful were the women:

There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee and helped him.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the wife of Zebedee (Matthew 27:55-56).

Two Marys.  Of all the people who followed Jesus only the two Marys are documented by Matthew as sticking around to be with him until the bitter end.  Maybe the two Marys still held on to hope that something good was going to happen.  Maybe they were there because they kept the faith.  They didn’t betray him, or deny him, or run away, or stay home behind closed doors.  They stayed with him.  They did the honorable thing.  Oh, by the way, in the Book of John the writer adds a third Mary, and he also inserts himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved”.  I guess Matthew and Mark didn’t see John there.  Oh wait, they weren’t there, so how would they know?  They were both off hiding out somewhere.  Who knows.  Maybe John was there in the spirit.  He was a pretty spiritual guy.  But the first and most reliable accounts given by Mark and Matthew only mention the two Marys.  Whatever.  I’m glad the women were mentioned because they were probably the only ones in Jesus’ inner circle who were actually there.  Usually the women in the Bible are invisible except for a few heroines and vixens.

Yes, it seems that in the very short term there was certainly discouragement and betrayal.  I’m sure there were some very hateful stuff going on, too.  But in the long run it seems that no amount of persecution could discourage the people from joining the followers of Jesus.

Here is a case where the movement grew despite the fact that Peter and John were arrested:

Peter and John were still speaking to the people when some priests, the officer in charge of the Temple guards, and some Sadducees arrived.  They were annoyed because the two apostles were teaching the people that Jesus had risen from death, which proved that the dead will rise to life. So they arrested them and put them in jail until the next day, since it was already late.  But many who heard the message believed; and the number grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:1-4)

Here is a case where the church leaders started to quarrel about finances (sound familiar?), but in the end they worked out their differences and some pagan priests were converted (how often does that happen?):

Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds.  So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter…The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them. And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a great number of priests accepted the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)

Finally, although some were forced to leave their homes and flee for their lives, they still didn’t get discouraged.  Instead they continued to spread Jesus’ message of love and peace and the expansion of the movement continued:

Some of the believers who were scattered by the persecution which took place when Stephen was killed went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, telling the message to Jews only.  But other believers, who were from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and proclaimed the message to Gentiles[b] also, telling them the Good News about the Lord Jesus.  The Lord’s power was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  (Acts 11:19-21).

So even though there were mass defections and betrayals and hatred, these things didn’t stop the movement from growing.  The message of Jesus was so revolutionary, so compelling, so intuitively good and true that nothing could stop its spread. No matter how messed up things may look, it’s not over till it’s over.

What does this scripture say to you?