This is today’s study in the Methodist Church’s A Word in Time series.
5Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray.6Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
9 ‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10And the good newsmust first be proclaimed to all nations. 11When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;13and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
“Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray.’” (vv. 5-6)
In the media race for our attention, the crucial thing is to build up an online profile. Using Facebook and Twitter (both probably too old school now), Instagram, Snapchat and many other platforms, anyone who aspires to be a superstar has to be followed by millions.
It’s impossible to opt out and retreat into anonymity if you want people to follow you. Of course, if you don’t keep your latest exploits where everyone can see them, you will fast become irrelevant.
Today’s conversation between Jesus and the disciples came about because his followers were being seduced by the opulence and grandeur of the temple.
“As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.'” (Mark 13:1-2)
Instead of believing the Jewish religious leaders’ publicity machine, they needed to realise what mattered: did they want to defend the symbol of faith or the one the symbol was pointing to?
“Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray” (v. 6).
Jesus knew that his preaching of the kingdom of God had angered the Jewish priests and leaders. He knew the pressure would be on his followers to recant their stories as false teachers and even family disputes threatened the in-breaking kingdom of God.
We read later in the Bible: “Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).
It’s difficult to “consider it … joy” when you feel all the media messages are against your way of life, but while our Instagram account may not be followed by millions our Saviour’s profile is one we are urged to share.
- Is it a problem or a bonus that the Church doesn’t have money for multi-million pound publicity campaigns? Why?
- How do we help people “consider it … joy” when they face trials in their life? What pastoral gifts have you found helpful?