The passage can be read here.
The titles found in the Bible are to help us, they are not inspired but they are very useful when you are trying to find a Bible passage. They are not always in the right place and sometimes may not sum up the passage that well but here I think the title in my Bible is about right; Warnings and Encouragements.
Jesus began by warning his disciples about the Pharisees. He describes their teachings as ‘yeast’ and states that it is hypocrisy. It was a charge Jesus made to the Pharisees many times, we saw it yesterday, appearing to be holy and pious and yet actually being wicked and sinful. Jesus said this for a reason, he warned the disciples of the dangers posed by the Pharisees because they were dangerous and they did fool people. Perhaps they appeared to be nice. Historians tell us that they were popular. Yet they were opposed to the Son of God and actively plotted against him. Yeast is a fungus, it’s a living thing, it spreads and will grow through a whole batch if given time. This false teaching was capable of spreading and contaminating the church. In the centuries since Jesus gave this warning, we have seen many dangerous false teachings attack the church. Some have been damaging. Heed the words of Jesus; ‘Be on your guard’.
Verse 10 is challenging and there are a number of views (of course there are). It seems from Mark’s Gospel that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is linked to the insult that Jesus was exorcising demons because he was Beelzebub (Mark 3:29-30). Personally, I believe blasphemy against the Spirit is when the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to a person and they harden their heart against him refusing to hear his call and come to Christ.
Jesus warned his followers about persecution. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that persecution came to the Church, Jesus warned in advance and he was persecuted more than anyone. He has a number of things to say; God knows all about it, he knows how many hairs we have on our heads and each individual sparrow, so he knows exactly what your situation is like. Keep perspective, if your eternal destiny is in God’s hands, what does it matter if you die? Stand up for Christ, acknowledge him even when it is difficult. Don’t worry about what to say because the Holy Spirit will be with you and he will know what to say.
As I sit at my desk, it’s easy to talk about persecution and how to deal with it, until I think of my brothers and sisters in Christ giving their lives for Jesus. A few weeks ago, 21 Christians were beheaded in Libya by IS. Nicky Gumble tweeted this earlier this week;
“All 21 beheaded Egyptian Christians, given the opportunity to convert, chose not to. As they were killed, each called out: “Jesus is Lord.”
Hebrews 11:36 says; “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.”
Lord we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering today. May they know your peace and power in difficult circumstances. May we stand with them, supporting them in our prayers and by any other means available.