THE KING’S MESSENGER AND THE KING’S SUFFERINGS
“The scholar is not above his teacher, nor is the slave above his master. It is enough for the scholar that he should be as his teacher, and the servant that he should be as his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzeboul, how much more shall they so call the members of his household.”
It is Jesus’ warning to his disciples that they must expect what happened to him to happen to them. The Jews well knew this sentence: “It is enough for the slave to be as his master.” In the later days they were to use it in a special way. In A.D. 70 Jerusalem was destroyed, and destroyed so completely that a plough was drawn across t,ie devastation. The Temple of God and the Holy City were in ruins. The Jews were dispersed throughout the world, and many of them mourned and lamented about the terrible fate which had befallen them personally. It was then that the Rabbis said to them: “When God’s Temple has been destroyed, how can any individual Jew complain about his personal misfortunes?”
In this saying of Jesus there are two things.
(i) There is a warning. There is the warning that, as Christ had to carry a cross, so also the individual Christian must carry a cross. The word that is used for members of his household is the one Greek word oikiakoi (GSN3615). This word has a technical use; it means the members of the household of a government official: that is to say, the official’s staff. It is as if Jesus said, “If I, the leader and commander, must suffer, you who are the members of my staff cannot escape.” Jesus calls us, not only to share his glory, but to share his warfare and his agony; and no man deserves to share the fruits of victory, if he refuses to share the struggle of which these fruits are the result.
(ii) There is the statement of a privilege. To suffer for Christ is to share the work of Christ; to have to sacrifice for the faith is to share the sacrifice of Christ. When Christianity is hard. we can say to ourselves, not only, “Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod,” we can also say, “Brothers, we are treading where the feet of Christ have trod.”
There is always a thrill in belonging to a noble company. Eric Linklater in his autobiography tells of his experience in the disastrous March retreat in the First World War. He was with the Black Watch, and they had emerged from the battle with one officer, thirty men, and a piper left of the battalion. “The next day, marching peacefully in the morning light of France along a pleasant road we encountered the tattered fragments of a battalion of the Foot Guards, and the piper, putting breath into his bag, and playing so that he filled the air like the massed bands of the Highland Division, saluted the tall Coldstreamers, who had a drum or two and some instruments of brass, that made also a gallant music. Stiffly we passed each other, swollen of chest, heads tautly to the right, kilts swinging to the answer of the swagger of the Guards, and the Red Hackle in our bonnets, like the monstrance of a bruised but resilient faith. We were bearded and stained with mud. The Guards–the fifty men that were left of a battalion–were button-bright and clean shaved–we were a tatter-demalion crew from the coal mines of Fife and the back streets of Dundee, but we trod quick-stepping to the brawling tune of `Hietan’ Laddie’, and suddenly I was crying with a fool’s delight and the sheer gladness of being in such company.” It is one of life’s great thrills to have the sense of belonging to a goodly company and a goodly fellowship.
When Christianity costs something we are closer than ever we were to the fellowship of Jesus Christ; and if we know the fellowship of his sufferings, we shall also know the power of his resurrection.
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