Summary: Jesus prepared His disciples for the realities of following Him.
Some Necessary News
The following account was recorded in a book of modern martyrs titled Jesus Freaks:
"It was the 1960s in Romania. The Communist torturers came towards Pastor Florescu again, this time with red-hot iron pokers. "Who else believes as you do? Give us their names." Florescu would not speak. They had already cut him again and again with knives and beaten him very badly. When he refused to cooperate, he was returned to his cell.
Starving rats were then driven into his cell through a large pipe. He could not sleep, having to defend himself at all times. If he rested a moment, the rats would attack him. He was forced to stand for two weeks, day and night. The Communists kept asking him to betray his brethren, but he resisted steadfastly.
In the end, they brought his fourteen-year-old son and began to whip the boy in front of his father, saying that they would continue to beat him until the pastor told them what they wanted to know. The poor man was half crazy. He bore it as long as he could. But when he could stand it no more, he cried to his son, "Alexander, I must say what they want! I can’t bear your beatings anymore!"
The son answered, "Father, don’t do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Withstand! If they kill me, I will die with the words, ’Jesus and my fatherland.’"
This enraged the Communists. They grabbed the young man and beat him to death in front of his father, spilling his blood in the very cell in which he had to live. He died praising God."
No doubt, most of us won’t ever endure anything like what I’ve just related to you, but many have and still do. It is obvious that in America today it is easy to be a Christian. You can call yourself a Christian in these days and believe just about anything you want to believe. People who call themselves Christians are seldom different from those who have never set foot in a church, read a Bible or prayed to the Lord. These are truly the days of easy-believism. But it hasn’t always been so.
As you read your Bibles, you ought to quickly notice that nowhere in the gospel accounts or in the various other New Testament writings do you ever find such a feel-good gospel preached. Peter wrote in his first letter,
"Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world." (1 Peter 4:12,13 NLT)
Writer Neal Postman got it right when he said, "I believe I’m not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing it is another kind of religion altogether."2 I think that he is right. Following Jesus is a serious matter. It is demanding, it will cost you something, and lest you begin to think that this subject is off the wall, let’s read our text in John 16.