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Last year I finally got around to writing about the history of Valentine’s Day.

Since then, a bit more information has come in!

Let the story continue …

The French site l’Internaute has quite the summary of everything we always wanted to know about February 14, and is the source for the next few sections below.

Lupercalia

In ancient Rome Lupercalia was held every year on February 15. It was a year-end celebration of Faunus Lupercus, the god of fertility, shepherds and their flocks. It was also a rite of purification prior to the New Year, which fell on March 1.

The festival had three ceremonies. The first involved the pagan priests sacrificing a goat in the grotto of Lupercal, the wolf who nourished Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome.

The remains of the goat were then used in the ritual which followed. The priests daubed young members of noble families with the goat’s blood which was a purification rite, representing a symbolic cleansing of the shepherds.

No doubt other animals were sacrificed, because the priests kept the blood and the skins for a race through the streets of Rome. They daubed themselves in blood, as they had done to the young noblemen. The skins served as a covering and switches. The priests and noblemen wore some of the skin and carried switches with which to whip people as they ran down the streets. Women were particularly eager for this, because it was said that a whipping was said to give a happy pregnancy and painless childbirth. (This is not the only pagan tradition in Europe where men used to whip women in late winter or early Spring. Central Europe has Dyngus Day, which takes place on Easter Monday and may extend to Easter Tuesday, when women get their own back on the men. No doubt there were more.)

Lupercalia culminated in a great banquet, where men chose their dining partners. This sometimes led to marriage.

It is also worth remembering that the story of Cupid and Psyche was part of Roman mythology.

Pope Gelasius I

Even once most Romans had converted to Christianity, Lupercalia continued to be celebrated.

In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I wanted to put a stop to the festivities. He wrote a letter to Senator Andromachus in which he listed his objections to the pagan revelry. Gelasius criticised the immoral behaviour displayed and pointed out that the pagan worship and rituals did nothing against the disease epidemics which plagued the city 20 years before.

However, Andromachus was fond of Lupercalia and refused to forbid the celebrations.

Gelasius had no choice but to urge Christians to turn the day into one of true love. He chose February 14 to commemorate St Valentine as the patron saint of lovers. However, Wikipedia says that Gelasius initiated Candlemas — February 2 — and encouraged devotion to Mary, recalling her purity. Incidentally, February comes from februare, meaning ‘to purify’.

Middle Ages

February 14 was not widely celebrated in Europe until the Middle Ages.

No doubt the notion of chivalry which was popular at that time gave rise to gentleness and honour on the part of men towards women.

Some pagan elements remained, even though the Continent was Christian by this time. A ‘love lottery’ took place in several European countries. Young people drew names of a partner of the opposite sex and wore that person’s name on their sleeves for the following week. On the first Sunday of Lent, the Bonfire Festival took place. A ‘knight’ — a Valentine (see my post for an explanation) — from the February 14 draw was appointed to head the festival. He was accompanied by a young woman. They led a procession around their town or village. The people carried small torches to burn weeds and smoke out garden pests, such as moles, in order to ensure a good crop during the summer months. The festivities concluded with a bonfire.

It was also during this era that young women paid attention to the birds they saw during this time. Some species were said to indicate what sort of men they would marry. A robin indicated a sailor. A sparrow designated a man of modest means who would keep her happy. A goldfinch was said to presage marriage to a wealthy man.

The cross as ‘x’ — and a kiss

The ‘x’ has been used by Christians since the earliest days of the Church.

Initially, an ‘x’ at the bottom of a message indicated a thousand kisses.

The ‘x’ recalled the cross on which St Andrew, the apostle, died. He, like St Peter, did not consider himself worthy to die the same way our Lord did. Also like Peter, Andrew died as a martyr. He had gone to preach in what is now the Balkans and was crucified in Patras in the Peloponnese. During his lifetime, he had travelled all the way to what, today, is Kiev. Therefore, it is not surprising that after his death a great devotion arose to him.

The custom of the illiterate signing their names with an ‘x’ began in the Middle Ages. Those who did so had to then kiss that cross as a sign that they were telling the truth in court or another situation involving the law. Remember, the printing press was still to come, so Bibles were rare.

From this and from the earliest days of the Church, the ‘x’ came to symbolise a kiss.

Shakespeare

Last year’s post looked at Valentine’s customs through the Renaissance.

The source for the following material comes from The Telegraph’s 2010 article, ‘History of Valentine’s Day’.

By the early 17th century, February 14 was widely celebrated as a day of love. Shakespeare made a reference to it:

in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet: “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,/All in the morning betime,/And I a maid at your window,/To be your Valentine.”

Mid-18th century

In England, men began writing love notes on St Valentine’s Day. In 1797, a book, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, appeared. It advised on which phrases, rhymes and words to use in these messages, which were precursors to the Valentine’s Day card.

When sending messages by post became affordable, the possibility of sending Valentines anonymously became standard — and still is today in the UK.

19th century

By the beginning of the 19th century, sending Valentines was so popular that English factories began to mass-produce them.

In the United States, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, began making and selling Valentine’s Day cards in 1847. She was able to use a new innovation — paper lace — to adorn her cards.

20th century

Valentine’s Day became commercialised with Hallmark Cards’ Valentines in 1913. February 14 is one of the company’s big card-selling occasions.

Then there was the St Valentine’s Day massacre in 1929.

By the 1980s, a whole industry emerged around Valentine’s Day. What used to be an occasion for a card and flowers or chocolates went upmarket when diamonds were marketed as the most desirable gift a woman could receive on February 14. Jewellery has since remained a popular gift.

21st century

In 2009, American retail figures showed that people spent an estimated $14.7 billion (£9.2 billion) on Valentine’s Day cards and gifts.

In 2010 — nearly a century after Hallmark’s Valentines appeared — 1 billion cards were sent around the world.

Enjoy your Sunday and best wishes for a happy Valentine’s Day!

Karina Sussanto of Karina’s Thought recently published a thought-provoking post on Andrew the Apostle. Please take the time to stop by and read it in full.

In short, Karina reviewed Gospel verses which mention Andrew; she tells us that, whilst few, they give us an insight to the personality of the first Apostle. Although he does not have a huge presence in the Gospels, we discover that he was the one Apostle who thought differently.

She cites John 1:41-42, which relates that Andrew told Peter he had found the Messiah, and tells us (emphasis mine):

We all know that the later Simon Peter became a great apostle. But the important thing is, it all would not have happened if Andrew not brought Peter to Jesus.

Similarly, Karina says, the feeding of the Five Thousand shows Andrew’s different way of thinking. Where Jesus gave Philip a little test of faith by asking him where they would be able to buy bread to feed the crowd, Andrew introduced them to the boy with the loaves and fish. Andrew’s faith was so strong, he instinctively knew Jesus could do something with the contents of that basket to feed the crowd.

Early Church documents state that after that first Pentecost, Andrew travelled to the lands around the Black Sea and further north, as far as Ukraine and Russia.  He is a popular patron saint in that part of Europe as well as some countries along the Mediterranean.

Andrew, like the other Apostles with the exception of John, was a martyr. He died for the faith. He was crucified but specified that his cross be in the shape of an X, as he was unworthy of having the same type of cross as Christ had. Hence the saltire on certain nations’ flags which have St Andrew as a patron. Scotland’s and blue and white flag is one example.

Andrew really did embody the notion of thinking differently. May we share that same faith.

Today’s post continues with the story of Jairus’s daughter in the Gospel of St Mark. Last week’s entry can be found here.

As this passage has been excluded from the Lectionary for public worship, it forms part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to our understanding of Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Mark 5:35-43

35While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39And when he had entered, he said to them,  “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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Last week’s post related how Jairus asked Jesus to accompany him to his home, where his daughter lay dying. Along the way, Jesus encountered the woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. She reached out to touch the hem of His garment and was healed.

John MacArthur reminds us that what we read in the New Testament took longer to transpire than the short accounts given. Recall that the woman told Jesus her story, which MacArthur surmises took a couple of hours.

Imagine Jairus’s anxiety in the meantime. What thoughts must have been running through his mind whilst he attempted to be gracious and patient, yet fearing the worst.  Yet, by God’s grace, he approached Jesus through faith.

The fear of death grips us all. Some fear for their own lives. Others fear for the deaths of their loved ones. MacArthur says (emphases mine):

The Bible accurately says that all the human race is in slavery to the fear of death, Hebrews 2:15. Romans 6 says that the whole human race is in slavery to sin and the consequence of being a slave to sin is being a slave to the fear of death. Death, of course, is the ultimate fear that impregnates all other fears with its threatening and final reality. That is why Job 18:14 calls death the kind of terrors.

In Psalm 55 verses 4 and 5 we read, “My heart is in anguish within me. Horror has overwhelmed me. Fear and trembling come upon me.” Why? “The terrors of death have fallen upon me.” Everybody in the human race understands the fear, the terror of death. Which raises the question of all questions, “Can anyone…has anyone conquered death and can I enter in to that experience of triumph?” That is the compelling question. Has anyone conquered death and in so doing have they made it possible for me to triumph over death?

Many years ago there was a Canadian scientist by the name of G.B. Hardy who in his search for the true religion said, “I only have two questions. Has death been conquered? And has it been conquered for me?” And in his search, he ended up the only place anybody in that search will end up and that is with Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and by His resurrection provides resurrection for all who put their trust in Him. He said that is the only question that anyone should ask with regard to the selection of a religion. Has anyone conquered death? And can that triumph be applied to me? He checked and he said, “All religious leaders in the world have occupied tombs. Only Jesus’ tomb is empty.”

Certainly in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus claimed to have power over death. The gospel of John … begins by telling us that everything that was made was made by Him. That is to say He created everything that lives. It also says, “In Him was life.” He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He said, “I am come to give life and to give it more abundantly.” He said, “Whoever believes in Me shall never die.” He said, “Because I live, you shall live also.” And in that one statement in John 14:19 He answered the two questions, “I live and you can live as well.” Conquering death is the great question.

This is where we are as today’s passage begins.

However, before delving further, let’s look at the other two Synoptic Gospels — Matthew and Luke — for their treatment of this story. All three Synoptic Gospels tie together the main events of Jesus’s life and ministry.

Highlighted below are the differences in the accounts.

Here is Matthew 9:23-26:

23And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26And the report of this went through all that district.

Note the differences between Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels in Jairus’s appeal to Jesus (Mark 5:23, Matthew 9:18). Mark’s account says Jairus tells Him that his daughter is ‘at the point of death’ whereas Matthew’s quote says that she has just died.

Here is Luke 8:49-56:

49While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

Note that Mark and Luke report that Jesus instructed the parents not to talk of the healing, for possible reasons discussed below. Matthew said that everyone in Jairus’s vicinity heard about the healing.  Matthew leaves out that Jesus told the parents to give the girl something to eat. Luke adds to the words ‘only believe’ the promise ‘and she will be well’.

Back to Mark 5:35, where one of Jairus’s people came to announce the girl’s death. Therefore, there was no reason to disturb Jesus any further. The word the person from Jairus’s household uses in referring to Jesus is ‘Teacher’. He was known primarily as such, not as a healer or miracle worker.

In verse 36, Jesus overhears this and tells Jairus to not be afraid but instead have faith — ‘only believe’.  Jesus then tells the crowd, His disciples and most of his Apostles to remain behind (verse 37). He asks Peter and the two brothers John and James — the Boanerges — to accompany Him to Jairus’s house.

They are the three Apostles whom Jesus has selected as confidants.  They, in turn, will tell the other nine what they have learned during these private sorties. MacArthur explains:

Obviously He couldn’t take the crowd. He couldn’t even take the Twelve into the house, that would be too much … This is the first time in the ministry of our Lord that He isolates these three, this is the first time. And get used to it, right? The inner circle, Peter, James and John, they were three of the first four Apostles that He called. James and John were brothers and Peter and Andrew were brothers. Peter becomes the leader. James and John, the other two intimates, and Andrew is a sometime inclusion in the inner circle. This is the first occasion where He separates them out.

Eventually, they arrive at Jairus’s house, where a Jewish funeral of the day for the 12-year old girl was taking place (verse 38). Some of these traditions are still in place: wailing and rending of garments, although, from what I understand, today’s wailing is more subdued. The Jews at that time also played mournful music on their most common instrument, the flute. Imagine several amateur flautists getting together and playing simultaneously. Some might have been neighbours or friends. They probably weren’t playing in tune or in tempo. Oh dear, what a cacophony.

Jesus asks about the ‘commotion’ (verse 39), saying that the young girl is only ‘sleeping’. This is no doubt one reason for saying that the dead are asleep. Unfortunately, the mourners laugh at Him (verse 40). Imagine mourning one minute and mocking someone the next. How valid is their sorrow? It seems quite shallow and quite typical of the opposition with which our Lord and Saviour met in his public ministry.

Jesus dismisses all except for the girl’s parents and His three Apostles. The six were alone with the cherished daughter assumed to have left this mortal coil. As He did with the woman who had hemorrhaged for 12 years, he treats this 12-year old gently and mercifully. He takes her hand and instructs her in near familial terms — talitha cumi (verse 41).

MacArthur unpacks Jesus’s actions for us indirectly comparing our temporal life to our eternal life:

In that moment, Jesus redefined death as a temporary condition. That’s why He uses the metaphor or the analogy of sleep. Sleep is a temporary disconnect, isn’t it? You’re insensitive to the environment around you when you’re asleep, you don’t hear the conversations, you don’t participate socially. You’re asleep. But it’s a temporary situation. And Jesus is saying for this girl, this is just asleep, it’s temporary. This is not permanent ...

This concept of death as sleep is picked up by the Apostles, isn’t it?, in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul loves to refer to believers dying as being asleep, like he refers in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 … God will raise us, we who know the Lord Jesus Christ when we die, the body sleeps. The soul, immediately in the presence of the Lord. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” That’s the…that’s the soul. But the body sleeps until the glorious resurrection at the return of Christ. And so you can refer to the death of a Christian as a release of the soul into the presence of the Lord, but the body sleeps until the day of resurrection. And so death, in a sense for a Christian, becomes described as sleep because it’s temporary…

Hence the expression ‘asleep in Christ’.

Now to the expression talitha cumi. Matthew Henry says:

Talitha, cumi; Damsel, I say unto thee, Arise. Dr. Lightfoot saith, It was customary with the Jews, when they gave physic to one that was sick, to say, Arise from thy disease; meaning, We wish thou mayest arise: but to one that was dead, Christ said, Arise from the dead; meaning, I command that thou arise; nay, there is more in it-the dead have not power to arise, therefore power goes along with this word, to make it effectual.

MacArthur adds a softer interpretation:

Here again this very personal touch, this very tender sensitivity. “And He said to her,” and by the way, only Mark gives us the original Aramaic. Jesus’ daily language was Aramaic, that was the language they spoke in Israel, the New Testament being written in Greek, the other writers give us the Greek translation. “Little girl, arise.” Mark gives us the very words of Jesus in Aramaic, “Talitha kum,” which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you get up.”

Talitha means a youth or a lamb. It’s as if He said, “Little lamb.” We use those kind of endearing terms, don’t we? We say to a little baby, “You little lamb you,” when we dote over them, don’t we? We don’t say that after they’re about three or so. We use other animals to describe them. But when they’re little, “Little Lamb” works really well … this one was still a lamb in the eyes of Jesus and she was twelve … And she was a lamb to that family. That was … a term of endearment. “Kum, get up, little lamb I say to you, get up.”

Instantly — ‘immediately’ — the girl gets up and begins walking (verse 42). She amazes her parents and the Apostles. Jesus had restored this girl to life.

The healing — restoration to life — concludes with Jesus instructing her parents to give her something to eat (verse 43). This signifies that she has no recuperation time; she is well and she is hungry. We know that a healthy appetite is a sign that all is well with us and our loved ones. And so it was when Jesus healed Jairus’s daughter. What a happy day that must have been.

However, Jesus stipulates that no one should reveal the healing. Well, one can imagine that they were all too eager to tell their neighbours and townspeople, as Matthew records.

You might wonder why Jesus said such a thing. MacArthur explains:

when He healed somebody it was immediate and it was permanent. And immediately there was complete astonishment on the part of the parents and everybody else who was in the room, including the three Apostles, Peter, James and John. The verb existemi literally means to stand outside oneself or to be beside one’s self with bewilderment. In other words, you have no logical explanation for what you have just seen. The same word is used in chapter 3 verse 21, and translated, “out of his senses.” It’s also used in 2 Corinthians 5:13, beside ourselves. I mean, this is just inexplicable. This just doesn’t happen. Common response, by the way, to the demonstration of divine power by our Lord.

The strength of the faith of Peter, James and John was certainly increased, wouldn’t you think? And so if it strengthened their faith, why not spread it around? Our Lord gives this explicit statement, “Do not do that.” But He doesn’t tell us why. In fact, as many times as it’s recorded that He said that in the gospels, we’re never told why He said that…never.

But let me make some suggestions to you. Number one, He could have said it to avoid a stampede on the house, to give the family time to feed the girl and to celebrate and rejoice and give Him more time to instruct and teach. If they went right out of the house, as you might be prone to do, and spread this everywhere, there would be a kind of a sensational response and curiosity would drive the crowd to the house and debilitate Jesus from doing what He wanted to do and rob away that precious time for the family and that reunion. Is that possibly behind the statement that you need to get her something to eat? That’s the first thing you need to do is take care of her before you draw a crowd? Was that in His mind?

It is also possible that Jesus said this because He knew the crowds had these messianic expectations, right? Now the Jews were looking for a Messiah, they wanted the Messiah who would come just to demonstrate massive divine power and use that power to overthrow Rome and use that power to provide everything they needed and everything that had been promised to them in the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Jesus was believed to be that Messiah and if it ran rampant and it got carried away, the crowds could get very aggressive and try to force Him into a role that was never His intended role. Read John 6:15 where it says, “After He fed them all, they tried to force Him to be a king.” Was He trying to keep the flame of messianic expectation low and not throw gas on it by a report of a resurrection?

Or thirdly, was it perhaps that He was motivated not to escalate the fear and the hatred of the scribes and Pharisees who were His enemies. If the crowd got excited, then Jesus becomes a bigger threat than they escalate their animosity and they have to do something to stop that threat and in premature action against Him, they might come after Him to kill Him. That had already been tried, right? Up in Nazareth in His own hometown they tried to throw Him off a cliff.

So Jesus had His reasons for keeping such dramatic healings — resurrections, if you will — quiet.

Henry’s observations help tie the various elements of this story together:

1. That the child was extremely well beloved, for the relations and neighbours wept and wailed greatly. It is very afflictive when that which is come forth like a flower is so soon cut down, and withereth before it is grown up; when that grieves us, of which we said, This same shall comfort us.

2. That it was evident beyond dispute, that the child was really and truly dead.

3. That Christ put those out as unworthy to be witnesses of the miracle, who were noisy in their sorrow, and were so ignorant in the things of God, as not to understand him when he spoke of death as a sleep, or so scornful, as to ridicule him for it.

4. That he took the parents of the child to be witnesses of the miracle, because in it he had an eye to their faith, and designed it for their comfort, who were the true, for they were the silent mourners.

5. That Christ raised the child to life by a word of power, which is recorded here, and recorded in Syriac [a dialect of Middle Aramaic], the language in which Christ spoke, for the greater certainty of the thing; Talitha, cumi; Damsel, I say unto thee, Arise.

6. That the damsel, as soon as life returned, arose, and walked, v. 42. Spiritual life will appear by our rising from the bed of sloth and carelessness, and our walking in a religious conversation, our walking up and down in Christ’s name and strength; even from those that are of the age of twelve years, it may be expected that they should walk as those whom Christ has raised to life, otherwise than in the native vanity of their minds.

7. That all who saw it, and heard of it, admired the miracle, and him that wrought it

8. That Christ endeavoured to conceal it; He charged them straitly, that no man should know it. It was sufficiently known to a competent number, but he would not have it as yet proclaimed any further; because his own resurrection was to be the great instance of his power over death, and therefore the divulging of other instances must be reserved till that great proof was given: let one part of the evidence be kept private, till the other part, on which the main stress lies, be made ready.

9. That Christ took care something should be given her to eat. By this it appeared that she was raised not only to life, but to a good state of health, that she had an appetite to her meat; even the new-born babes in Christ’s house desire the sincere milk, 1 Pt. 2:1, 2. And it is observable, that, as Christ, when at first he had made man, presently provided food for him, and food out of the earth of which he was made (Gen. 1:29), so now when he had given a new life, he took care that something should be given to eat; for is he has given life, he may be trusted to give livelihood, because the life is more than meat, Mt. 6:25. Where Christ hath given spiritual life, he will provide food for the support and nourishment of it unto life eternal, for he will never forsake, or be wanting to, the work of his own hands.

The raising of Jairus’s daughter is one of Christ’s great creative miracles. It holds lessons for us today in terms of our unwavering faith and His infinite mercy.

Next time: Mark 6:14-20

For some reason, the first four verses of John 16 have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary. Because they have, I’m including them in my ongoing Forbidden Bible Verses series.  (Please note that I use the word ‘forbidden’ in a tongue-in-cheek way.  They’re not banned verses, just ignored and excluded verses for public worship.  Yet, they are essential to our full understanding of the Bible.)

(For this post, my thanks go to Lleweton of the eponymous blog, who cited the following verses in a comment he made here last week.  If you enjoy reading about the England you always dreamt of, do visit his site.  As he used to be an newspaper editor, he has a marvellous way with words.)

Today’s reading is from the King James Version.  Commentary is by the 17th century Calvinist minister and Bible scholar Matthew Henry.

John 16:1-4

1These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

 2They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

 3And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

 4But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

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In John 15 Jesus explained to His disciples the fruits of faith and the challenges that God brings us in order to increase them.  This is a recurring teaching throughout the New Testament.  We saw it last week in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, where Paul encourages these model Christians to lead a life which is even more pleasing to God.

In the latter part of John 15, Jesus prepares the Apostles for the imminent persecution and hatred directed against them.  He continues with this line of thought in the first few verses of John 16. This would be Jesus’s final talk with the Apostles prior to the Crucifixion. Later in the chapter, He explains that He will send the Holy Spirit to guide them in His absence, but before that, He would see them very soon (after His Resurrection). He would also ensure that whatever happened to them, they would find the peace that only an abiding faith in Him can bring.

We might find it strange that Jesus uses the word ‘offended’ in verse 1.  Yet, the Apostles do not realise that He will be crucified very soon.  It will come as a shock to them.  They might not know quite what to think or how to react.  Therefore, Jesus is — as we might say today — setting their expectations.  Just as Peter ended up denying Christ without even realising it until he had done so three times, this is a similar situation.  In order to save face, the Apostles might have denied Christ had He not given them some idea as to the gravity of imminent events.

Matthew Henry observes that many people find the Cross offensive.  Over three centuries after he wrote those words, we can see it as is true today as it was then as it was even earlier at the time of the Crucifixion.  And Satan likes to use shocking situations to his own benefit, to get us to deny the Truth, to deny Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

In verse 2, Jesus warns the Apostles that the Jews will expel them from the synagogues for having believed in Him and for evangelising.  Those who have been forced out of churches when they have proclaimed the truth of Scripture appreciate and feel deeply the heartache of separation from a congregation, people they have known for many years and from whom they are suddenly cut off.

Even worse, Jesus prepares them for martyrdom.  Then — as now — those who put Christians to death believe they are doing God’s work.  We read of this happening in the developed world almost daily.

In verse 3, Jesus explains that those who kill them do not know Him or God the Father. Instead, they do the Devil’s work. This remains true today. How many Christians die at the hands of unbelievers, those of another faith or none?  Many are victims of torture, brutal murders — indescribably horrible means.  Let us remember the persecuted in our prayers.  They endure much.  Those of us in the West are getting only a small idea of what our brothers and sisters in other countries go through day after day, never knowing if they will get home at night.  They might be arrested or abducted.  The worry for them and their families must be indescribable.

In verse 4, Jesus asks them to remember His warnings.  In case they are persecuted — and some Apostles would die as martyrs — they would at least be mentally prepared.  Matthew Henry says that knowing what to expect, in some ways, lessens the ordeal somewhat:

Note, When suffering times come it will be of use to us to remember what Christ has told us of sufferings. (1.) That our belief of Christ’s foresight and faithfulness may be confirmed; and, (2.) That the trouble may be the less grievous, for we were told of it before, and we took up our profession in expectation of it, so that it ought not to be a surprise to us, nor looked upon as a wrong to us. As Christ in his sufferings, so his followers in theirs, should have an eye to the fulfilling of the scripture.

In the second sentence of verse 4, Jesus explains that He didn’t want to tell them these things earlier because He was with them.  That means not only did he bear the attacks of Scribes, Pharisees and others against Him but they were not yet ready to bear these assaults on their own.  They were still children feeding on milk.  Soon, however, they would be ready for spiritual meat and carry out their upcoming evangelism with zeal, as we read in the Book of Acts — a stunning and moving record of what happens to some of the Apostles after Jesus ascends into Heaven.

In closing, let us find out what might have happened to some of the Twelve Apostles:

St Peter died in Rome.  He was crucified — at his request, this was done upside down.  Peter asked this because he did not feel worthy enough to die the way Christ did.  Today, we still refer to a cross of St Peter, or Petrine Cross, which is one depicted or placed upside down.  (Please note that this is not the same as an upside down crucifix, which is part of satanic rituals.)

Sts Philip and Bartholomew may have been crucified upside down, although we do not know for certain.  One early account records that St Philip continued preaching from the cross.

Similarly, although we know that St James was martyred, probably beheaded, although the legend surrounding Spain and Compostella, in particular, clouds this somewhat.

St Andrew was crucified, and tradition had it that he requested an X-shaped cross as he did not feel worthy to die the same way Christ did.  We can still see the Cross of St Andrew on national flags today, one of which is the Scottish saltire.

Finally, although he was not one of the original Twelve, St Paul was probably beheaded during the reign of Emperor Nero.  Beheading was a death sentence often used for Roman citizens, as Paul was.

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