"They will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life." Luke 21:12-19Being persecuted even to death was part of God's plan to redeem mankind. Jesus knew he would be condemned, though innocent. By doing so he became the sacrificial lamb which payed for our sins. But what is the purpose in Christians going through similar experiences? There has been an expression: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Or Jesus says it this way "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Joh 12:24
Preaching the gospel is not simply a matter of communicating ideas, but communicating convictions. A person's convictions are revealed by how they stand in the midst of trials. If you want to be fruitful, you must learn to suffer through persecution. Suffering through persecution reveals both to yourself and to the world that you really believe what you preach.
Furthermore, people tend to produce after your own kind. If you're a nominal or immature Christian who can't face trials, you'll produce those same kind of Christians. But if you go to the cross willingly and confidently, you will produce Christians of a deep conviction. Which kind would you like to produce?
"If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.Luke 22:67,68This attitude is actually quite common among religious leaders. As you are making disciples and teaching, you will appear to be a threat to them. To shut you down, they will often try desparately to find something they can accuse you of. False witnesses, slanders, will come and testify against you misinterpreting your teachings.
Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.'" Yet even then their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Mark 14:56-61But the main thing we must do is to tell the truth, regardless of the consequences.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death. Mark 14:61-64
Of course they only have a limited realm of authority and will be held accountable to exercise their authority in an appropriate manner. Pilate, the Roman authority, found Jesus innocent and wanted to release him, but was forced by the Jews to play politics. He gave authority to the Jewish crowd (as opposed to the Jewish leaders) to decide between having him release Jesus or that murderer Barabbas. I think he had in his mind that Jesus was popular with the crowds and that he discerned that the Jewish leaders wanted him condemned simply out of envy. And thus in this way he could get Jesus released because of his popularity. But I suspect much to his surprise it didn't work out that way.
- "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." Rom 13:1
Verses quoted from the NIV version