150 years after His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ was still building His Church. Jesus had not retired to heaven, He had ascended – and as He did, He sent His disciples into all the world to make more followers of Him. This Gospel expansion had taken the Truth to modern day Tunisia, and had seen a young woman named Perpetua place her faith and trust in Jesus by the end of the second century. This conversion brought eternal security to Perpetua, but it also brought temporal trouble. The Romans began a new round of persecution in her city and she was arrested for her failure to worship Caesar. Perpetua’s father (a non-Christian) begged her to renounce her faith in Jesus and save her life. Perpetua refused to do so, telling her father that just as a vase cannot be anything other than what it is, she could not deny Jesus because a Christ follower was who she was. Ultimately, Perpetua (still nursing a young child at the time) handed her father her child and was thrown into the arena to be attacked by animals and killed by gladiators. Though her earthly life was rough, her testimony still echoes in eternity, where Perpetua now lives eternal at the side of her Savior.
Fast forward 1200 more years to the early 1400’s. The city of Prague was being greatly blessed by a priest by the name of John Huss. Huss taught the Scriptures faithfully and passionately to his people – pointing them to salvation in Christ alone. Sadly, Huss’s message was at odds with the leadership of the Catholic Church at the time – particularly the Pope. Huss cried out against the expoitative practices of the selling of indulgences to fund personal pet projects. Like John Wycliffe before him, Huss became a voice crying out against the twisted doctrine of the church about 100 years before the Protestant Reformation would take full bloom. Ultimately Huss was arrested and brought to trial for preaching “heresy.” The church leaders who were presiding over the trial of Huss mocked him, stripped him of his clothing and dignity, and sent him to be burned at the stake . . . using copies of Wycliffe’s writings as kindling for the fire. Though they lashed out against him, Huss simply prayed “Lord Jesus, it is for Thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray Thee to have mercy on my enemies.” As Huss (whose name meant “goose” in Bohemian) went to the stake, he said, “You may cook this goose, but a century from now, you will have a swan that you can neither roast nor boil.” 100 years later, Martin Luther (known as the swan) would read Huss’s writings, and find in them the kindling for a Gospel Reformation movement that Jesus has used to change the world and continue to build His church.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus commissioned His disciples to share the Gospel with others. The “training run” for this mission was conducted inside the (relatively friendly) confines of Galilee in Matthew 10. But as Jesus sent the disciples out, He knew that though their first trip would be easy, subsequent trips (most likely) would not be. Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples for the rejection that awaited them down the road. I believe not only was Jesus thinking of the rejection the 12 Apostles would experience (imprisonments, martyrdom, etc.) but also He was thinking of people like Perpetua and Huss who would die for their faith down the road. Not wanting His followers to be surprised by the opposition they might face, Jesus preached a sermon to His disciples in Matthew 10:5-42 to prepare them for what lay ahead.
This Sunday morning at Wildwood Community Church, we will be continuing our “Follow” sermon series by looking at the first half of this sermon (from Matthew 10:5-25). Like Perpetua and Huss before us (and countless contemporaries who are persecuted because of their faith in Christ around the world today) we need to hear the words of Jesus who not only tells us of trouble that we may encounter, but also encouragement for how to deal with it. Make plans to join us at Wildwood this Sunday morning in our 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 worship service. We will even hear from some missionary partners who are serving in an environment where persecution is “normal” today. Let’s make plans to Follow Jesus into worship, community, and mission this weekend!