““But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.” (Mark 13:9, NASB95)
As followers of Jesus we know that Jesus promised us we would face persecution (John 16.33), and we think of it as something to be endured, but rarely do we look at persecution as an opportunity. Amazingly, opportunity in persecution seems to be exactly what Jesus implies in our passage. Jesus makes this statement after explaining to four of his disciples that the great temple standing on the highest point in Jerusalem would be torn down so completely that not one stone will be left here on another (vs. 2). So prophesied. So done. In 70 AD the Romans destroyed the temple so completely that today there is no agreement on where it actually stood!
Notice what Jesus adds at the end of this verse. His disciples would be delivered up to the courts; they would be flogged; they would stand before leaders of governmental entities all because of Jesus, because of their commitment to him, and then this little statement: as a testimony to them.
Did you catch that? There is purpose in the persecution that Jesus’ disciples would endure. In the process of being arrested, flogged, and beaten for the sole reason that they were committed to Jesus, they would stand before rulers for the express purpose of witnessing to them, of sharing exactly why they insisted on doing what they were doing.
We have a great example of this in Acts 26, when Paul stands before King Agrippa and testifies of his zeal to persecute Christians, of his meeting with the living Jesus on the road to Damascus and of his growing realization that his zeal was working against the purposes of God! King Agrippa’s response is telling: “Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”” (Acts 26:28 NAS95) Paul was doing what Jesus had commanded his disciples to do here in Mark 13.
Paul is an excellent example to us of how not to waste our persecution. Are we arrested because of our faith in Jesus? Are we flogged? Are we dragged before the authorities? Perhaps not here—not yet at least—but in many parts of the world followers of Jesus are. Jesus told us to see this as an opportunity to witness on behalf of him. This is a high privilege.