“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:9-11

One of the Olympic events I’ve found interesting to watch has been fencing. The declaration of ‘En garde!’ begins the match, telling the opponents to ‘be on guard’ or be ready to match skills and wits. This is what comes to mind when I read this passage. Just like the opponents in the fencing match who, on hearing the ‘en garde’ step into their appropriate posture, making ready for what’s to come, there’s a posture we’re to have as Jesus followers, especially when injustices come our way.

Imagine how this message was taken by the disciples, especially after they witness the grilling by the councils, beatings, and all the rest Jesus endured in his crucifixion which he had outlined for them earlier. This had to present, at least for a moment, a bleak view of the future. Knowing they would experience all this too (notice the ‘when’ and not ‘if’), if they were at all like me, their mind might have gone straight to what they’d say and do. All manner of theoretical conversation may have ensued in their minds. The words of Jesus ultimately had to be comforting to all of them:

“…do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11b

The part about ‘being on guard’ in verse 9 didn’t concern the words to say to whomever they were standing before. No, it had to do with the reality that it would happen, and their reaction. Truly, the need was for them to be in a spiritual posture before God, prepared for suffering and a ‘ready defense’ for the hope each had to those persecuting them (1 Peter 3:14-16). The really inspirational and cool thing was, the ready defense would be supplied by the Holy Spirit! I sincerely believe it’s still this way today.

Right about now, the COVID-19 virus is coursing its way deeper through our country, causing fear for many people we know and love, as well as many we don’t know. These are all eternal beings loved by God. What a wonderful opportunity for us to share our hope with others! While we’re limited in expressing this in personal contact, if someone you know would benefit in your sharing, by all means, share! It could be a message of hope they need to hear, or you might arrive at an expressed need from them you could fulfill. Either way, be an instrument in the hands of Jesus for helping someone cope.

By Rich Obrecht