The persecution of Christians which began in Rome in the wake of the Great Fire of A.D. 64 has spread to other parts of the empire. Several of the apostles, including Peter and Paul in Rome, are now numbered among the martyrs. There is as yet no universal official imperial order to arrest all Christians or destroy the new Christian ‘sect’ outright though, following the example of Nero, a growing number of Roman magistrates throughout the empire have apparently found it politically advantageous to question the patriotism or loyalty of Christians in their locale. Fear grows and rumors fly, and many Christians are at a loss as to how to respond to the prospect of possible arrest, torture, and execution.
A Christian deaconess serving one of the seven house churches of Rome—Claudia by name—managed to escape Rome when her home was destroyed by fire in the Summer of A.D. 64. Befriended by Christians in the port city of Ostia, she quickly learned about the executions of the apostles Peter and Paul and hundreds of other Christians in Rome as well. In a recent Sunday assembly in Ostia she heard a reading of the newly-composed Gospel of Mark, and the letter that Peter had sent to the Christians in Asia Minor.
Pretend that you are Deaconess Claudia. Write a letter to Deaconess Phoebe (Rom 16:1), who serves the Christians in Cenchreae, Greece. In the letter, use the Gospel of Mark and the letter of 1 Peter to ● encourage Phoebe and the Christians in Cenchreae to remain faithful followers of Jesus as clouds of harassment and perhaps even death loom large for them, and ● give them arguments which they can use when conversing with their non-Christian Roman friends and neighbors (including government officials) with respect to the relationship between themselves and the government of Rome. Show the Christians in Cenchreae how the contents of the Gospel of Mark and 1 Peter can assuage the fears of their Roman friends and neighbors with respect to Christianity, and help them face persecution, arrest, and execution if that be God’s will. Your arguments must build upon the messages, incidents, and themes which are treated in the Gospel of Mark, ● using both positive and negative examples from the Gospel of Mark (especially the Passion material in chapters 14 and 15). Use direct quotes sparingly. Cite your biblical sources