Gospel of John 15:18-16:33
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. ESV
We Americans seldom face hatred just for being followers of the Messiah, though Churches with predominantly minority members still experience such hatred from time to time. According to polls, about seventy percent of Americans identify with various branches of Christianity. That does include many once-a-year attendees. Still, being an active Christian in the US is relatively safe.
Peter and the boys did not have it so easy. For decades, the Romans had little interest in what they saw as another Jewish group, but the Jewish leaders saw them as the most serious threat in years. Luke records many of the conflicts in the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul records many more.
When American Christians get into trouble, it is because they take a stand that goes against the popular position. William Barclay wrote, Anyone who is different, who wears different clothes, who has different ideas is automatically suspect. James Earl Ray murdered Martin Luther King, Jr. because he dared to claim black Americans were equal to white Americans. Today, Democrats are accused of being socialists because they favor programs to help the poor.
Barclay adds, The world acutely dislikes people whose lives are a condemnation of it. When we preach and teach that certain acts are wrong, people may react violently. Gay rights is a hot button to push, even within congregations.
Finally, Barclay writes, The basic demand on the Christian is the demand that the Christian should have the courage to be different. To be different is dangerous, but no man can be a Christian unless he accepts that risk, for there will be a difference between the man of the world and the man of Christ.
In verse 20, the word translated as servant should be slave, as in the Greek doulos. Jesus does intend for all his followers to act as slaves, doing only what he has commanded. At the same time, Jesus expects us to know his commands. One of my favorite Bible quotes is, Judas went out and hanged himself. Go thou and do likewise. You are right, it is a mashup. But Christians often do that and create troubles. How about Matthew 22:30: At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. NIV From that, some have decided that marriage is not proper on earth, while others say that in Heaven, we will be angels. First, study the Word, talk to knowledgeable people, and listen to the Holy Spirit.
22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But they no longer have any excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me hates my Father too. 24 If I had not performed among them the miraculous deeds that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen the deeds and have hated both me and my Father. 25 Now this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without reason.’ NET
This is a bit strange; ‘without me, people would not be sinners.’ What was Jesus saying? As stated above, we must study this before claiming that sin did not exist before Jesus. He pointed out the world’s sins, and people did not like it because they did not see themselves as sinners. Being rude to a waiter because the kitchen messed up the order is not illegal, but it is a sin. Refusing to pay for a paint job because you no longer like the color may be illegal, but is certainly a sin.
If you do not like Jesus pointing to your sins, you should know that you do not like God either. Despite that, both still love you.
Psalm 35:19; Do not let those who are my enemies for no reason gloat over me. Do not let those who hate me without cause carry out their wicked schemes. NET Psalm 69:4a; Those who hate me without cause are more numerous than the hairs of my head. NET
26 But when the helper comes, that is, the Spirit of truth, who comes from the Father and whom I myself will send to you from the Father, he will speak plainly about me. 27 And you yourselves will also speak plainly about me for you have been with me from the first. Phillips
Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, but notice that he says he is sending the Spirit, even though the Spirit is of God. This is not a presumption; God, the Son, the Holy Spirit are one. The Son has been acting on God’s behalf for three years and was with God before Creation; the Son can send the Spirit.
Jesus has warned them of the consequences of speaking plainly about Jesus, but now tells them that they will do so because they are his disciples and can do no less. Nor can we.
16 1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. NIV
I think it is essential that Jesus stresses the importance of the Holy Spirit before moving into this disturbing portion of his warning/caution. He seems to be saying, ‘you will face traumatic shocks very soon, even before you receive the full force of the Spirit. Hang on through the bleakest times, it will get better.’
They remember that Jesus was not always welcome in synagogues. That was trama for Jews, but they knew Jesus got through it, so they could too.
“Anyone who kills you.” Now Jesus is no longer dancing around the worst to come. ‘People will kill you for being my disciples.’ He has said several times that he would leave them; that he would die. ‘After I die, it will be your turn.’
Jesus excuses their murders as he excuses and forgives his own because the murderers will believe they are doing right.
Once I decide a person is less important than I am, I am ready to mistreat him until, at last, I kill him. Most of us never reach the final stage, but too many of us move through increasingly nasty stages of maltreatment.
Jews first, then Romans determined that Christians were a threat to the ‘proper worship of God or the gods.’ With that decision came the possibility of imprisonment and execution. Many thousands of Christians were killed in the first centuries, but the killings continued after Constantine made Christianity the state religion.
4 But I have told you these things so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them. “I did not tell you these things from the beginning because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Instead your hearts are filled with sadness because I have said these things to you. NET
We cannot know if John added what he knew had already happened to the actual speech made by Jesus as John remembered it. But I have no trouble believing that Jesus saw far into the centuries ahead—in the general sense at least. I also have no problem believing that John could remember such a long soliloquy. Neither would I be disturbed to learn that John added to Jesus’ words.
“Where are you going?” Strangely, Peter did not assure Jesus that all would be well, Thomas did not doubt Jesus’ words, and Nathanael had nothing to suggest. It is not at all strange that Jesus knew what they were thinking. That they were sad tells us they were beginning to believe something big was soon to happen. I think they were also sad because they did not understand what Jesus was really saying.
When Jesus made that spectacular entry into Jerusalem, the disciples probably reached the peak of excitement. But Jesus left the city without claiming the Davidic throne and began to spout all this negative talk about going away and the disciples being killed—what???
We know that the disciples, all one hundred plus, spent the time between the resurrection and Pentecost talking about everything Jesus did and said. They had fifty days to wait for the Spirit and to remember. In the church’s early years, the disciples lived in Jerusalem, traveling within Palestine as needed. All told, they had several years to talk, refresh memories, and work out what it all meant—and what it means to us.
John became the last keeper of all that understanding.
7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. NET
Here Jesus puts a positive spin on what he described. ‘You need the Holy Spirit, and this is the only way you will get it. When I leave you, I will send the Spirit. Hold tight.’ “The ruler of the world has been condemned.” The ruler is the devil.
Jesus did not say that people would continue to live in the sin-filled world for centuries to come, nor did he say the devil would cease to exist. He said the devil is condemned but not yet eliminated. He faces that defeat in the future—as humans see it.
12 “I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now. 13 Yet when that one I have spoken to you about comes—the Spirit of truth—he will guide you into everything that is true. For he will not be speaking of his own accord but exactly as he hears, and he will inform you about what is to come. 14 He will bring glory to me for he will draw on my truth and reveal it to you. 15 Whatever the Father possesses is also mine; that is why I tell you that he will draw on my truth and will show it to you. Phillips
We see now that Jesus understands his words are upsetting to the disciples, to the point that he must not tell them the rest just now. They will be able to understand it after the resurrection.
The truth of all that he has said and all that is yet to happen will be explained by the Holy Spirit. Even when we know what happens, it can be challenging to read and comprehend the Truth of God. It is not that the Truth is hidden—as the Gnostics say, God’s Truth is from another Existence. We humans are easily fooled; we often fool ourselves. The internet today contains millions of lies and misdirections.
Here is a clip from someone who answered the question, ‘what is the biggest lie on the internet?’ Obviously the manned moon missions. The videos and photos supposedly sent back are fake. There have been too many findings of photo fakery and equipment and lunar anomalies in the NASA released photo archives. This fraud was a triumph of propaganda for both the USA and the Soviet Union. This idea began after Sputnik in 1957 and is alive today. Of course, those who reject the idea that things can go into space do not mind getting all the benefits of our thousands of space-based equipment.
Back to the Truth of God; we must spend years learning to understand that Truth. We have to sort out our misconceptions and misunderstandings—our false facts—before we can fully understand God’s Truth.
The Bible is the best place to start understanding God’s Truth. He has been speaking His Truth since creation. His Son joins Him in speaking the Truth; His Holy Spirit joins both of them in speaking the Truth. No false facts are coming from God.
We do need to take care in our Bible studies. It is not the perfect Word of God. It was thousands of years in the making by the hands of humans. It is God inspired, but not God dictated. A text needs to be copied every century or so because the scroll is wearing thin and the ink is flaking off. Over the centuries, thousands of copies have been made, along with thousands of copy errors.
The good news is that the Hebrews took extra care in making copies. A team of scholars inspected every copy to ensure it was perfect. Until the return from the exile, there was only one text, and they kept it in the Temple. During and after the time in Babylon, synagogues became the principal place of worship for Hebrews/Jews. That meant every synagogue wanted a copy of the Torah, and eventually, the Prophets and the Writings. A system was set up to make multiple copies and have a team of experts proofread them. In the second century BCE, when the first Greek copy was made, seventy scholars were selected to ensure that every Greek word was the best word to express the ancient Hebrew. The final Septuagint was only accepted when all seventy agreed on every word.
We Christians did not follow that standard in the early centuries. A scribe generally did copies of the Christian writings with no one proofing. By the seventh century, monasteries and convents (still often together and sharing in the copy work) had a solid system to assure quality results. But many mistakes had already found their way in.
That alone is an excellent reason to check the expert commentators. The number of second-century texts of the NT and even older texts of the OT is impressive, and that just since WW2.
16 “In a little while you will not see me any longer, and again, in a little while you will see me.” 17 At this some of his disciples remarked to each other, “What is this that he tells us now, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again, in a little while you will see me’ and ‘for I am going away to the Father’? 18 What is the ‘little while’ that he talks about?” they were saying. “We simply do not know what he means!” Phillips
The disciples are still confused. Nothing he said made sense to them. ‘You will not see me; you will see me.’ It does seem like double talk. Once we know of the resurrection, we know what he means, but they did not know. Why did he not tell them he would die, be buried, and walk out of the grave? He does, but directly.
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. NIV
You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. We can see this sentence as the crucifixion and resurrection, but in a parable form. He follows with the childbirth parable. In verse 22, Jesus makes a plain statement: I will see you again. ‘As you mourn my loss, remember that I will not be lost; I will, like Lazarus, step out of the grave. Your joy then will know no bounds.’
Jesus returns to the promise that God will provide what they need. If they ask for something to further the Gospel message, they will have it. Asking to be spared beatings, torture, and death would not help the cause, so….
25 “I have been speaking to you in parables—but the time is coming to give up parables and tell you plainly about the Father. 26 When that time comes, you will make your requests to him in my own name, for I need make no promise to plead to the Father for you, 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. Yes, 28 I did come from the Father and I came into the world. Now I leave the world behind and return to the Father.” Phillips
This is Jesus being blunt. ‘God loves you, and I love you. You know God and will serve him. I am the Son of God. No, he did not say that last openly.
29 “Now you are speaking plainly,” cried the disciples, “and are not using parables. 30 Now we know that everything is known to you—no more questions are needed. This makes us sure that you did come from God.” 31 “So you believe in me now?” replied Jesus. 32 “The time is coming, indeed, it has already come, when you will be scattered, every one of you going home and leaving me alone. Yet I am not really alone for the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may find your peace in me. You will find trouble in the world—but, never lose heart, I have conquered the world!”
The disciples think they understand, and that excites them. We know they were thinking a false truth. We might believe that the disciples should not doubt that Jesus was from God; they spent three years with him. The truth is, knowing is not believing. Jesus can tell Peter he will deny Jesus, but Peter cannot believe it.
Jesus reminds them that they can expect suffering along with their joy. The peace of being in Jesus, being in his great congregation, will carry us through any hardships.
Be Righteous and do Good