John 15:18 - 16:4a
Psalm 69:1 - 8
Some here, I’m sure, are fans of the show Yes Minister. If you don’t know it, the show centres on a British cabinet minister, The Right Honorable Jim Hacker, MP, and his staff. One of these characters, Sir Humphrey Abbleby, is regularly included in the lists of people’s favouriteTV characters, primarily because of his fondness of verbal obfuscation;, being deliberately long-winded, and saying so much, that in fact he says nothing at all.
For example, when the Minister asks for a straight answer, Sir Humphrey replies,
Well Minister, if you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn't very much in it, one way or the other., As far as one can see, at this stage.
So iconic was this way of speaking, that in 2001, when Sir Nigel Hawthorne, who played the character, passed away, one newspaper published this as his obituary:
"It is sadly that we report on Sir Nigel Hawthorne, elsewhere referred to as Sir Humphrey Appleby.
While it would be premature to commit ourselves to a definitive position on his merits, or even his existence, a committee is being struck to consider the possibility of a decision, in the fullness of time, to regret his passing, if any.
But one of Sir Humphrey’s most well-known announcements, is the syllogism “All dogs have four legs; my cat has four legs, therefore, my cat, is a dog”.
That is considered one of the most famous examples of what’s called an association fallacy.
Object A shares some characteristics with Object B, and so it is assumed that they must be the same.
It’s also called guilt by association.
The world will hate Jesus’ disciples
These verses in John 15 and 16, present something that we might call hate by association.
It’s like guilt by association but even stronger.
Jesus says, chapter15 verse 18, If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
Hate by association,
But is it a fallacy, like Sir Humphrey’s cat?
Is it illogical that people would be hated just for following Jesus?
And even if is going to be the case, wouldn’t Jesus have done better, not to say anything about it?
And does the fact that there is this response of hate towards Jesus mean that his ministry was a failure?
Those are some of the questions that we find answers to in this section.
Jesus is, very clear isn’t he?
The world will hate his disciples.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
It’s not just “If, per chance, the world hates you”, but much more, “If the world hates you, and it will”
And in verse 19, Jesus speaks as if this is already the case That is why the world hates you
Jesus is saying to his disciples, his closest friends, that the world will hate them.
And this is strong language, isn’t it?
When I was a little kid, the word “hate” was banned in our household. My sister and I had code word, we used to say “dislike immensely”, so we could still feel like we were saying “hate”!
“Brussels sprouts?! I dislike them immensely!”
And the trap for Christian people, which I imagine, most of us are this morning, is to hear this, and circlet the wagons, develop a ghetto mentality.
We can become inwardly focussed, so that we don’t have to engage with this world that Jesus says will hate us, because of our association with him.
But to do that is to apply the passage in the very opposite way, than Jesus intends, as we’ll see as we go through.
As we read though, you may have noticed some of the ways this hatred is expressed.
Persecution, and rejection of the Christian message, verse 20,
Religious opposition, being put out of the synagogue, 16 verse 1, which because of the social setting also had the impact of making earning a living almost impossible,
Right down to being killed, verse 2.
Jesus says, if you follow me, this is what you can expect from the world.
Just the other day, I heard someone say “The universe is out to get me.” Jesus doesn’t talk about the world like that, some impersonal force. He means, individuals, leaders, anyone, who is opposed to God and his purposes.
Why will the world hate Jesus’ disciples?
If you have experienced hatred,
In your workplace,
In your family, even, because you’re a disciple of Jesus,
If you have, perhaps been at a loss, unable to make sense of why you’ve faced this kind of opposition.
Or, perhaps you’re a new Christian, and you’re really excited at the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation with God you’ve received, but you’ve been shocked or dismayed that some other people aren’t the least bit interested, in hearing the good news of Jesus,
Or if you think you want to become a follower of Jesus, but you’re not quite sure how other people might respond to your becoming a Christian,
If any of those things have been your experience, then these words from Jesus will help you make sense of that.
This section is like the focus wheel on a pair of binoculars, that pulls the perhaps confusing mess of what we’re seeing, into clear focus.
Jesus tells us exactly why, those associated with him, will be hated by the world.
Because it hated Jesus first
It’s because the world hated Jesus first.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
Literally Jesus says “know” that it hated me first,
He’s saying “keep bringing to mind”, the fact that the world hated me first.
Did you sing that song as a kid?
Nobody loves me, everybody hates me,
I think I'll go and eat worms,
Jesus doesn’t just imagine that everyone is out to get him,
Just, probably a matter of some minutes beforehand, Judas, one of his disciples, has left this gathering, and is about to betray Jesus and hand him over to the authorities.
And within only a few hours, Jesus will be executed, hanging on a Roman cross.
The time from now, to when you go to bed tonight, is about the same amount of time from when Jesus speaks these words, to when he is crucified.
The world’s hatred of Jesus, is very, very real.
And because Jesus has chosen his disciples out of the world, verse 19, that is, their primary identity is that they belong to him and not the world, therefore, the hatred of Jesus, will flow to those who identify with him. That is why the world hates you
The question is why does the world hate Jesus?
2000 years ago, why did that hatred manifest itself ultimately in murder?
And today, when the world prides itself on tolerance, equality, acceptance,
, why is Jesus hated?
What is it about Jesus, that makes the world live inconsistently with its own stated goal, because the world is intolerant of Jesus, and his message, isn’t it?
The world hates Jesus because it does not know God (15:21)
Well, it’s primarily because, the world doesn’t know God.
See there at the end of verse 21, they do not know the one who sent me,
Or down in verse 3 of chapter 16, they have not known the Father, or me
No doubt the people foremost in Jesus’ mind at this point, were the religious leaders of the day, who did think they knew God, and yet they didn’t recognise God when he made himself known in Jesus.
And notice that the solution to this ignorance of God is not being able to see or hear Jesus.
Maybe you’ve got friends who say, or maybe you’ve thought, “Well, if only Jesus would appear before me, I’d believe,
If only I’d lived back then,
If only Jesus came now,
If only God would speak to me, or show himself to me, then I would know God, and trust in Jesus
But verses 22 to 24 make it clear that simply seeing Jesus,
Hearing his teaching,
Even witnessing his miracles, is not the solution to this kind of ignorance.
John wrote these things in his book, for people who would never see Jesus, or witness his miracles.
That’s not what’s required to know God.
Whether it’s seeing Jesus face to face in Palestine in the first century AD, or hearing of Jesus in the eye-witness accounts like we have before us today in John’s gospel,
It’s in Jesus that we know God,
And to know God,
Means to obey Jesus,
And to submit to his rule.
See what Jesus says in verse 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
In chapter 9, John’s already told us that some of the religious leaders had already decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.
And by about 80 AD, some Jewish religious leaders produced a prayer, that included the following words:
For the renegades let there be no hope.
And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days.
Let the Nazarenes and the heretics be destroyed in a moment.
And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life, and not be inscribed together with the righteous.
The renegades, are most likely the Jewish Zealots, a violent political movement,
The arrogant government is the Romans. And the prayer asks that they be speedily uprooted.
But the Nazarenes, and the heretics, that is, Jewish Christians, followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the prayer isn’t just that they would be uprooted, but actually that their names might be blotted out of the book of life, that they might suffer God’s judgment in hell!
Verse 3, They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me
The way that the world treats Jesus’ followers, is a sign of just how far our world is from God.
We might think, that if we’re well-regarded by the world, then surely God is pleased with us.
If our church makes it onto the front page of the local paper, we must be doing something write,
And maybe that’s true, but not necessarily.
And in the light of this passage, we’d have to say that’s most likely not true!
Jesus says the world’s ignorance and disobedience to God, will result in opposition to those who follow Jesus, and, perhaps most tellingly, in chapter16 verse 2, Jesus says, the time is coming for his followers, literally, “the hour is coming.”
“The hour”, that one phrase that Jesus uses all through his ministry, to refer to his crucifixion, now he says to his disciples, “you’ve got your own hour coming.”
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you should expect persecution, because you live in a world that does not know God.
The world hates Jesus since Jesus exposes sin (15:22)
And specifically, the world is far from God, and so hates Jesus, because Jesus exposes people’s sin.
See verse 22, If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin
Now, of course, it’s not that Jesus causes sin, but that in Jesus’ ministry, specifically his teaching verse 20,
The message from God that be brought, verse 22,
Even his miracles, verse 24, the works no one else did, through these things, people’s sin was exposed.
But it does go one step further than that;
When Jesus comes into the world as the ultimate revelation of God,
To reject him, is to reject God in a way that no one ever had, up until that time.
Although to reject God is the very basis of all sin, never before had people sinned against in this way.
People’s sin, was completely exposed.
Also, since Jesus was entirely pure, and sinless, and obedient to God, then his very presence in the world, was glaring reminder of the world’s failure, and the world’s sin.
Many of you spoke to me about how encouraged you by Nathan Tasker, singing and playing for us last week.
But having the man who is known as Australia’s preeminent Christian singer-songwriter play for us, had another effect, and that is, there were about 3 or 4 people who themselves play the guitar, who told me afterwards, they never want to pick up their guitar again!
Now, they were mostly joking, but we can understand that reaction, can’t we?
Shows my, lack of greatness.
Jesus’ perfection and obedience throws the sin and rebellion of the world into sharp relief.
Whatever self-justification the world might have been able to conjure up to excuse sin, prior to the coming of Christ, and it would only be an excuse, but, since Jesus has come, whatever straw could be clutched at, is gone.
now they have no excuse for their sin, says Jesus.
And if it takes the death of God’s Son, to deal with the problem of sin and rebellion, well it really makes it clear, that we cannot get right with God ourselves.
And to a world that prides itself on its achievements and inherent goodness, that is a painful slap in the face!
Jesus’ very presence in the world exposes sin.
The world hates Jesus in fulfilment of the Scriptures
Now, at one level, this could make us wonder about Jesus.
Jesus is God’s ultimate revelation of himself,
Gods’ solution to the problem of sin and separation, and yet, precisely because of that sin and separation, Jesus says in verse 24, they have hated both me and my Father.
It didn’t really work out very well did it?
If you tuned in to the Superbowl this week, not knowing anything about NFL, but you wanted to pick a team attach yourself to, you probably wouldn’t have decided to throw your lot in with the Denver Broncos, who were getting thumped for basically the entire game!
You didn’t go out and buy a Broncos jumper after the game, “I’m with them”!
We think the winning side is the side to be on!
And maybe you’re standing back, looking at Jesus, not quite sure what you think of him, and his claims.
But the fact that he was hated, and, not very successful looking, makes you wonder whether it’s worth putting your trust in him,
Crucifixion, hatred, it looks more like a failure than a success.
But actually, to continue the sports metaphor, Jesus’ ministry did go exactly according to the play book.
The hatred and opposition of the world played out exactly as God knew that it would, and according to God’s great plan of salvation,
In fact, even when things were looking the worst, and Jesus was hanging on a cross between 2 criminals,
When he breathes his last, the innocent man, condemned as a law-breaker.
Even then, God’s Word spoken centuries before, was being fulfilled, and God’s plans, were being achieved.
It’s why Jesus last words on the cross, John chapter 19 verse 30, ere “it is finished.”
What God set out to acheive, was complete.
In fact, the hatred and opposition to Jesus, was actually the means by which, God in his sovereignty, brought about the rescue from sin and death.
Jesus had to die in the place of rebellious humanity, it was the opposition to and hatred of Jesus, that led him to be hung on the cross.
This was by no means a failure, Jesus was hated in fulfilment of the Scriptures.
Jesus understood that those words from Psalm 69 which we read earlier, were fulfilled in the treatment that he received from the world.
God’s plans unfolded exactly as he said they would.
Now, Jesus wasn’t the first person to bring a message that was hated by the religious establishment and the ruling authorities. His message was very different of course, but there have been plenty of others throughout history, who have come up,
Been opposed and hated by those who benefit from the status quo,
Their very presence is seen as a threat,
And so the solution, in the eyes of those who are opposed, is to kill them.
And what tends to happen, is that the opposition to their message settles down, disappears.
There is no longer any perceived threat,
With that leader dead and out of the picture, the opposition and hatred fade.
But that wasn’t the case with Jesus, was it?
Jesus’ death didn’t signal the end of the opposition, which is the very point of this passage,
Jesus has spoken about his going, both in the previous section and in the following section, but he knows that his going isn’t going to be the end of the opposition, hence these words of preparation for his followers.
But in Jesus’ case, the opposition continues even after his death, because Jesus is still with his disciples.
He is going, yes, but he will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, from the Father, who will manifest his presence with the disciples, even when he is no longer with them physically.
If, as we saw a few minutes ago, it is Jesus’ very presence in the world, that draws such hatred and opposition, then if Jesus is still present with his disciples by the Holy Spirit, then we should be under no illusions that those who have the Spirit whom Jesus sends present in them, we will face the same hatred and opposition.
Sir Humphrey Appleby’s dog-slash-cat, is the classic example of an association fallacy,
This is a real association, with no fallacy!
The world that hated Jesus, will hate those who are associated with Jesus, and as we, by the work of the Spirit he sends us, become more and more like Jesus,
In our love,
In our understanding,
In our obedience,
then it’s only to be expected that our presence will increasingly have the same effect on the world, that Jesus’ own presence had on the world.
What if we’re not being hated?
Which raises the question then, what if we’re not being hated?
What if we don’t face this kind of opposition?
What is our membership of God’s people doesn’t mean it’s hard for us to make a living?
What if we go through life without ever being opposed, for being a follower of Jesus?
Are we doing something wrong?
Maybe the reason that the world does appear to love us as its own, is because the world thinks we are its own!
In 1937, the German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book The Cost of Discipleship, Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising, . that Christians should be called upon to suffer.
8 years later, Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis, because of his faith and obedience to Christ,
Because of the kind of life that his association with Jesus, demanded of him.
A servant is not greater than his master, if Jesus was persecuted, we ought to expect that we too, will be persecuted, and dare I say it, it may well be, that the level of persecution and hatred we face, will be directly proportional to the degree with which we are identified with our master.
Of course, persecution is not necessarily a sign that we are following Christ!
I knew someone once who used to talk all the time about how badly people treated him in the particular church denomination he worked in, because of his strong convictions about Jesus and the Scriptures.
As I asked him about it though, I have to say I think people were treating him badly, not because of his faith, but just because he was obnoxious!
He treated people terribly!
As, probably we all do, from time to time.
Persecution is not necessarily a sign that we’re following Christ, just as freedom from opposition doesn’t necessarily mean we’re being unfaithful to Christ.
We should give thanks to God that we live in a country, so thoroughly influenced throughout history by Jesus and his teachings, that we do enjoy a relative degree of peace.
That is, of course, by no means, the universal experience of Christians. And we should never forget those for whom this kind of opposition is a daily reality.
Somewhat surprisingly, Prince Charles, spoke out before Christmas decrying what he called the “deliberate persecution” of Christians in the Middle East, at the hands of those who do not know God, those who hate Jesus.
The Prince of Wales said the treatment of those who follow Jesus in the Middle East includes quote: “intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution.” He could hardly have better summed up Jesus’ promise here, could he?
We hear concern, from around the world, that the so-called “Arab Spring” is quickly becoming a “Christian winter”, as churches in the Middle East are attacked,
And those who testify about Jesus, are dragged off and tortured.
Opposition will come when you testify
But why does Jesus drop this line about testifying, in the middle of this section about opposition and hatred?
Why do we have a little bit about the work of the Holy Spirit, and then back to talk of being put out of the synagogue.
Well, it’s because it is when Jesus’ followers testify about him, that this hatred and opposition will become most acute.
If you’re a Christian, and you care for the poor, the world won’t hate you.
If you’re a Christian and you want to support families, and contribute to society that way, you’re not likely to face any real opposition.
If you take a stand for integrity in the community, seek to promote honesty and purity, there may be a few people who feel targeted by that, but the opposition won’t be anything like Jesus describes here.
No, the reason Jesus speaks about testifying, about the Holy Spirit coming, right in the middle of this warning of persecution and opposition, is because he knows that that opposition will be most acute, when his followers testify about him.
Jesus therefore sends the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to help his followers testify about him.
testify doesn’t imply any kind of special evangelistic formula, as perhaps come to mind when we think of that word,
It just means to speak about what you’ve seen or experienced.
To testify is to bear witness.
A witness in court, testifies about someone.
That’s what Jesus expects his followers will do, about him
He gives the particular reason why these 11 disciples will do it, verse 27, for you have been with me from the beginning.
But that isn’t the case for us, is it?
We are not eyewitnesses of Jesus life like these men.
But as we’ve noted, John is writing this down for other people, for people like us,
And so the original testimony of these men, the Apostles, becomes the model for our testimony of Jesus.
And in fact Jesus doesn’t actually give a command, “You must testify”, he just says “you testify”,, it’s just natural that you will!, as those who follow me.
Of course, you don’t need to testify, if what you’re saying isn’t being contended.
If you’re called as a witness in court, called to testify, for someone, and then it turns out there is no evidence, no accusation made against them, your testimony isn’t required is, it?
The judge doesn’t say to you, “The charges have been dropped, but tell me what you were going to say about him anyway, I’d really like to know”! That’s not how it works, is it?
You need to testify, when your point of view is being opposed or disputed.
And because of the opposition that will come, the Holy Spirit will serve as an Advocate. Again, this is legal language.
An advocate was someone who would appear in court on your behalf and testify in your defence.
But it’s not that there are 2 different kinds of testifying.
“In this situation, you Christian person, need to testify. But in these other circumstances, you can keep your mouth shut, and the Holy Spirit will do the testifying.”
No, the Holy Spirit’s testimony, will be brought about, by the testimony of the disciples. The pattern here is that the Spirit, and the Christian person, will together, testify about Jesus.
As we who are Christians, speak the gospel message, the Spirit does his work. Jesus doesn’t envisage the work of the Spirit being separated from the work of the gospel, nor does he imagine that the work of proclaiming the gospel could be separated from the activity of the Spirit.
Now, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to think that the typical pattern will be like some sort of ventriloquist act, where we’re the dummy and we don’t have any control over what’s coming out of our mouth!
I think in reflection on what we learn elsewhere in the Bible about the work of the Spirit, it’s slightly more similar to the situation of the TV presenter, who has the show’s producer, speaking through their earpiece, reminding them of their research into the story, pointing out things to ask. You know that happens, don’t you, the TV people are not that clever!
It’s not a perfect example, but I hope you get the picture of this united missionary outreach to the world. The disciples of Jesus are helped, advocated for, by the Spirit whom he sends.
Why does Jesus share all this bad news?
And that’s good news.
That Jesus will send an advocate, a helper.
But the whole rest of this passage is not really great news, is it?
You’re going to be hated,
Some of you will die,
And it’s all because people don’t like being confronted with their own sin, and because they don’t know God.
And as I said, the danger is then, that Christian people will just shut themselves off from the world.
Why then, does Jesus share all this bad news?
This is Jesus’ last night alive,
He has, perhaps literally minutes left with his disciples. In about 2 pages time, Jesus is arrested.
Why talk about this now?,
John, when he has 3 years of Jesus public ministry to draw from for his gospel account, why does he choose to include this?
Chapter 16, verse 1, All this I have told you so that you will not fall away
Fall away, skandalizo is the Greek word, it means to cause somebody to stumble, or to fall into sin.
Jesus warns his disciples, in this, his last conversation with them, of the opposition they will face, the hatred by association they will endure, so that they might not be taken by surprise, and stumble, fall into sin, fall away.
John, writing a few decades later, includes these words, that he remembered, that the Holy Spirit recalled to his mind, as Jesus promised the Spirit would, so that others, like us, might be warned of the opposition we will face, the hatred by association we will endure, so that we might not be taken by surprise, and stumble, fall into sin, fall away.
In the 4 years of our church, I’ve been the one who decides who’s going to preach on which passage.
That changed this year, as one of the first things I asked Darren to do, was allocate the passages for this series.
And do you know I didn’t particularly want to preach on these verses.
I find it really hard, to find the balance between sounding these warnings about opposition and hatred on the one hand, and on the other hand sounding like, nobody loves us, everybody hates us, I think we should go and eat worms!
I really don’t like sounding, like I think the world is out to get us!
And so I told the staff on Monday how I was going to preach this passage.
But the sermon I described on Monday, is not the sermon I’ve just preached!
Because, as I, sat under, these words this week, I felt the weight of the danger that Jesus is most concerned about.
And it’s not that the opposition we face will be so fierce, that we will die.
That’s not his concern at all.
Jesus greatest concern, is that the opposition we face, will for us, be so unexpected,
That we will be so ill-prepared,
Taken by surprise,
So confused by both its very reality and its ferocity, that we would fall away.
And so the means by which Jesus, in his kindness, guards against that apostasy, is through presenting, well it might be a dark picture, but now when that darkness unfolds in reality, we won’t be surprised and stumble.
In fact the very opposite is true. Our faith will be strengthened. I have told you this, verse 4, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.
And so I preached a sermon that I didn’t particularly want to preach, and I imagine a number of us didn’t particularly want to hear, so that forewarned, we might be forearmed.