John 15:18-16:4 Common English Bible (CEB)
If the world hates you
18 “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, I have chosen you out of the world, and you don’t belong to the world. This is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you, ‘Servants aren’t greater than their master.’ If the world harassed me, it will harass you too. If it kept my word, it will also keep yours. 21 The world will do all these things to you on account of my name, because it doesn’t know the one who sent me.
22 “If I hadn’t come and spoken to the people of this world, they wouldn’t be sinners. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me also hates the Father. 24 If I hadn’t done works among them that no one else had done, they wouldn’t be sinners. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 This fulfills the word written in their Law, They hated me without a reason.[a]
26 “When the Companion[b] comes, whom I will send from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You will testify too, because you have been with me from the beginning. 16 1 I have said these things to you so that you won’t fall away. 2 They will expel you from the synagogue. The time is coming when those who kill you will think that they are doing a service to God. 3 They will do these things because they don’t know the Father or me. 4 But I have said these things to you so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them.
As a former math teacher, I was remembering the Transitive Property as I studied the scripture for this week. In Mathematics the transitive property states that: If a = b and b = c, then a = c. In other words, if “a” is related to “b” by some property, and “b” is related to “c” by the same property, then “a” is related to “c” by that property. In John 13 Jesus says we were to follow Jesus’ example: love, humble service – wonderful, heartwarming, to be sought. In 13:20 he says, “I assure you that whoever receives someone I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Now in John 15:18 he says, ““If the world hates you, know that it hated me first.” Because of what Jesus was to go through, we may have to endure being hated, harassed, expelled, even killed. Wow! No wonder Jesus knew his disciples needed strength. In today’s passage, Jesus gives two reasons for telling the disciples about all this. In 16:1 he says, “I have said these things to you so that you won’t fall away,” and in 16:4 he says, “But I have said these things to you so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them.” They were going to need strength.
Our Lenten focus has been on Jesus’ “doorknob teachings” – the last things he would tell them before his order, death and resurrection. First, we talked about The Need For Cleansing. This is a touch-up job, since we are his followers already. We need the loving, tender cleansing of Jesus in order to face the trials of our lives. The second week was centered around The Need For Belief. This Belief in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit reminds us that we, earth-bound as we are, have a place in Jesus’ continuing mission to bring salvation to the world. Week three we explored The Need For Connection. The only way our belief will remain strong is if we remain in Jesus. Last week we considered The Need For Love. As Peter needed to abide in the love of Jesus to overcome his denials, so we need to abide in God’s love and with each other in love. Today, it is The Need For Strength.
Jesus begins by warning the disciples about coming difficulties. The difficulties would begin with what he had to face, but then the disciples would have to face many of the same trials. Through historical data we know all but John died violent deaths. Peter was crucified upside down! In 15:19 Jesus points to the cause for the difficulties to come. We are chosen out of the world … we don’t belong to the world. When someone or something is “different” it is usually met with suspicion at the least, hatred at the worst. In Romans 12:2 Paul reminds us, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” The Disciples, with the help of God in the Holy Spirit, needed to transform for the future. They were to be a part of the movement to bring people back to true belief in God. Jesus was reminding us we need to “Act as if” we don’t belong to the world. Think of idea of “ownership”. My car belongs to me. It is mine to do with as I see fit. I can care for it or I can neglect it. My car doesn’t choose where it wants to go. In a similar way, the world doesn’t own me – I don’t belong to it. We belong to God. God directs my steps and shows me the way. He always cares.
For the disciples and for us, facing the future is going to take strength. It is going to take strength of identity. We need to know “who’s” we are. That identity, a child of God, needs to form and shape everything we say or do. Beyond that, it is going to take a strength of purpose. When someone lacks a clear purpose in life, they can appear to wander – just float through life bouncing from one thing to another. The focus tends to be self-gratification – doing what comes naturally.
I believe Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians 3:16 is a way of praying that we will find that strength of purpose and identity. “I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit.” Our hearts and minds need the Lord’s strength. Our will needs to belong to God. Our paths need to follow Jesus’ paths.
[As an aside, you may have noticed that I have skipped over the section in chapter 14 that speaks of the Holy Spirit. Here as well I won’t be talking much about the Comforter in verse 26 and following. I’ll be pulling the amazing info about the Holy Spirit together from chapters 14 - 16 next week.]
In our Communion Study (which we will resume as soon as we can again meet together without the fear of spreading this virus) Beni Johnson reminds us, “Our relationship with God is not transactional but relational.” It isn’t something we do in order to get something. I want to take you to the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. Hear the opening verses of this encounter.
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, 13 they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”
14 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed.
The lepers are waiting for Jesus at the edge of town. In verse 13 it says, “… they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”” They knew his name – Jesus - they knew his title – Master - and asked for what they needed – mercy! The next part of the story is curious. Jesus says, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” [Luke 17:14]
The lepers would have understood that. It was traditional and required, after being cleansed of leprosy, to present yourself to the priests in order for them to verify your “cleanness.” Once you were certified as “clean” you could again enter society and lead a normal life. They understood that and acted immediately. Next 6 words are crucial: “As they left, they were cleansed.” By starting off toward the Temple and the priests, they were “acting as if” there would be a reason to show themselves to the priests! J.D. Walt, in his Lenten Devotional Listen To Him says this, “They [the 10 lepers] didn’t wait for God to do something before they acted. They acted in anticipation of God doing something. We so often find ourselves in a posture of saying, “God, if you will do this, I will do that.” A slight and equally errant variation on this prayer says, “I will do this if you will do that.” All the while God is saying, “”I’ll do that when you do this.”” This sounds like a subtle difference, but it says God is ready to do, all we have to do is act as if we already have what we need from God. Our need for strength is to act as if we already have it.
Back to the ‘transitive property’: If God is strong and Jesus was one with the Father, then Jesus was strong. If Jesus was strong and we are related to Jesus then we are strong. Jesus knew the Disciples needed strength. He also knew that it would be there when they needed it – they just had to know it!!
The choir sang a song in January, I believe, entitled “Be Strong in the Lord” with words by J. Paul Williams. “Be strong, be strong in the Lord. Rise up put on the armor of God. In everything praise his name, gladly rejoice. Be strong, be strong in the Lord.”
Our call throughout life is to act as if we have all God’s strength through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, because by “abiding in Jesus” we already have it. Amen. And Amen!