15.01.03 Jn. 15:18-16:4
JESUS WARNS OF THEIR PERSECUTION
18 “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master’ (Jn. 13:16). If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates Me also hates My Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened so that the statement written in their scripture might be fulfilled: They hated Me for no reason (Ps. 35:19, 69:4).
26 “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father — He will testify about Me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
1 “I have told you these things to keep you from stumbling. 2 They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 They will do these things because they haven’t known the Father or Me. 4 But I have told you these things so that when their time comes you may remember I told them to you. I didn’t tell you these things from the beginning, because I was with you.
“If the world hates you.” The word world, as John used it, means a human society organizing itself without God. The goals of life and worldviews of those who do not know God will always be vastly different from those who love Him and are committed to His calling and lifestyle.
“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Jesus gave clear warning that persecution would be coming upon the disciples, instigated by the same religious leaders who were persecuting Him. This prophecy was fulfilled as Jewish anti-Semitism rose, traditional Jews rising up against Judeo-Christian Jews. Such hatred was usually spread in worship services, as evidenced by the twelfth benediction of the Eighteen Benedictions that were recited in every synagogue on Sabbath. It has a pointed statement concerning heretics, including the Nazarenes, meaning those who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus warned His disciples of pending persecution. He presented four reasons why men would hate and try to kill them.
- Before they came to faith, the believers were a part of the world, but when they accepted Christ, they came out of the world. For this reason they were hated (Jn. 15:19).
- Jesus has a special relationship with those who are dedicated to Him, for which they are persecuted (Jn. 15:14, 20).
- The world does not know the Father (Jn. 15:21) and, therefore, does not know Jesus.
- Finally, the Word of God condemns the world, since those of the world choose not to accept Him, and, therefore, they hate all those who did accept Him (Jn. 15:22).
If there was ever a prophetic warning that was to be fulfilled quickly, this was it. Two historians, Suetonius and Tacitus did not waste a moment to make their comments about the so-called troublesome Christians. Suetonius quoted Emperor Claudius (reigned 41 – 54) who said that the followers of “Chrestus” (meaning “Christ”) were,
“A race of men who belong to a new and evil superstition.”
Suetonius, Life of Claudius 25.4
At this point it is important to restate the fact that the Romans believed all religions were ancient and, therefore, placed them under a legal protection. They even went out of their way as not to offend the Jews, whose religion certainly confused them more than any other. That is, until Jesus came. The followers of Jesus believed that God had done a new work – and that, obviously, was not ancient. So in Roman thinking, Christianity was not a religion, but a superstition, and superstitions had to be removed from the Roman society. That gave grounds for government sponsored persecution. For that reason, the Roman historian Tacitus referred to the members of the church as,
“The notoriously depraved Christians (as they had been popularly called).”
Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome 15.41
Other reasons why early Christians were persecuted were numerous. Note the following examples of the popular myths that were said of them:
- They were disloyal to the Roman Empire at the best and insurrectionists at worst because they refused to claim that “Caesar is Lord.”
- Christians were said to be cannibals because they continued to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus. Even though Jesus was long past crucified and buried (and ascended), superstitious people were easily convinced this accusation was true.
- Since the early church had a weekly fellowship meal called the Agape (Love Feast) and they greeted each other with a kiss of love, also known as a holy kiss, believers were accused of practicing immorality. This was an astounding accusation in light of the lifestyle of the pagans who had few, if any, objections to immorality.
- Early Christians were said to be incendiaries because they believed that when Jesus returns He will bring fire and destruction upon the earth.
- Christians were destructive to families, because converts to the new religion broke up families and marriages. Of all the charges, this one was noteworthy because often children became believers and the parents didn’t; or the wife became a follower of Jesus and the husband didn’t, and therefore, left her. In essence, Jesus was right when He said He didn’t come to bring peace, but to bring the sword (Mt. 10:34).
Both Suetonius and Tacitus were modest in their comments about Jesus and the early believers. To make matters worse, wherever pagans spread these accusations, the Jewish leaders “confirmed” the so-called truth to ignorant listeners. It was concerning situations like these that Jesus said spoke of the Holy Spirit who would minister to the believers during difficult times.
“Scripture might be fulfilled.” The words Law and Scripture are usually a reference to the Torah, but in this case, it is applied to the entire Hebrew Bible. It is interesting that Jesus always referred to the Scriptures as “your law,” “their law,” or “the law,” but never as “our law.” Jesus was the author of the law and, therefore, is not subject to it. He never disobeyed it, but came to fulfill its intended meaning.
“The Counselor … the Father … Me.” The Trinity is clearly identified as the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus. The Persons of the Trinity are not distinguished by their relationship to a common essence, but by their relations of origin to the Father. There was subordination of Jesus to the Father for the sake of His mission on the Earth, but not in terms of eternal relationship. The ancient Hebrews spoke of God as they experienced Him as a Unity (cf. Deut. 6:4). The church, however, experiences the Unity as a Trinity.
. Barclay, “John.” 2:185.
. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 94, 106; See also “The Eighteen Benedictions” in Appendix 18.
. Mellowes and Cran, Producers. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians. (DVD). Part 2.
. It is called a “holy kiss” or “kiss of love” in Paul’s epistles as well as in 1 Peter.