If the World Persecuted Me,
They Will Persecute You

John 15:18 to 16:4

On the Walk to Gethsemane
sometime between 11:00 pm and midnight,
the fifteenth of Nisan

DIG: Since the emphasis in John 15:12-17 was on love, why does Yeshua now talk about hate? How is the relationship of the apostles to the world like that of Christ’s relationship to the world? What does Messiah mean here by the world? What lesson did the Lord teach by the phrase no slave is above his master? What lesson did Jesus teach by the phrase no slave is greater than his master in Yochanan 13:16? What is the lesson here? What do you see about the relationship between the Father, Messiah and the talmidim? How has the coming of the Shield of our Salvation highlighted the reality and wickedness of sin?

REFLECT: When have you found that speaking truth and showing love can lead to hostility from others? How do you explain that? If you were put on trial for being a believer, would there be enough evidence to convict? Have you ever been hated for your love for Jesus Christ? How? When? Did it strengthen your faith or weaken it?

When the Lord earlier had sent the Twelve on a special mission, He had warned them that they would be as sheep among the wolves (see Fk - Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles). In sending them into the world on this occasion, Yeshua reminded them that they would experience the same hatred that He had experienced.

The relationship of believers to the world: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first (Yochanan 15:18). The world’s hate for believers stems from its hate for the Messiah. Its hatred is mentioned seven times in these verses. Those apostles to whom Yeshua was speaking actually saw and experienced what He did. They were hated by people who didn’t want to give up their sin and live righteously (John 16:7-11).1455 Jesus identified the enemy of God’s Kingdom as the world, which represents the fallen world system that operates according to the devil’s values and is subject to the curse of sin (see my commentary on Genesis Bg – Cursed is the Ground Because of You, Through Painful Toil You Will Eat of It). The world also represents the portion of humanity that lives by its own values and willingly serves its ends. Jesus came to redeem the world, but was rejected. His crucifixion formally declared the dividing line between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the great dragon. There are only two kinds of spiritual food: there's angel's food and devil's food. And if you aren't eating one . . . you're eating the other.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. The world either loves or hates; there is no middle ground. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:19). The world is tolerant as long as you agree with everything that is contrary to the Word of God. However, once you present the Gospel of Jesus Christ plainly, the world becomes extremely intolerant. Pseudo tolerance will give way to hatred and they will give full vent to their anger. The records of times past are proof that the cycle of hatred will come around again.

All of us know what it’s like to be in a house that’s not our own. Perhaps you’ve rented, spent time in a dorm room or army barrack. Maybe you’ve slept in your share of hotels or bunked in a few hostels. They have beds. They have tables. They may have food and they may be warm, but they are a far cry from being in your Father’s house (John 14:2).

Your Father’s house is where your Father is . . .

We don’t always feel welcome here on earth. We wonder if there is a place here for us. People can make us feel unwanted. Tragedy leaves us feeling like intruders. Strangers. Trespassers in a land not ours. We don’t always feel welcome here.

We shouldn’t. This isn’t our home. To feel unwelcome is not tragedy. Indeed it’s healthy. We are not at home here. The language we speak, it’s not ours. The body we wear, it isn’t us. And the world we live in, this isn’t home.1456

The fruit of hatred is persecution. Yeshua told His talmidim that persecution would be their reward in the world. Remember what I told you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the One who sent Me (Yochanan 15:20-21). Messiah declared that the world’s hatred would be directed at believers under the guise of true devotion.

Before Jesus came to the earth, the hatred of the world had little opportunity to vent its anger directly against ADONAI. They killed His prophets, corrupted His Word, and turned His house into a den of robbers, but they couldn’t attack God Himself. But when God came in the flesh and the world attacked Him personally, there could be no more excuses for rejecting Him. If the Lord had not come and spoken to them, their sin would not have beenso great; but since the Light had come, and those hard-hearted, blind enemies who so willfully rejected the Truth had no excuse (Yochanan 15:22).

The world does not hate the idea of God, per se. You can say you believe in God and the world will leave you alone. If you say you love Jesus Christ, however, you’re in trouble. It’s Messiah they hate. Yeshua says that whoever hates Me hates My Father as well. The truth of the preceding verse is further brought out and emphasized. If Jesus had not done among them the works no one else did, once again, their sin would not have beenso great. But as it is, He did come, and they have seen, and yet they have hated both Him and the Father (Jn 15:23-24). Again, they have no excuse.

But the nation of Isra’el unwittingly did this to fulfill what is written in their Torah: “They hated Me without reason” (Yochanan 15:25). The Torah spoken of is their Torah. It would be the Torah that they of all people should have obeyed. Torah usually applies to the five books of Moses, but sometimes it is used of the TaNaKh. That must have been the case here for the passage quoted isfrom Psalm 35:19 or 69:4. These passages speak of hatred that lacks any reasonable foundation. It was thus that they hated Jesus.

Christ reminded them again that they were not left alone to fulfill their responsibilities. When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father - the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father - He will testify about Me. The Holy Spirit will testify to the truth of Jesus Christ within the believers as well as through believers to their persecutors, and others who witness their persecution. The speaker in this verse is obviously God, and yet He says He has been sent both by the Father and by the Spirit. And you also must testify, for you have been with Me from the beginning (John 15:26-27).

When the human authors of the Bible wrote their books, they wrote in the style of the time, which did not include punctuation, breaks between words, or verses or chapters. These were added by later editors and translators and are not considered inerrant like the original text. Ordinarily, the locations of chapter breaks make good, logical sense. But the break between John 15 and 16 is unfortunate. John 16:1-4 belongs with Chapter 15. It was a dark and gloomy picture that Yeshua had painted for His talmidim. Glancing at each other, they must have sunk back into silence. Their hearts were sorrowful. And no wonder, for the Great Rabbi had told them in no uncertain terms that persecution lay just ahead; a storm that their ship was destined soon to enter.1457

All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. All this refers to everything Yeshua just said about the believers’ relationship with the world, which is strained at best, hostile at other times, and can become deadly. 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. Persecution and death had occurred in the case of Stephen (Acts 7:59), James (Acts 12:2), and other followers of the Way (Acts 9:1-4). They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me (John 16:1-3). Messiah revealed this to His talmidim so they would not be shaken and then stumble in their spiritual walk. But like many of Christ’s lessons, they did not learn and all of them stumbled and fell nonetheless. Beginning with His arrest, they ran. During His crucifixion, most hid. Before His resurrection, all lost hope. After His resurrection, they doubted. Only after receiving the Ruach HaKodesh did they act decisively and speak boldly.

The Lord’s statement in Yochanan 16:1-3 is followed here by a short parenthetical digression. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. And then a concluding statement: I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you (John 16:4). These concluding words also transition the discussion away from His impending death, to the guiding of the Spirit after His ascension.

Messiah realized that His words would have little meaning at the time; the apostles still did not understand what was about to happen or why. But at the appropriate time, His words would come to mind and help them make sense of the suffering they faced. They would not have to wonder, “Are we struggling through persecution because of some failure on our part?” No, persecution was not only expected, but it is a normal consequence of living in hostile territory during the great conflict between good and evil, between Yeshua Messiah and the Enemy of souls, Satan. Therefore, believers all over the world should be on guard. We are headed for such a time again and we should not be surprised. Jesus warned us.1458

Jesus knew that Caiaphas wanted no disturbance in the City of David that night. The Meshiach had multitudes of followers among the Jews in and out of Jerusalem, and up and down the Land from Dan to Beersheba. His public arrest would create an uproar that might lead to rioting – and rioting always meant that the Romans would be involved.

If possible, the arrest must be done quietly. Caiaphas knew this. Yeshua knew this. And now with the visit of the high priest to the praetorium, Pilate knew it. The procurator would furnish help for Caiaphas. But not for the sake of peace; it was his intention to add to the troubles of the Jews by triggering an event that was bound to split them into two groups.

After the arrest, Pilate knew he could then take this little case out of the realm of secrecy and throw it, like a clump of mud, into the public eye by merely pretending that he was so interested in seeing justice done that it would be necessary to bring the prisoner through the streets to him for a fair hearing. Each man, Jesus, Caiaphas and Pilate, had more reasons that were at first apparent for the things each one did on this day.

That night Judas had already traveled to the house of Caiaphas (John 13:30). He had been promised his paltry thirty pieces of silver and the high priest now expected the betrayer to act decisively. The Temple guard had been summoned and Pontius Pilate had assigned a tribune with five hundred men to accompany them. Caiaphas was taking no chances. The force would be overwhelming.

The high priest said that, as a dutiful son of Judah, Judas must be prepared to testify in the morning that the Nazarene had preached that He was the Messiah, the Son of God come to save the people of the world. So the niceties of proving blasphemy would be done through one of the Lord’s own followers. How perfect. How prophetic. But Judas trembled. Testify? No. No, he could not possibly testify. Never. Jesus had been his benefactor, his friend. Judas had agreed to lead them to Him, to point Him out for identification, but he would not stand up and accuse this man. Caiaphas could just get someone else.

But the high priest pointed out that the arrest was one thing; proof of blasphemy under Jewish law was quite another. A follower who would stand up in court and point at Jesus and merely tell the truth, “I heard this man say that He is God and the Son of God,” would be sufficient. Judas shook his head stubbornly. Like a petty thief he knew his limitations, and all he asked for was thirty pieces of silver and freedom.

In the dim glow of the oil lamps Caiaphas smiled. Judas was one who would steal coins from a dead man’s eyes but would ignore the big jewel on the dead man’s finger. The high priest warned him to be ready. He would be needed later to lead the soldiers to the renegade Rabbi.1459

 

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