About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The World Hates The Disciples (ch. 15:18-16:4)


Jesus tells these eleven men that "if the world hates you, remember that it hated me first."  Jesus uses the word "if" as if there might be a possibility that the world might hate these men.  Well, the world did hate these men to the extent that most of them, if not all, were killed as martyrs for their association with Jesus.  These men were now being told of the distinct possibility that they would experience hatred directed to them by those in the world, which in their case would be both the Roman world and the Jewish world. 


When you see the word "world" used in the New Testament it refers to the world systems.  By world system I mean governments, business, education, religion, and anything that does not pertain to Christian thinking.    


Jesus tells us the reason why the worldís system might hate the disciples.  He says that His disciples are not part of the worldís system.  There is the Kingdom of God and there are kingdoms of the world.  We may be citizens of a particular country, but first and foremost we are citizens of the Kingdom of God , and our alliance is to Godís Kingdom first.  Where the two kingdoms clash, we obey God. 


Followers of Jesus should live differently than people of the world.  I donít believe this noticeable difference is in the way we look, but rather in the way we act.  Too often in years past the church has told us that the difference is in how we dress or what we look like, but this is not genuine godliness.  The character of Jesus that should be evident in our lives should make us different than the people of the world, but it is sad to say that is not the case in much of today's church.


In verse 19 Jesus tells these men that He has "chosen them out of the world."  That is to say, they were in the world and Jesus found them in the world and has taken them out of the world to live with Him in His world.  We should view ourselves as people who live in a different world than those around us. 


The Biblical idea that we do not belong to the world has long been forgotten in western world Christianity.  For this reason, at least in the past, the world has not hated us.  That is in the process of change.  If you start living as Jesus wants you to live, and then be prepared.  The anti-Christ culture in which we live will hate you and you will experience the consequences of its hatred.     


In verse 20 Jesus gets specific.  He doesnít use the word "if" as He did earlier.  He reminds these men that the servant is not greater than the master.  If people hate the master, they "will" hate the servant.  Jesus is plainly warning these men that they will be hated.  The world hated Jesus and the world will definitely hate these eleven men.    


Then Jesus goes on to say that if "they (those in the world) obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours too."   This tells us that the disciples will teach what they have learned from Jesus.  Some people will hear the teaching and obey because they heard it from Jesus and obeyed, while others will not obey their teaching.  These people will hate the teachers of the gospel.


I think the work of the Holy Spirit is implied in this verse.  After Jesus' return to His Father, these, and other men and women, preached the gospel throughout the known world, in places where Jesus never taught.   So, in this sense, "if they have received my teaching they will receive your teaching" doesn't fit.  However, if the people who hear the gospel hear and respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit, they will receive the teaching of these men, and our teaching as well.    


I believe one reason why the world does not hate us as it hated the first generation Christians is because we act and behave too much like the world.  If this is the case, there would be no reason for the world to hate us because they would perceive us to be like them. 


Another reason why we are not so hated by the world is because in much of the western world the gospel has had a great effect on our society and its truths have become part of our culture.  Therefore, we are accepted by our worldly culture, but, this is beginning to change.  As western culture moves away from Christian influence, it will turn on us and we will begin to suffer persecution.


In verse 21 Jesus tells these eleven men that the world will treat them in this fashion because they donít know the one who sent Him.  They donít know the true God of this universe who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In much of today's western world culture, those who believe in the existence of God believe in a generic god.  That is to say, "one god fits all people."  That's not the God of the Bible.  Again, the God Christians serve is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Introduce this God into the cultural conversation and sparks will certainly fly.     


In verse 22 Jesus says that if He "had not come and spoken to them, (the Jews) they would not be guilty of sin, " but Jesus did speak truth to the Jews and they consistently rejected Him.  What does this mean?  The clear message that Jesus spoke to the Jewish nation gives them no excuse. The main sin that I believe Jesus is speaking about here is the sin of unbelief Ė the sin of not accepting Him.  Does Jesusí word imply that if He had not come these people would not have their sin counted against them?  I donít think so because for generations they had been rejecting Godís prophets.  Their sin would have still been held against them.  The point to be made is that the clear word of Jesus is the last straw.  These people have absolutely no excuse from this point on.  The Jewish nation will give account of its sin until such time when Biblical prophecy is fulfilled the remnant of Israel will be saved.


In one real sense of the word, Jesus was the ultimate prophet to Israel.  His words stood in judgment of Israel.  Like Jesus, we must be the prophetic voice to the nations in which we live.  We must be the John the Baptists to our nation, despite the consequences, and we know what happened to John.  For those who forget, John was beheaded.


In verse 23 Jesus says that those who hate Him hates the Father as well.  The same applies today.  If those in the world around us hate Jesus, they hate the real God of this universe.    


Verse 24 is similar to the above.  Jesus says that because He has performed miracles that no one else had ever done, these people had no excuse.  If the message Jesus spoke wasnít proof enough, then the miracles He performed should have been proof.  They did not accept either His words or His miracles.  As a result, they have no excuse for their sins.  They will give account of their sins, both on an individual level and a national level.  


Some might suggest that Jesus is saying that if He had not spoken His message or performed the miracles, then these people would have an excuse for their sin and theyíd not be accountable for their sin.  I can understand how one could interpret this idea from Jesusí words, but as I have said above, we need to understand these words in context of what Jesus has said in the past.  He spoke of the Jewish leadership as being children of the devil.  He spoke about the Jews as always persecuting the prophets of old.  These people were always rejecting God in one way or another.  In light of this, they would be accountable for their sin.  The fact remains that once Jesus spoke the word and performed the miracles, even if they thought they had an excuse, they didnít.   The rejection of Jesus was the final straw that broke their backs.


In verse 25 Jesus reminds the apostles that all this is only meant to fulfill the prophecy as written in their Law.  Hatred towards Jesus was predicted in Psalm 35:19 and 69:4.  One point to understand here is that we often see Jesus and others referring to the Psalms as part of the Law.  The Law was in fact the first 5 books of the Old Testament, but in a wider sense of the word the Law incorporated the whole of the Old Testament.


Note the words "their Law."  The word "their" emphasizes the fact that even though it was God's Law, the Jews embraced it as "their Law".  Thus, they should embrace all of what their Law says, but they didn't.    


In verse 26 we see some clarification on who sends the Holy Spirit to the believer.  We noted earlier that Jesus said that the Father would send the Spirit and that in Acts 2 Peter says the Holy Spirit comes from Jesus.  Here Jesus says that He will send the Spirit from the Father.  This must be understood in terms of the Trinity.  Jesus and the Father are one.  The Spirit comes to the believer from both.  As a matter of fact, the New Testament states that the Holy Spirit is in fact the Spirit of Jesus.


Jesus calls the Spirit the Counselor here in verse 26.  This tells us part of the function and roll of the Holy Spirit.  He is with us to give us counsel, much like Jesus did while He was on earth.  In a practical sense this means that when we hear things said, it is the Holy Spirit within us that should give us the nod whether what we hear is of the Lord or not.  Beyond this, it is the Holy Spirit that leads us into truth and gives us the understanding that we need.


In the last part of verse 26 Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth.  He is truth Himself and that is why He can lead us into all truth.  Remember back in John 14:6 Jesus also says that He was the truth.  Again, we see the nature of the Trinity at work here.  Both Jesus and the Spirit are ultimate truth.


We also note another roll of the Spirit from this verse and that is He tells us all about Jesus. As Jesus spoke about His Father, so the Spirit speaks about Jesus and not Himself.  The same should be said about us.  We speak about Jesus and not about us.  If someone consistently speaks about himself, you can be sure that he is not speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit.   


In verse 27 Jesus gives these eleven men another command.  He says that they must testify about Him since they were with Him from the beginning.  So, both the Holy Spirit and the apostles (us too) must speak and testify about Jesus.  It's a cooperative venture between us and the Holy Spirit.


The thing that distinguishes us from these eleven men is that they were with Jesus from the very beginning.  Their witness about Him is special and is different than ours.  This does not make our testimony invalid.  We simply give our witness from a different perspective.


In chapter 16, verse 1, Jesus gives at least one reason why He is saying these things to these eleven men.  He says that He is telling them these things so they wonít go astray.  This tells you that it was possible for these men that Jesus had chosen to go astray.  It is clear that each and every one of them, and us too, had their chance to do just that.  The things that would soon happen would give these men ample opportunity to fall away.  We know that Peter forsook Jesus, but, he did not go astray, even though he had the chance.  


What Jesus says in verse 2 must have been heart wrenching for these eleven men.  He has just told them that what He is saying He is saying so they wonít go astray, or, so they wonít leave Him and their faith.  Jesus now tells them that the time is coming that they will be put out of the synagogue.  This is a very dramatic thing for a Jew in those days.  Being put out of the synagogue meant that they were being disowned by the Jewish community.  They would be treated as Gentile dogs.  There were many social benefits that Jews derived from being a Jew and a member of the local synagogue, similar to our government welfare system.  This would mean that the eleven men would suffer financial and social hardship simply because of their association with Jesus.  Jesus was warning them ahead of time so they wouldnít walk away when this happened.  This demanded a sincere trust in Jesus.


Jesus didnít stop there.  In the second part of verse 2 Jesus says that "a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think that he is offering a service to God."  Jesus does not say, "if anyone kills you."  He says "when anyone kills you."  Jesus is telling these men that they will be killed for their association with Him and those who kill them will think that they are doing Godís will.  Once again, in verse 3, Jesus says that they will do these things because they donít know His Father or Him. 


In verse 4 Jesus says that He is telling these men these things now so that when the time comes for these things to happen they will remember.  A lot of what Jesus has said in these chapters were told to the disciples for this reason.  They were not able to understand all of what Jesus was saying, but, when the things that Jesus said came true at some future date, and then they would remember and understand.  The remembering process would strengthen their trust in Him.  I am sure that the Holy Spirit was a part of this remembering process.


Jesus then says that He didnít tell them these things earlier since He was with them.  There are various understandings to these words.  Jesus did not feel the need to fill these men on all the negative details of their future.  In the previous years Jesus had other things in mind that He wanted to tell His followers.  He left these hard words to the end.  Jesus was visibly with these men for a few years.  Jesus Himself deflected any animosity that was directed their way.  For the most part, the criticism was directed towards Jesus, not His followers, but after Jesus leaves, things would change.  These men would then start being persecuted, and the way they treated Jesus would be the way they get treated. 

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