29 October 2007John 15:17-27
"Remember the word that I said to you, 'Servants are not greater than their master'. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also". (v.20)
The words of Jesus in this section of John's gospel form a part
of the package of building up, encouraging and inspiring the
disciples, as Jesus tries to prepare them for life without his
In the course of one evening the disciples had seen Jesus, their teacher and Lord, wash their feet, eaten bread and wine together, seen Judas rush out, been told that Jesus would leave them soon but the Holy Spirit would come to them. By this time they must have been very puzzled and rather worried.
Now Jesus reminds them to love each other and tells them what to expect because they are his followers. They will be given help to testify and to be witnesses by the Spirit of truth.
What do these words mean for modern day disciples?
Earlier this year I was able to attend a World Seminar of over 200 Methodists from 60 different countries. We worshipped, prayed and learnt together, as we sought to share the gospel of Jesus Christ from our particular cultures and contexts. During a coffee break I sat next to a man for whom the hatred from the world towards Christianity meant persecution, loss of employment and even death, yet he had so much confidence in the gospel that he just knew he was following Jesus and that God would hold him and his family whatever happened. He was following his master and was living in the expectation of persecution, as that was what Jesus had promised, wasn't it?
The 'master' had challenged authority, both religious and civil, he had broken many social taboos by reaching out to the poor and the outcast and he led a movement that was capable of turning the world upside down. He now knew he was going to die because of his words and actions.
Is persecution part of our Christian discipleship in the UK, where we have so much freedom?
Can we use this day to pray for the people who are facing persecution in many parts of the world and ask that the Spirit of truth bring them what they need, this moment, this time, right now?
Are you able to pray for those who persecute you?
Should persecution be the expectation for all Christians if we truly follow the subversive agenda of Jesus?