8 May 2010

John 15:18-21

"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. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me." (v.20-21)


Prior to these verses, Jesus had been giving his disciples his final teaching. The topic was about the meaning of being a follower of Jesus. Jesus had been talking to them about his relationship with God, about God's relationship with him and about Jesus' relationship with the disciples (and with everyone who would follow Jesus in the future). All these relationships were based on love and on people demonstrating their love by following God's commandments.

Today's verses switch gears. As the hour of Jesus' arrest grew ever closer, he told the disciples that, because they love and serve him, they can expect the world to hate them (meaning the community of believers), just as it hated Jesus.

John's Gospel uses the idea of "the world" to express two separate concepts:

  1. God's created order
  2. Those who stand outside the community of Jesus.

In the context of today's reading, "the world" is meant in this second way. And the reason that the world will hate Jesus' followers is because it hated him. On the other hand, Jesus also taught that people who are willing to listen to his teachings will also be willing to listen to the community of believers.

There is no getting around the fact that this text is extremely black and white. According to these particular verses 'the world' is operating on the idea that 'the friend of my enemy is my enemy'. It is made clear that the world hates Jesus and it will therefore hate his servants and anyone else who aligns themselves with him. And why does the world hate Jesus? Because it does not know God. It does not know the one who sent Jesus.

These are not comforting verses. They were probably not comforting for Jesus' disciples in the 1st century and they are not comforting for Jesus' disciples today.


To Ponder

These verses present a very stark choice: love Jesus or hate him; love Jesus' followers or hate them. What is your reaction to the very black and white choice that is presented?

How would you determine whether a particular religion is being persecuted by its surrounding society?

What are some examples of persecution of a particular religion that are occurring today in the world?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pam Garrud

Pam is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Britain. In August 2009, Pam and her London-born husband Trevor moved to Pam's native United States for family reasons.