10 May 2010

John 15:26 - 16:4

"They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God." (16:2)


In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that they must expect to face suffering and even death at the hands of people who have failed to recognise who Christ is. The ignorance of those who claim to be worshipping God, whilst persecuting Christ's followers, is contrasted with the true testimony of the Holy Spirit and the disciples themselves. The disciples have been with Jesus from the beginning and know Jesus well. Those who will persecute them lack this knowledge.

Jesus encourages the disciples to testify on his behalf despite the opposition they will face. And even today people still risk persecution and death in some parts of the world for testifying about their faith.

Jesus shares these things with his disciples as a way of both preparing and comforting them. If they can remember in the midst of their suffering that their testimony is true and that those who oppose them are wrong, they will be able to stand firm and not stumble.

The promised Holy Spirit will also be a strength and support to them. Here the Spirit is described as "the Advocate", which is a word connected with courts of law. The Holy Spirit will plead the case of Christ's disciples when they are brought to the time of trial.

One of the trials Jesus mentions is that "they will put you out of the synagogues". This may not seem a very serious ordeal in comparison with being put to death. However, it does remind us that exclusion from a particular community to which one has belonged - church, work, school, family, prison, home, hospital - is a difficult and painful experience which is often accompanied by a deep sense of suffering and loss.

To Ponder

How can you offer worship to God in what you are doing today?

What words of Jesus do you remember when you are in need of strength and consolation?

In what ways can you be an advocate for people who have been excluded?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Vidamour

Nicola is a Methodist minister, currently serving two churches in East Ham, London. Before taking up this appointment, Nicola spent six years as the associate pastor of Pskov United Methodist Church in Russia.