29 October 2012

John 15:17-27

"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." (vv. 20-21)


These words from John's Gospel are an account of Jesus' final conversation with his disciples before his crucifixion. As you read them, let them sink in. They are truly terrifying. Jesus warns his disciples that they will forever bear the stigma of having been associated with him. People will look at them and see Jesus ... but not Jesus the object of reverence and devotion, nor Jesus the engaging preacher; rather, Jesus the upstart country bumpkin who got above himself, affronted the official representatives of the nation, and ended up hanging in agony on a cross while the crowd looked on jeering.

As people look at disciples of Jesus (whether in the ancient or the modern world) they will see in them the image of Jesus himself, who Paul later described as "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). Whether we like it or not, we present to the world the image of Jesus, whom the world, as a result, may revere, despise or detest. No matter how carefully we craft our own 'public image', as Christians we are ambassadors for Christ, not self-publicists. We bear the image of God reflected in Jesus.

But it's not even as simple as that. We have to live with the fact that other Christians, in all sincerity, sometimes present to the world an image of Christ that makes us feel very uneasy. No doubt some of them might feel equally uneasy with the image of Christ we present. Being true to ourselves, being true to Christ and being a faithful member of his Church can sometimes leave us feeling very uncomfortable indeed.

To Ponder

  • What image of Jesus do you try to present in your daily witness?
  • Have you ever experienced hostility as a result? In your heart how do you deal with the effects of such hostility?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 60s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.