28 October 2013

John 15:17-27

“If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.” (v. 19)


Jesus' words to the disciples dispel any illusions they or we might have that being a follow of Jesus is going to bring popularity or an easy life! In this context, Jesus' purpose that his followers would love one another (verse 17) is a necessary preparation and a mutual protection against the opposition that they will encounter.

Christ refers to "the world" frequently in this passage. In the past, Christians have often been suspicious of worldly things: John Pawson, an early president of the Methodist Conference after John Wesley's death, even burned Wesley's annotated copy of Shakespeare's plays, which he considered unedifying. Suspicion fell on dancing, the theatre, and popular novels well into the twentieth century. Here, however, Jesus is referring not to things of the world in general ('culture' as we would know them today) but to those who are indifferent or hostile to God and to God's people. He implies (verse 18) that 'the world' has a hatred which is a fixed attitude toward him and it is an attitude that carries over to his disciples as well. "The world" assumes this attitude because they reject all who do not conform to their values.

 Jesus' choice of the disciples on the other hand (verses 19-20) had set them apart for a different purpose. Therefore, the world would exclude them. While being chosen by Jesus guaranteed that the lives of his disciples would have eternal value and significance, it did not guarantee them immunity from attack. Jesus goes on to explore why those who oppose him hold this attitude. Firstly (verse 21) it is out of ignorance: "because they do not know him who sent me". Consequently, the world cannot evaluate adequately God's self-sending in Christ. Also, though there is resentment of Jesus' claims and standards (verse 22). Both by his life and words he rebukes uncovers human sin, exposing selfishness and rebellion against God. In verse 24 Jesus makes clear that he and the Father are one and that to hate him is to hate the Father also: neither can be accepted or rejected without the other. To explain his position, Jesus paraphrases (verse 25) Psalm 69:4: "More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause".

 The last two verses of this chapter define the expected action of the disciples who will maintain the testimony of Jesus after he has left the earth. In response to this attitude of hatred (verses 26-27) there must be a continuing witness to the love and grace of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

To Ponder

  • How does your own personal engagement with culture, in reading, viewing, listening and visiting, reflect the values of Jesus?
  • Are there aspects of popular culture you think Christians should avoid? If so, what are they and why should they be avoided?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tim Woolley