28 October 2011

"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you ... Remember that 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." (vv. 18, 20)


Today's passage comes towards the end of Jesus' second 'farewell discourse' before he leaves the Last Supper for the garden where Judas will bring soldiers to arrest him (John 18:3). He is giving final instructions and teaching to the disciples, before praying for them (John 17). While at table he has washed their feet (John 13:3-11), spoken of himself as the "true vine" (John 15:1), and commanded them to "love one another" (the first verse of today's passage).

From the first verses of the John's Gospel, Jesus has an ambiguous relationship with the "world". Although God created the world (John 1:10) and loves the world without reservation (John 3:16), there are times when it becomes a hostile place for Jesus and his followers. Wherever the "light of the world" is not acknowledged, Jesus is in danger. His followers should also expect to be in danger, Jesus warns them.

But despite this danger, Jesus teaches that his disciples should not withdraw from the world, but go into it offering testimony on his behalf. Jesus offers the disciples the support of an "Advocate" (John 14:16), the Holy Spirit, to come to them after he is no longer with them.

Though speaking about his particular encounters with the Jews of John's Gospel, Jesus excuses those who have not heard of, nor seen him. It is only those who have heard him and seen the signs he has done, who still refuse to acknowledge him, who sin.

To Ponder

In your view, what does Jesus mean by the 'world'?

In what ways is the 'world' a hostile place, and in what ways a welcoming one?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

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