Monday

'If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”' (vs. 24-25)

John 15:17-27 Monday 28 October 2019

Psalm: Psalm 117

Background

Today the church remembers the apostles Simon and Jude. Comparatively little is known about these men, but one tradition is that they went to Persia and were martyred there. Many who followed Jesus had a similar fate and today Christians continue to be murdered for their beliefs. In today’s reading, Jesus acknowledges the persecution his followers will face.

When we suffer there can be a tendency to lash out at others. As humans we often want to have a tangible cause of our suffering that we can focus our anger on. In verses 24- 25 the Jews are used as a scapegoat and are accused of not knowing their own laws and hating Jesus without reason. Scripture (Psalm 35 and 69 rather than the law, as is claimed) is used to criticise Jews as a collective group. But this statement seems illogical considering many of Jesus’ first followers were Jews. Indeed Simon and Jude were two Jews who were killed for following Jesus. So such a blanket statement about Jews is clearly inaccurate.

To find out more about this passage we need to look at the context in which John’s Gospel was written. First century Judaism was certainly not a homogeneous religion – like any other religion its followers were made up of different groups with differing beliefs. Christianity started as one of these branches of Judaism and remained that way for decades. As more and more Gentiles chose to convert to Christianity without adopting Jewish practices, some Jewish Christians were concerned that their Judaism was being side-lined. Some of these people blamed the Jews who did not follow Jesus for the eventual separation of Christianity and Judaism, and saw themselves as the minority who were being forced out. It was in this context that some Christians began using Jews as a scapegoat and developed theologies blaming all Jews for the death of Jesus.

Christian anti-Judaism persisted in the centuries that followed, with Christians quick to put the blame on Jews. Most horrifically the pervasive prejudice against Jews contributed to the horrific events of the Holocaust. But such prejudice is completely opposed to Jesus’ message of love. In this passage, Jesus states that he knows what it is to be persecuted and he is with those who are hated for their faith. In following Jesus we need to challenge our own prejudices so that we can walk alongside the oppressed and rather than letting our silence or ignorance aid the oppressor.

 

To Ponder:

  • How can we support people persecuted for their faith?
  • What conscious or unconscious biases do we hold and how can we counter them?
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