29 October 2021John 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)
This passage is part of a long speech of Jesus which John's Gospel places after dinner at the Last Supper. A number of themes occur repeatedly within this extended teaching, including the new commandment to love one another, the warning of persecution for Jesus’ followers, and the promise of the Holy Spirit as a helper.
Jesus first gave his disciples what he describes as “a new commandment” to love one another as he has loved them in John 13:34, and it was repeated in 15:12 just before today’s passage. The immediate context of this reiteration of the commandment is teaching about each of them, and by extension us, being branches of a vine of which Jesus is the stem. This connection enables love for one another.
In contrast to this love for one another is the hatred disciples can expect from the world, and this becomes the theme from verse 18 onwards. “World” in this gospel sometimes is a neutral reference to the whole creation and sometimes, as here, to humanity placing itself in opposition to God’s purposes. Like Jesus himself (John 8:23) his followers have no allegiance to the world in that sense, although John 17:15-18 indicates that the disciples, like Jesus, retain a mission to the world.
“Servants are not greater than their master” (v. 20) refers back to 13:16 and Matthew 10:24-25 has the same thought. “On account of my name” (v. 21) means “because you identify with me” and the rejection that will follow, which is due to their opponents not knowing God, a theme that previously arose in relation to Jesus in 7:28, 8:19 and 8:54-55.
Verse 22 highlights that there is a negative consequence of Jesus’ mission, as people will no longer have their previous excuse of ignorance if they fail to believe the message when they hear it (compare John 9:39-41). “They hated me without a cause” (v. 25) is taken from Psalm 35:19 and 69:4.
Jesus’ cause will be maintained amidst hostility by the two-fold witness of the Holy Spirit, called the “Spirit of truth” here and elsewhere in this discourse, and of the apostles. The fact that the apostles have been with Jesus from the beginning qualifies them as reliable witnesses.
- What would you say in practical terms is involved in love for one another?
- Is it still inevitable that 'the world' will hate followers of Jesus? To what extent does your experience confirm or modify that statement?
- According to verse 22, people are not regarded as sinners until they first hear the gospel and fail to embrace it. How do you respond to this claim?