Expect the Hate

Posted: December 6, 2015 in John, Uncategorized

John 15:18-16:4, “Expect the Hate”

The news from this past Wednesday was horrific.  In San Bernadino, CA, 14 people were murdered, with another 21 wounded after a Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik opened fire at a work-related Christmas party.  The two Islamic terrorists were later killed in a gun battle with the police, and investigations (though still ongoing) have discovered a massive arsenal of bombs and other firepower which were at their disposal.  This was a planned attack, another act of Islamic terror along the lines of what was seen in Paris, Fort Hood, New York City, and Jerusalem, among others.  All over the world, and especially all over America, Christians went to our knees and prayer, calling others to do the same.  And what was the response?  The New York Daily News ran a headline screaming “God Isn’t Fixing This.”  A columnist from the Washington Post tweeted: “Dear ‘thoughts and prayers’ people: Please shut up and slink away. You are the problem, and everyone knows it.”  Even a sitting US Congressman (Jon Yarmuth of Kentucky) tweeted “The victims of these now daily mass shootings need more than thoughts and prayers.  They need action.” 

Sadly, the list could go on.  Social media was filled with statements berating people of prayer, belittling prayer itself, blaming prayerful Christians as the underlying problem in this country.  Let’s be clear: it was the lack of prayer that brought us to this point in the first place.  Our nation has turned its back on God while refusing to acknowledge the problem of Islamic terrorism. What else did we expect would happen?

That said, it is the hatred poured out upon praying Christians that took so many people by surprise.  After all, who wouldn’t want prayer?  What harm could it possibly cause?  Here’s the thing: prayer wasn’t the problem; Christ was.  The world this week did not pour out its hate on ‘prayer’ so much as they poured it out upon Christians.  And the only reason they hate Christians is because they hate Christ.

Hatred, as ugly as it is, is to be expected.  In fact, Jesus specifically told His disciples it would be so.  His warning comes in the middle of the Upper Room Discourse, directly following a section when Jesus spoke about love.  If it seems a bit ironic in placement, it’s not.  First Jesus spoke about the love that the disciples needed to have among each other and for one another, and now Jesus speaks about the hatred they would experience from the world in which they lived.  It isn’t ironic so much as it is a simple contrast.  Disciples of Jesus are to abide / remain / dwell in the love of Jesus, loving one another to the point that Jesus loved them: laying down their lives for one another.  As they do so, they are to expect the hate of the world.  It’s that simple.

Of course Jesus was speaking to the apostles, but the principle still applies to us.  It’s not easy to be a Christian in today’s age.  Increasingly, we in America are starting to experience what other Christians around the world and throughout history have always experienced.  Christians have always been hated and persecuted.  Don’t take it personally.  It’s not about you; it’s about Jesus.  Don’t let it sway you from your faith – be further grounded in it.  Jesus told us in advance, so we can trust Him and the Holy Spirit to get us through those days.

John 15:18–16:4

  • The Reality of Hatred (18-20)

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

  • Does the world really hate Jesus?  Yes!  Granted, there are versions of Jesus that the world loves.  They love the pacifist Jesus – the hippie Jesus – the moralistic Jesus, etc.  They love the Jesus that is all about being nice to one other.  And it is easy to find parts of Jesus’ teachings that would align with some of this.  But the Jesus of the whole Bible?  The One that proclaims the holiness of God, the need to repent, and Who so utterly believes in the damnation due to sin that He hung upon the cross in our place?   The Jesus Who will be coming back in power and glory to judge the world in righteousness?  THAT Jesus, the world hates.  That Jesus, the world has always hated.  That Jesus is simply the God of the Bible, who has been rejected by the world since the very first family of humans.  From Cain to his sons to the Tower of Babel & beyond, the world has not just resisted and rebelled against Almighty God, but has actively rejected Him.
  • Even among God’s own people, He was rejected.  The Hebrews routinely cast aside the words of God and His prophets.  They were barely free from Egyptian slavery before they were asking to go back to it.  Moses was constantly pleading with the people not to rebel against God and incur His wrath.  The history of the kingdom is filled with men who, though anointed to be king, rejected what that anointing meant & ruled with all of the evil they could muster.  God’s prophets were mocked & killed – a trend that continued all the way through John the Baptist, and now was soon to include Jesus & later His disciples.
  • This is just the way it is.  It’s the way it’s always been.  And when we were of the world, we did the same thing.  When Jesus here speaks of “the world,” this isn’t so much a reference to every single human being in existence, because there were obviously a few who did love and follow Jesus (the 11 men in the Upper Room, for example).  But they were the minority.  Everyone else who did not follow Christ, having faith in Him, were actively opposed to Him.  They “hated” Him.  That word is just as strong as it implies.  This is to be utterly detested. 
    • Objection: “Wait a minute!  I don’t remember hating Jesus.  I may not have believed in God, but I didn’t actively hate Him.”  Sure you did, just like me.  Granted, I wouldn’t have described it that way at the time.  I would have said that I simply didn’t care about God one way or the other…I was an apathetic agnostic, and perfectly happy about it.  What I didn’t realize (and what many people don’t) is that there is no middle ground.  Romans 8:6–7, "(6) For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be."  Outside of Christ, our mind is on ourselves – our flesh, our “carnal” selves.  When it is, we are at enmity against God.  We actively war against Him as mortal enemies.  Whether we think we’re a major sinner or a minor sinner is irrelevant.  Whether we purposefully hate God or simply disregard Him doesn’t matter.  The truth is that we are at war against Him.
    • That being the case, it means we are in desperate need for peace!  After all, who can go to war against God and win?  The Jews and Romans went to war against Jesus, going so far as to nail Him to a cross, but not even death is enough to stop God, and Jesus rose from the dead.  But that is the very act that makes peace with God possible!  We hated God, yet God loved us, sent His Son to die for us, and offers all of us forgiveness, life, and eternity with Him through faith in Christ.  What a glorious God He is!
  • So the world hates Jesus, and has always hated Jesus.  That being the case, it only makes sense that the world would hate those who belong to Jesus. Vs. 19…

19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

  • Previously the disciples of Christ (them & us) belonged to the world, but no longer.  Jesus saw them, and chose them individually.  He called to them as fishermen, and invited them to fish for men.  He called to them as tax collectors, and gave them a new beginning.  He called them as devout sons of Israel devoted to prayer, and showed them the One to whom they were praying.  Whatever their story, Jesus personally called each of them out of the world to follow Him as His own disciple.
    • Jesus did the same with us.  It’s doubtful that each of us has the exact same testimony in the details, but the overarching story is identical.  Once, we were lost & aligned with the world at war against God.  Jesus saw us, called us, chose us, giving us the opportunity to believe, and we did.  Now we are gloriously saved, made to be sons and daughters of the Most High God.  That’s the story of every disciple of Christ, from the 1st century to the 21st.  We’ve been chosen by God, pulled out from the world…and praise God for it!
  • Of course, that itself it enough to bring on the hatred and scorn of the world, and (as we said earlier) it simply shouldn’t be a surprise.  As Jesus said, if we “were of the world, the world would love its own.”  Nobody hates himself, so the world doesn’t hate people that are worldly.  They only hate those who are different.  Looking again to the headlines of the week, it shouldn’t be surprising that the same people who denounce praying Christians who believe the Bible also stood in solidarity with Muslims at their mosques (whose Quranic teachings against homosexuals and women are far harsher than anything to be found in the New Testament).  How does this make any sense?  Simple: they all have the common ground of the world.  They might differ on all kinds of ideology, but they all agree on their rebellion against the true God.  Thus they can stand side by side, while they push Christians to the outside as “extremists” and label us as “part of the problem.”  We’re not of the world, so we’re not loved by the world.  We belong to Jesus, and since the world hates the Biblical Jesus, they hate us as well.
  • That being the case, what does this say about supposed-Christians who are beloved by the world?  Obviously no Christian ought to go out of his/her way to anger anyone (after all, we can be disliked simply for being a jerk) – but neither should we expect to be loved and accepted by the world.  Yet that’s what many people long for.  They want it both ways: they want to call themselves “Christian,” and yet still be beloved by the world.  It doesn’t work that way…something’s going to give.  Either the teachings of the world will have to be rejected, or the truth of Christ is.  Sadly, far too many people give up the Bible in their desire to be accepted by the culture around them.  When they do, they’ve lost any real claim to being in Christ.  Throughout Ch. 15 Jesus has taught the need to abide in Him, remaining in His teaching & His love.  That’s not possible if we reject His word.  Thus those who are beloved by the world cannot truly call themselves “Christian,” because we know that Christians won’t be loved by the world.

20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

  • Again, Jesus is warning His disciples of the simple reality of these things.  He was hated first, we are hated as well.  We are the servants of Jesus, and we are simply following in the footsteps of our Master.
  • Jesus actually gave this “word” earlier that same night to the disciples, when He washed their feet after supper.  At that point, it was in the context of His humility & self-sacrifice.  As He washed the disciples’ feet, they were to do the same thing (13:13).  At the time, the point wasn’t so much engaging in the literal ritual of foot-washing, as it was following Jesus’ example to humble themselves and lay down their own lives and reputations for one another.  Jesus gave His life for the church, having left heavenly glory to do so, and all Christians everywhere are to do the same for one another.
  • Of course the principle applies to far more than foot-washing.  Jesus now brings it to the area of hatred and persecution.  Our Master was persecuted, so we can expect persecution as well.  Our Master’s word was rejected, so we can expect our word to be rejected too.  None of this ought to be surprising to us – all of it should be expected.  The only thing that’s surprising about it is our surprise at it.  It seems that so often when we are rebuffed because we shared the gospel, we’re shocked.  Or that when we see vitriol poured out on Christians, being called “bigots” and “haters” that we’re flabbergasted.  Why?  Jesus experienced it; so will we.  The Bible expressly tells us to expect this sort of reaction.  2 Timothy 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."  It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
  • Perhaps the greater surprise should be why we don’t experience this kind of persecution any more than we do.  Obviously, there’s no reason why anyone needs to go seek it out, and we need to pray for those who currently experience persecution…but why has it taken so long to come to us?  What makes American Christians so unwilling to receive the hatred of the world?  If it’s promised to come to those who live godly in Christ, perhaps it is an indication we’re not living how the Bible calls us to live.  Are we to be offensive?  No.  But will we offend?  Yes!  Jesus is (and has always been) a stumbling block to those who reject Him.  If we do not experience the offense of others, perhaps it’s a sign that the gospel of Jesus has not been as upfront in our lives as we thought.
  • The Reason for Hatred (21-25)

21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

  • Jesus told the disciples that hatred was simply a reality for them – it was something to be expected.  He’s hinted at the reason why it would come, but now He states it plainly.  First, the hatred comes because of His “name’s sake.”  This is what Jesus spoke about earlier in vs. 19 when He told the disciples He had chosen them out of the world.  Christians aren’t hated because anything in us as individuals; we are hated because we belong to Christ.  We are hated because we bear the name of Jesus.  The world cannot pour out its hatred upon the physical person of Jesus any longer, but it can pour it out upon His spiritual body: the church.
  • Second, the world hates us because “they do not know” God the Father, “who sent” Jesus.  They might claim to know God.  They might even claim to love God.  But the truth of the matter is that they don’t.  They have no knowledge of Him.  Some scholars describe this as “ignorance,” but that word doesn’t seem to fit the current definition.  When someone is called “ignorance” today, it describes someone who was completely unaware of a fact (such as the speed limit in a school zone, etc.).  As for the world, they are not unaware of the true God – after all, they have the ongoing testimony of the physical Creation all around them.  They just don’t know the true God.  They have no relationship with Him, no personal knowledge of Him.
    • This is proven through their persecution.  Any person who persecutes a believer in Jesus Christ is a person who does not know the true God.  It doesn’t matter if they attend a mosque, a synagogue, or even a church – it doesn’t matter if they are atheist, or believes in a general universalist “god” that is worshipped by everyone.  If someone shows hatred of born-again Christians – if they persecute believers of Jesus Christ, then they do not know God.
    • BTW – this is one reason why it’s so important for us to continue to love one another within the body of Christ, even though there might be differences between different denominations and congregations.  If we know God, we ought to be acting as if we know God.  If we love God, then we’re going to love the people of God.  As the apostle John goes on to write in his 1st epistle: 1 John 4:7–8, "(7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."  This is how those who know & love God are supposed to act.  When we don’t, we’re acting like the world…we’re acting like those who do not know God at all.

22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also.

  • Third, the world hates Christians because they are sinners.  Again, this isn’t to say that we were any better.  Apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, we are just as sinful as anyone else in the world.  Jesus’ point is that the world of that day specifically chose to remain in their sin.  They were unrepentant.  Even though they had the opportunity to hear the words of Christ, turn away from their sin and come to faith, they did not.  Of all people anywhere, the Jews of 30AD had no excuse for their sin.  They chose to remain in it, and they would hate Christians because of it.
  • Fourth, the world hates Christians because they hate God.  From our perspective this makes total sense because Jesus IS God.  To hate God the Son is to hate God the Father, because to look at the Son is to look at the Father (14:9).  The two are not the same Person within the Trinity, but they are the same God.  Thus it is impossible to simultaneously love God and hate Jesus.  It simply cannot be done. 
    • We understand this, but the world does not.  Many in the world claim to love their own version of god, yet still hate Jesus.  That’s one reason it’s so important for us to describe what God we’re talking about, when we talk about God.  We might find out that the person we’re talking with isn’t speaking about the same god at all.

24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.

  • Fifth, the world hates Christians because they reject Jesus.  It might sound as if Jesus is repeating Himself, but He’s really pointing out different aspects of the hatred of the world.  In vs. 22, He taught how the world rejected His words; in vs. 24, it’s about how the world rejected His works / actions / miracles.  Jesus had provided more than enough evidence to prove that He is the Jewish Messiah, yet the Jews still rejected Him (exactly as He said they would do back in Ch 5:36).  Their rejection of His works just served to prove their rejection & hatred of Him.  And as Jesus said in vs. 19, it just follows that the world will reject and hate Christians as well.

25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

  • Sixth, the world hates Christ (and thus Christians) because it is a fulfillment of prophecy.  The quote can be found in several psalms (which isn’t usually called the “law,” but certainly applies as part of the Torah).  Most likely Jesus is referring to Ps 69:4, which is a psalm that the apostle John has quoted Jesus referencing at other times (“zeal for Your house has eaten me up,” – Ps 69:9, Jn 2:17).  There’s little doubt the psalm is Messianic, but the whole point is that it was prophesied that the Messiah would be rejected & hated.  The fact that He was (and still is) is just more proof of the veracity of Scripture.
  • Yet in all of this, we do not face the hatred and scorn of the world alone.  Vs. 26…
  • Help in Hatred (26-27)

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

  • Remember who this “Helper” is.  Jesus has spoken of the Holy Spirit in this kind of language earlier (14:16, 26).  This is the Holy Spirit in His role as the Advocate (or “Paraclete”) – the One who comes alongside us in our defense & on our behalf.  Jesus will teach more of the role of the Helper in Ch. 16, but references Him only briefly now.
  • How will He come?  He will be sent by Jesus, and proceed from the Father.  How it all relates to the eternal workings of the Triune God is mysterious, so we simply need to take Jesus at His word.  It’s OK to leave some things as mysteries.  Truths about our infinite God from eternity past are bound to blow our minds a bit.  Jesus’ point about the Spirit is less about the Spirit’s origin (if we can use the word about the eternal God), and more about His person.  The Spirit IS God, just as Jesus is God & the Father is God.  The Spirit comes in all the authority of the Son & all the glory of the Father.  The often-forgotten member of the Trinity is indeed fully a member OF the Trinity, and He is said to be our help.
    • Have you ever been in a struggle alongside someone, wishing you had a bit better help along the way?  We cannot receive a better Helper than God the Holy Spirit!  “Help” almost seems inadequate as a descriptor.  English fails us here.  The Spirit is more than a minor “help” along the way – He is the true undergirding help that gives us life!  The “help” given by the Holy Spirit does more than assist a believer; it is essential to a believer.  That’s why the apostles were restrained by Jesus from going out and sharing the gospel until after the Holy Spirit came upon them.  They needed His power & help before they were equipped to do anything at all.
  • How will He help?  As the “Spirit of truth,” He will “testify” of Jesus, and His testimony is exactly what we need in times of persecution.  Think about it: what is it that sustains Christians in jail, or keeps them faithful under fire?  It is the absolute conviction that the gospel is the truth.  If people didn’t believe it, they wouldn’t maintain their faith.  Why would a Syrian or Iraqi Christian live with the Islamic “nun” (for “Nazarene”) spray-painted on their home, forced to pay the “jizya” tax as an infidel, be forced out of their jobs, or forced out of the UN refugee camps, endure hatred, etc., for their rest of their foreseeable future?  Why not just convert?  It’d be easier.  After all, it’s just a bunch of words, right?  Wrong.  They endure hate (and many times physical torture and worse) because they know it isn’t a bunch of words.  They know that the gospel is the truth.  The Holy Spirit gives them (and us) that conviction, and gives us the strength to remain steadfast to Christ.  Remember it is only those who abide in Jesus that bear fruit for Him, drawing life from Him (15:4).  The truth that the Spirit testifies gives us the ability to abide.
  • The Spirit isn’t the only One who testifies of Jesus.  So will Jesus’ disciples.  Vs. 27…

27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

  • The disciples would also “bear witness” of Jesus, something that Jesus directly ties in with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, that is exactly what we see taking place at the beginning of the book of Acts.
    • BTW – Jesus also gives the 11 disciples in the room one of their qualifications for apostleship.  They had been with Jesus “from the beginning.
  • This is what will bring the scorn of the world, but this is exactly what we are called to do.  This is the essence of the Great Commission…
  • Reasons for the Warning (16:1-4)

16:1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

  • The hatred of the word was a reality, it had its reasons, and the disciples were promised help in the middle of it.  Now Jesus tells the disciples why He’s been telling them all of these things.  Why the warning?  Two reasons: first, to avoid stumbling.  The word Jesus uses for “stumble,” is the same word from which we get the English word “scandal.”  This could be translated, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be scandalized.”  Shock can be scandalizing.  If Jesus hadn’t warned the disciples what was coming, they might stumble in their faith thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this!”  The hatred that the world poured out on the disciples would be severe.  Jesus gives a description of it in vss. 2-3…

2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

  • This was serious stuff!  To be put out of the synagogue was no small matter, as the synagogue was the place of community and worship for the Jew (and all of the original disciples were Jewish, serving & worshipping the Messiah of Israel).  To be put out of the synagogue was to be excommunicated from family & friends – to be made a pariah & treated as unclean.  Today, we don’t face ejection from the synagogue, but we still face rejection from those whom we love.  It’s still a harsh thing to endure. 
  • As bad as that was, it wasn’t all.  Persecution would move from the relational to the physical.  Jesus specifically warns the disciples that they would be killed…and indeed, all of them were.  John was the one exception, and it’s not as if the world didn’t try to kill him – they put him in a cauldron of boiling oil.  Throughout history, Christians have been martyred for their faith in Christ, and we live in an age of exponential martyrdom today.  Although many do not realize it, worldwide persecution of Christians is at an all-time high.  It is estimated that more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined.  It’s sobering, and certainly puts our own experience with persecution in perspective…
  • What is the world’s motivation for murder?  Many times, it’s because the person who does it thinks “that he offers God service.”  IOW, this is their act of worshipful service to their god.  For the disciples, that certainly described the Jews of the 1st century (even that of Saul/Paul).  For today, it’s an accurate description of Islamic hatred and terrorism.  Those who scream “Allahu Akbar” prior to setting off bombs, plowing airplanes into buildings, or gunning down people in nightclubs are no doubt religiously motivated.  They do it to earn their way to their view of Paradise (which is a lie) and to gain favor with their god.  (BTW, religious motivation of Christian persecution is not limited to Islam.  It’s seen in Hinduism in India, Buddhism in Bhutan & Sri Lanka, and more.)

4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. “And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

  • The second reason for the warning: to increase their faith.  How so?  First, because it was a fulfillment of Jesus’ words.  One of the benefits of fulfilled prophecy is that it strengthens the faith of believers.  After all, we know that since everything God has said in the past is true, then it follows that everything He says for today & for the future will prove itself to be true as well.  Secondly, experiencing the hatred of the world builds up our faith because it forces us to rely upon Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus tells His disciples here: “you may remember that I told you…”  When the disciples were persecuted, they would remember Jesus.  The more we have our eyes fixed upon Him, the more our faith is built up in Him.  Just as the North African church father Tertullian wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” so does persecution not tear down our faith; it builds it up.
  • All of this might bring up a great question: why now?  Why didn’t Jesus tell each of the disciples these things up front?  In a way He did.  It’s not as if this idea was hidden from them along the way.  Jesus taught how His disciples would have to pick up their crosses & follow Him (Mt 16:24).  He taught how they would eventually be tossed out of the synagogues (Mt 10:17), etc.  But why concentrate so much teaching on it now?  Because now there was a need.  Earlier, Jesus was “with” them.  No one could do anything to Jesus as long as God did not allow them.  There had been many attempts on Jesus’ life to this point, but none were successful, because God still had His plan at work.  But it was now time for Jesus to go to the cross, and He would soon physically ascend to heaven.  Now, although the disciples would never be alone, they wouldn’t have Jesus physically among them.  The circumstances of their mission were changing, and they needed to be prepared for what lay ahead.  They (like we) needed to be ready.

Are you prepared for the hatred and scorn of the world?  It shouldn’t come as a surprise!  Jesus told us to expect it, and He has given us all the help we need to endure it.  May we not grow weary as we experience it.  We have been given the testimony of the Holy Spirit to convince us of the truth, and we’ve been endued with the power of the Holy Spirit to share that same testimony with the world around us.

Maybe for some of you, you need to be renewed by the Holy Spirit today.  Perhaps you’ve been a bit intimidated or even fearful of the rhetoric of the world around us, and you’re not really sure what to do next.  Remember whom it is you serve!  Remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is your Master, and He will not leave us abandoned and alone.  So be filled with the Holy Spirit, and renewed by His power today.  Recommit yourself to living as a witness of Jesus to the world, loving them with the gospel of Christ, no matter what they throw back in return.  Just as a drowning man might fight against his rescuer in panic, so does the world fight against the life-saving message of the gospel.  But they still desperately need it, and we are the ones to take it to them.

Maybe for some of you, you’ve not be hated – you’ve been the hater.  To this point, you’ve actively rejected God & despised the followers of Jesus.  But right here, in this moment, you’re starting to see things differently.  You’re coming to the realization that Jesus truly is the Savior of the world, and that your only hope is in Him.  Today you can take hold of that hope.  Repent of your sin & rebellion, and turn to Jesus Christ in faith.


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