I hope you will look over our passage again, and then rejoin us. Go ahead. We'll wait!
Now we're ready . . . we are discussing Jesus' words describing how the world would react to us -- even though we are carrying the most wonderful message and gift the world has ever known, they will hate us. They will hate us because we are so different.
And because we insist on an absolute standard. Black and white -- with no shades of gray. Let's dive in!
Remember the word that I said to you, the servant is not greater than
his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if
they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. (Verse 20)
In some areas of the world today, the church is undergoing persecution. In some areas it is not. If not, it may be because there is very little difference to be seen, between the church and the world!
Some surveys show that there are few differences between the lifestyles of those who attend church, and those who do not. Church members wear the same styles of clothing, watch the same movies, get divorces just as often, buy just as many lottery tickets, have affairs and use unethical business practices. The world has so invaded the minds and hearts of Christians that the world sees little that is worth persecuting. How sad.
But all these things will they do to you for My name's sake, because they
don't know the One Who sent Me. (verse 21)
Jesus says that they hate Him because they don't know the Father. And they will hate us because they don't know Jesus. Let's dig deeper:
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of
sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin. (verse 22)
We can see that if Jesus had simply gone about healing and helping people, there would not have been any trouble here. But He did more -- He exposed their sin.
He that hates Me hates My Father as well. (verse 23)
We can't have the Father without the Son, or the other way 'round.
If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they
would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have
hated both Me and My Father. (24)
They heard what He said. They saw His lifestyle. Both revealed their sinfulness. Now there was an absolute standard -- everything is to be measured against the standard that Jesus set. No grays, or shades of right or wrong will be allowed; it's black or white now. When we live a life that imitates Christ, it will remind the world of their own sins. They don't want to see a Christian who reflects God's holiness. They would rather hear, "we all sin. It's OK, you're trying hard." If our lives reflect Christ, we are confronting them with a higher standard. That hurts. It reminds them of their shortcomings.
But this is to fulfill what is written in their law: They hated me without
Remember when we were in school, and sometimes the teacher would say that they graded a test "on a curve"? The highest grade became a 100, even though there were mistakes on that paper. It created a whole new (lower) standard.
Jesus kinda messed up the curve -- He graded at 100 percent, and then everyone else had to be compared to Him. And that's what the world doesn't like. Being reminded of their sin makes them mad, and they can't take out their anger and hatred on Christ, so they will take it out on us.
When the Advocate (Comforter) comes, whom I will send to you from
the Father, the Spirit of truth Who goes out from the Father, He will
testify about Me. (26)
How can we make it in this hostile world? How can we survive the anger and hate that we will experience if we are reflecting Christ? The Comforter will give us the endurance and staying power.
And you also must testify, for you have been with Me from the
The Holy Spirit witnesses, and we witness. We can have a strength far beyond ourselves to keep moving forward in our Christian witness. And a witness is someone who simply tells what she (or he) has experienced.
Just "up the road" from me is The Cove, a place set aside by the Billy Graham organization for Christian retreats and studies. Billy Graham is now very old, and has Parkinson's. A few years ago, he told this story that reveals he understands that this world is not our home:
"I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honore by Time magazine as the Man of the Century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching tickets of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his trousers pocket. It wasn’t there. So he looked in in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn’t find it.
The conductor said "Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it". Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, "Dr. Einstein, don’t worry, I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one."
Einstein looked at the conductor and said, "Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going."
Having said that Billy Graham continued, "See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.
You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this:
I NOT ONLY KNOW WHO I AM...I ALSO KNOW WHERE I’M GOING."
This is the message that you and I are called to share with the world. The world, that is lost in sin. We know who we are in Christ, and we know where we will spend eternity. And we know how they can have the same assurance!
It's not a popular message. Most who hear it will reject it. Sharing the message may make us very unpopular with people. But we will be popular with the Christ who first brought it and received an even worse reception.
Let's endeavor to make this new year the year that we reflect Christ and witness to that world, that they, too, can know where they will spend eternity. With Christ, in glory!