“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 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. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works 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. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
“When the Advocate 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. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
It is not easy to be a follower of Christ. This may seem to be an odd way to start a devotional, but given my experience the past six months, I can say—without a doubt—that it is not easy to be a follower of Christ. This is not something the modern evangelical Church has chosen to focus on because it is an unpleasant marketing tool for evangelism. No one wants to hear that accepting Christ will bring hardship, but this is just what Jesus is warning the disciples in some of His final teachings before He is about to be betrayed, beaten, falsely tried, and crucified. Jesus knew that this whole experience, and the persecution that the early Church would face, would not be easy for His disciples.
Jesus warns the disciples that the world will hate them because they do not belong to the world but have been chosen out of the world. Jesus further explains that the reason why the world hates His followers is because Jesus’ teachings made the world aware of its sin, so now the world has no excuse for continuing to sin. The world can no longer blame ignorance for continuing to do wrong—they have no one to blame but themselves. This goes against human/sinful nature, since, from the beginning, humans have sought to shift the blame for their wrong behaviour. Immediately after the first sin in Genesis, when God asks Adam if he ate the forbidden fruit, he blames Eve for giving him the fruit1. So, when Jesus came on the scene and shone the light of God in the darkness and exposed people’s sin, they did not like it. In the same way, as followers of Christ who are connected to God the Father through the Vine (Jesus), when we, as the light of the world,2 shine God’s light in the dark places, we expose people’s sin.
Jesus’ warning that the world will hate the disciples occurs right after Jesus tells the disciples that if they remain in God’s love, their joy will be complete. It seems an odd placement and juxtaposition to tell the disciples that the thing which will give them joy will cause the world to hate them; which will undoubtedly bring them pain and emotional anguish. So how can remaining in God bring joy in pain? Jesus answers by encouraging the disciples through promising the Holy Spirit. Jesus starts by stating “When the Advocate comes…” (15:26). Jesus is promising His disciples that even though He will no longer be with them physically, He will send the Holy Spirit to be with them.
Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. It is interesting that Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth right after talking about how the world will hate the disciples because they bring God’s truth to the world. This is particularly relevant in today’s world when we live in a time of ‘alternative facts’; when nothing is ever considered true or false, but rather a matter of opinion. Jesus is encouraging His disciples to hold fast to the truth and tell others the truth, by equipping them with the ultimate source of Truth who “will testify about [Jesus]” (15:26) and “will guide you into all the truth” (16:12).
The other word that Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit is Advocate. In the original Greek it is paráklētos, which is translated as an intercessor, consoler, advocate, or comforter. Jesus is encouraging the disciples to not be afraid about Jesus leaving, but to be eagerly waiting for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not something to be feared, but He is how we can experience a deeper relationship with the Father and Jesus. As Jesus states, “[The Holy Spirit] will not speak on his own… He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you,” (16:13a, 14). Engaging with the Holy Spirit is a key part of how we remain in the vine and stay connected to the Father.
While it may not be easy to be a follower of Christ, as we will face persecution and many trials, we have an advantage. We have the Spirit of Truth who will speak truth over us about who we are as children of God when the world tells us lies. We also have the Advocate who will comfort and console us when times are tough and will pray and intercede for us when we cannot pray for ourselves.3 When the world is raining down on us, and it seems like everyone is against us, we should ask the Spirit to fill us with all the wisdom, courage, and joy, etc. that we need to fight and the fortitude we need to stand strong in the face of persecution.
1 Genesis 3:12
2 Matthew 5:14
3 Romans 8:26
Thank You for the Spirit of Truth. We ask that You fill us with wisdom, courage, and joy as we stand strong in the face of persecution. Amen.
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