The Forty-Eighth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Why do non-Christians dislike Christianity and Christians so much? No doubt, we ask for and deserve much of the world’s scorn because some Christians do stupid things, and then feel good that the world “hates” them. Then, there are many Christians who profess one thing, but do another. Hypocrisy is ugly. Granted, there are bad examples of Christians and Christianity continually upon display–the media loves to point these out, and probably should. But I’m talking about the fundamental divide between how Christians view the world, the human condition, human nature, and the important things in life, with those who reject Jesus, his word (scripture) and his claims (to be the way, the truth, and the life). With but a few moments remaining to instruct his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus answers this latter question. Because the world hates him, the world will hate his followers. The disciples will soon discover what Jesus means in the hours ahead, and his warning is given to prepare them for what will surely be the worst three days they will ever experience. They have given up everything to follow Jesus, and soon he will be dead and they will be hated. Jesus’ hour has come, and everything is about to change. The disciples must be prepared to face the tumultuous days which lay ahead.
We now resume our series on the Gospel of John. When we left off before Advent (with Jesus’ discourse on the vine and its branches in John 15:1-17), Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover in a rented upper room in Jerusalem. This was Jesus’ last night with his disciples, and he used their remaining moments together to give his final instructions to his closest followers. When the Passover meal was finished, Jesus told them his hour has come–meaning that his messianic mission has come to its conclusion. At this point, the disciples understood this statement to mean that Jesus’ final showdown with the religious leadership of Israel is at hand. In the days after Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, things have come to a head, but the disciples still had no idea as to the turn of events which would take place later that evening, and for which Jesus is preparing them.
Jesus has just delivered the shocking news that one of their own (Judas) would betray him, and that their leader (Peter) would soon desert Jesus in his hour of trial. Jesus also told his disciples that it was good that he depart from them because the Father would send them another “Helper,” the blessed Holy Spirit. The disciples, of course, want to know where Jesus was going so that they might follow him. Jesus has told them that where he is going, they cannot yet come. Jesus will have much more to say about the “Helper” as the discourse draws to a close, as we will see in the weeks to come.
As recounted in the synoptic gospels, throughout the final phases of his messianic mission, Jesus spoke openly of his death and resurrection. According to John’s account, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead just days before Palm Sunday. Jesus also spoke candidly about how the disciples would soon find themselves is a new and unexpected situation. But Jesus’ words about these things only exposed the disciples’ collective misunderstanding of what he was telling them, and they still had many questions to ask of Jesus even though the time had come for the Lord to depart for the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus would have his fateful encounter with the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas (the high priest), as these foes were led to Jesus by the traitor Judas in exchange for a mere thirty pieces of silver.
As we saw at the end of chapter 14, when Jesus got up to leave the Upper Room and go to Gethsemane, the disciples did not want their time together to end. The discussion continued on for some time including the discourse of the vine and its branches in John 15, and including the material to the end of chapter 17. The disciples are beginning to understand that their time with Jesus is coming to an end, and there are many loose ends to tie up before Jesus departs.
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