Chapter 16 opens with more of the same: 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. ~John 16:1,2
I believe I may have grumbled with you before about the sometimes unfortunate placement of chapters and verses. If not, then allow me to do so now. These are artificial additions to the text and well intentioned, but I sometimes think the lad who put some of these in place may have been hitting the communion wine a mite hard. This is one of those moments. There is no break in what Jesus has been talking about. The scene is the same. The disciples are gathered in a living room, still glum at all this talk of being hated. They couldn’t recall having signed up for that. Now Jesus continues with even more grim news by telling them that they’ll be booted out of synagogues and murdered.
I am writing this evening near a toasty fire and sipping some interesting spiced tea. It is difficult for this passage to hit me with the force that it hit the disciples. All of what we’ve said up to this point – the hate part, the detestari – is certainly true. But for the most part, the antipathy toward the Christian faith remains masked and below the surface. There have been a few who, upon discovering I’m a Pastor, immediately begin with a goading cross-examination: “What do YOU believe about THIS or about THAT?” It’s usually some explosive social topic that has charged to the forefront – the cause célèbre of some newly minted, correct-thinking meme. I don’t shy from the moment and try always to give a courteous response. But the point is this – while I have been cussed I’ve not been slaughtered. Moreover, I speak only as a pampered, sequestered westerner. Sadly this passage rings true throughout a great part of the world.
As the disciples listen to Jesus, they know they are hearing more than a warning. They are listening to a prophetic promise. It is deadly serious and consequential. It is interesting the logic that Jesus shares for this full disclosure: All this I have told you so that you will not fall away… Jesus knows that loving those who demonstrate hate in return is a tall order. It’s best to be up front about the cost of discipleship. The question for them and for us comes down to this: Is truth worth dying for? There is no corporate answer to this question. It is exceedingly personal. Dietrich Bonheoffer, the WWII Christian martyr said it this way: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We’ll linger here for a bit.