John 16:1-4:Loving honesty.
“‘All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 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. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 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,” NIV
In order to help people, you can’t always tell them what they want to hear. There are times when the only way to protect is by proffering loving honesty. Jesus knows what His disciples need to hear and WHEN they need to hear it (4). You can feel Jesus’ love for His disciples in the content and timing of these words.God has a way of preparing our hearts for times of trouble ahead. I’ve heard people say that they can cope with bad news better when they know precisely what the diagnosis and prognosis are; when they can look what they are facing squarely in the eye. When there’s a vague sense of threat hanging in the air it’s much harder to deal with.
When ”the time comes” they will remember that Jesus knew all about it and prepared them in advance (4). This will strengthen their confidence in Him. It points to the Lordship of Jesus. He (and they) may be under threat, but He is definitely in control.
What had Jesus already told His disciples to keep them ‘on the straight and narrow’? Here are a few things:
- They will be hated (15:18). They are to expect animosity, violence and even death itself. Look how that theme continues here (2);
- They will be hated because of their relationship to Jesus (15:18, 20, 21). But the hatred of Jesus, and His church, is irrational (15:25). It is also inexcusable (15:22);
- This hatred springs from spiritual ignorance (15:21; 16:3);
- In the face of hatred and danger, they ”must” testify to Jesus (15:27). But they are not alone (15:26). The Holy Spirit will do the work. So there is a balanced picture of warning and encouragement. Some people did wholeheartedly obey Jesus’ teaching (20b) so they could anticipate some degree of success.
Let’s be careful to spell out the cost of discipleship to potential (and actual) followers and ask them to count it. And don’t be surprised if you find the Christian life hard; if you find yourself and your message opposed; if you should be socially ostracised. Expect it. If it’s not your experience now, it no doubt will be at some point. Keep going, trusting in the reality of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Jesus knows, and He is in charge of all things.