John 16:1-4

John 16:1-4     Future Persecution

1 “I have told you these things
so that you do not get carried way.

Disciples in the community of the Beloved Disciple may have found the constant experience of opposition undermining their confidence and, perhaps, calling their faith into question. (The word translated as carried away often carried the sense of loss of faith.) In the eyes of the Beloved Disciple, loss of faith was allied with the ultimate sin. It was not simply the disciples of the historical Jesus who were in danger. The members of his own community needed reassurance. In the face of violent persecution, the knowledge that Jesus had predicted it would serve to confirm his foreknowledge, rather than prove his ineffectiveness.

2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue.

The narrative had already referred twice to this outcome [9:22; 12:42]. Though expressed in future tense, exclusion was already the present experience of the community of the Beloved Disciple.

… The hour is coming
when people who kill you
think they are offering worship to God.

Jesus was in the process of living through his hour. Faithful disciples could expect to face a similar hour.

People with a stake in the religious or civic status quo are prone to interpret opposition to, or criticism of, themselves as directed to their God. Persecution, even violence, becomes their defence. Fear or hatred of a common enemy is a powerful source of religious and civic unity. Jesus’ death was precisely his chosen way to expose this dynamic of “unity” through violence for the lie it was.

3 They will behave this way
because they have known neither the Father nor me. 

To see the Father as requiring, or even condoning, their violence was a gross travesty of the loving, life-giving God. Jesus had revealed a God who loved the world and every creature [3:16]; who had no favourites, because everyone, without exception, was favourite. But the influence of the world is such that people want a God who is on their side, and against those whom they oppose. They will act violently to defend that God.

4 I have told you all this so that,
when the hour comes,
you will remember that I told you.

When the imminent hour came, all too soon, the disciples would fail to remember. The Beloved Disciple wanted his own community to be aware fully of the kind of world in which they lived. The disciples of the historical Jesus had little time to digest his warnings. Such would not be the case for the readers of the Gospel. The Beloved Disciple had shown Jesus clearly assuring disciples that the Paraclete, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will bring back to your minds all I said to you. [14:26].

Next >> John 16:5-15