|1 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,… (John 16:1-4)|
Jesus is speaking to His disciples. He is forewarning them of extremely difficult times to come. He is admonishing them to keep their belief in Him.
Placing this in context, recall that he is speaking as a Jew to Jews.
“They will put you out of the synagogue.” Ex-communication. One of the greatest fears of the Jew. If thrown from the temple, a Jew could not follow the law. A Jew could not offer sacrifices. A Jew could not be ceremonially cleansed. Therefore, He would die apart from God.
Furthermore, any Jew who was banned from the temple was a social outcast. This extended to his family, who, since they were living with an unclean person, were unclean themselves. No other Jew would have any business dealings with them, so they could not earn a living easily.
The Jews, led by the Sanhedrin, also saw the disciples of Jesus as heretics. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and God the Son. Since the Exodus, Jews had been taught that there was only one God. (We often struggle with this concept of the Holy Trinity today, both within our faith and especially to those who do not believe) Heretics were subject to death by stoning. Remember that very shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Stephen was martyred this way.
The Jews actually thought that they were doing God’s work by killing heretics. Saul (later Paul) was doing this very thing and was going to Damascus on this very mission when he was converted. The ruling Romans did have laws against such killings, but really didn’t care much. So they turned their heads, viewing this as just an internal Jewish squabble. It is very important to remember that Jesus Himself was a Jew and that the church had not yet been established.
So, both to the orthodox Jews and to the Romans, killing followers of Jesus was much like the killing of vermin. Not a pretty picture to be sure, but accurate.
“They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me.” (v. 3)
Just earlier, Jesus had told His disciples, “If you do not know Me, you do not know the Father.” This gets heavy, but Jesus is saying that the path to the Father is through Him and that He, Jesus, is God.
“I have told you this now so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.” (v.4)
Now, that’s heavy. Two important things here:
1. I’m warning you. Things are going to become deadly. They did, and very soon.
2. Jesus is again predicting His impending death on the cross.
When John dictated this, he was recording the actual words of Jesus. However, this actual recording of Jesus’ words came nearly 60 years after they were spoken. Widespread persecution and killing of Christians was common. In fact, Paul, formerly Saul, the great persecutor, had probably already been killed along with several of the other original disciples.
When speaking to His disciples, Jesus pulled no punches. He laid it right out there for them to know what was coming and what was expected of them.
John and the other Gospel writers recorded what they had seen for a rather simple reason… they were dying off. All of those with direct contact with Jesus were dying off. Most likely, they had expected Jesus’ return by this time and had not recorded His history earlier.
So, here we are today. We still await the second coming. But we have The Word. Yes, I mean the Bible. I mean so much more.
Jesus shed His blood, died on the cross so that we may live. AND He was resurrected and lives today. We have The Word.
And we have been warned… directly and plainly by the Lord of lords and the King of kings.
Alive in The Word
Thank you pastor Michael, my rabbi, for your insight.