Last blog we spent some time in John chapter 14 and equated the uncertainty of the times the disciples were living in and how in some ways it mirrors the times we as the church and nation are facing today. This week we move to chapter 16 and explore the warnings and challenges Jesus spoke of with his disciples. Jesus continues to teach the disciples after the Passover Meal about the things He wants them to be aware of and prepare for. There are some hard times coming that will test their faith and endurance and that is an appropriate thought now, in our day and time. I should make it clear that I am not of the doomsday mindset. A wise man looks to the future with a clear eye and seeks God’s guidance but there are always those that seek the comfort of the day and wear those rose-colored glasses. I don’t intend that remark to be disrespectful but let’s all admit that there is a bit of serendipity in most of us, not a bad thing, unless we let it blind us to reality.
At the time John was writing this there was a predictable falling away of many Christians as the persecution of the Church intensified. In the first four verses Jesus makes it clear that there will be times of trouble for those of the faith. Jesus even says that many will do them harm, believing they are doing a service to God. He evens instructs them that when this happens remember ‘it was I that spoke of them to you.’ In Revelations 21:8 we get a warning of what is in store for those who fall away from the faith.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’
We do not want to put aside or forget the heroism of the early church but must take note that there were many who whose faith was not great enough and thus unable to resist the constant persecution and their endurance was not strong enough to keep them from falling away. Jesus wanted all of His followers from the very start of the ministry to never be able to say they didn’t know the cost. There was a certain glory in following the way but there was also a cross as well. We as the church today would do well to remember and understand that. Jesus said there were two ways his followers would be persecuted. Being excommunicated from the synagogue was one way. This was particularly painful for a Jew. To the Jew the synagogue was life and the Rabbis were always saying that unless prayer was offered in the synagogue it was not effective. One point to remember and often misunderstood is that the synagogue was the center of Jewish life and fellowship. Jews tended to stay together and did much of their business among themselves. To be excommunicated was a big deal. There are some people that feel they do not need human company but these disciples were simple men and they needed the fellowship, they needed the synagogue and its worship. Joan of Arc said, ‘It is better to be alone with God.’ Sometimes, loneliness in society is the price of fellowship with God. (DBD) It does not exactly jump out at you but there is a plea, subdued as it may be…for unity of spirit, a coming together. We see it today if we look closely at the Christian Community. Many things are done in the church community in the name of God but in actuality it is their own idea of religion. In their minds they believe they have sole possession of God’s truth and grace. This lack of unity in the faith leaves us with a barrier of unity between believers and churches. While today it does not always lead to exclusion from God’s house, we still are faced with those who believe there is only one way to Him. To put these first four verses in simple laymen’s terms…Jesus is saying to the disciples….I am offering you the hardest task in the world… Are you big enough to accept it?
From across the centuries there comes that question again but phrased differently… Are We? The way of the cross is not one of ease but it is the way to glory. Jesus wants men and women who with eyes wide open are ready to venture forth in His name. Next week we will move on to verses 5-11…Hope you will join us then, in The Pew.
Life is Good