So you want to be like Jesus? You want him to call you his friend? Or do you want to be like Jesus? John 15:18—16:4 confronts you with the sobering consequences of belonging to Jesus. Ironically, the closer you are to Jesus, the more you are like him, the greater the hatred of the world against you.
Make no mistake. There is a battle going on, a conflict taking place. The world, the world under the curse of sin and in rebellion against God, hates you. The “you” is plural. It is a people, a kingdom, the kingdom of God. It is not you as a lone ranger against the world, but the world against you as the body of Christ. This is the conflict that began in the Garden of Eden, with the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
The sovereign, gracious choice of God is at work here. Christ has chosen you out of the world to belong to him. You no longer fit in with the world. And thus the world hates you. Hatred is the ultimate expression of that which does not have God at its center point. When your life is focused on something other than God, it leads, if unrestrained, to hatred of anything that does not conform.
Jesus entered the world as the ultimate expression of the love and grace of the triune God. When the world rejected the incarnate Son of God, it was shaking its fist in the face of God. The attitude towards Christ is utterly undeserved. Psalms 35 and 69 are not only David’s cry against unjust treatment. Hear in them the voice of his greater Son. And when the world is ultimately unable to defeat the messianic King (though it does crucify him, he is raised triumphantly), it turns its venom towards his body here on earth (see Revelation 12). Herman Ridderbos summarizes this conflict: “If Jesus had not come and had not spoken of God as he has, then God would not yet have spoken his final word of love to the world and the world would not yet have given God its final answer. But now that the world has not ‘known’ the Father in the mission of his Son, no reservations or excuses remain with respect to sin. . . . On that basis the saying of v. 23 can now follow: ‘Whoever hates me hates my Father also.’ . . . .To hate is to turn away from the way that God has opened for salvation. This hatred is the human ‘no’ to the divine ‘yes’ expressed in the mission of his Son.” (The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, pp. 524-525)
Don’t let the way the world treats you take you by surprise. Recognize that your union with Christ is a union with him in suffering before it is a union in glory. And therein lies hope. Jesus called you to carry your cross as you follow him. Remember that the crucifixion of Jesus appeared to be the triumph of his enemies, not only of Judas and the leaders of Israel, but of Satan himself. But what seemed to be his defeat is ultimately the triumph of the Savior. The persecution you face is evidence, not of the power of the enemy, but, ironically, of its defeat.
Jesus gives you another reason for hope: the presence of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. His presence is proof that the suffering and persecution you face is temporary. It is the activity of a defeated enemy, for the Spirit has come as the Son has been raised from the dead and has ascended into heaven.
Face the suffering that comes your way this week without being taken by surprise. Know that your Savior has walked this path before you.