“These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue; but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (Jn 16:1-4).
Jesus’ words about the hateful response of the world to us and our gospel message is a “heads up” to His followers. By letting the disciples in on what is coming their way, Jesus is preparing His friends so they will not shrink back or be fearful. He goes so far as to prophesy that those who seek to kill the disciples will think they are offering a service to God.
We see this come true in the early life of the church. In Acts chapter 7, the bold witness of Stephen is met with death at the hands of the people, incited by the Jewish leaders. Saul, later to become the apostle Paul, who witnessed this execution clearly fit the prediction of one who persecuted the church thinking he was serving God. “And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting Stephen to death” (Acts 8:1).
But God rescued Saul from that path and, as the apostle Paul, he went on to a life of fruitful ministry. What Satan, the force behind the hatred of the world, meant for evil, God turned into good. Paul later wrote, “Christ Jesus considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (I Tim 1:12-13).
Paul acted ignorantly in unbelief because he did not know the true Jesus. Why is it that the world will hate Jesus and His followers? “Because they have not known the Father or Me” (Jn 16:3). We have seen before throughout the book of John that when it comes to knowledge of, love for, honor to, and abiding in, there is no separation between the Father and the Son.
If you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father. If you love the Son, you love the Father who sent Him. If you show honor to the Son, you are honoring God, the Father. If you abide in Christ, you are abiding in the Father’s loving hand. What separates the world that hates the Father and the Son and those of us who love the Father and the Son is … “Do you ‘know’ the Father and the Son?”
To “know” is to believe. To “know” is to embrace the gospel message of Jesus. To “know” is to accept Jesus’ free gift of eternal life and become a child of God. That “know” separates the world who hates and the children of God who love the Father and the Son.
When Jesus warns the disciples that they will be expelled from the synagogue, they have no idea that the synagogue will take on less and less importance as the church develops. The synagogue will stand as a center of the fading Jewish religion, and the presence of God will soon be evident in His church and in His people. Outcasts from the synagogue will actually become the ultimate insiders; beloved children of the God Most High.