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Fifth Sunday Of Lent—March 18th

Fifth Sunday of Lent—March 18th

PRAY

Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).

READ

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.
Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of
the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I
said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they
persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they
will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account
of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not
come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have
no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had
not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

John 15:18-25

It was a generation ago that I heard philosopher Francis Schaeffer warn that we were one generation away from losing the memory of Christianity in our culture. He called America a “cut-flower” culture. Like the flowers on the dining room table, we were cut off from the roots and life of our Biblical faith. That was a generation ago!

And now a generation later, Schaeffer does seem to have been a prophet. Gospel values are forbidden in public discourse and Christians told to keep their faith to themselves. Try standing before a polite social gathering and saying that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Talk about Jesus as the way of salvation and you are likely to be dismissed as narrow and small-minded.

Jesus warns in today’s scripture about repercussions from being His “friends”: “I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.” “Since the disciples are members of Christ like branches are members of a vine, they receive what he receives — both the sunshine and rain of the love of the Father and the storms: of hatred of those who are in rebellion against the Father.” (Rodney Whitacre, John) Jesus wants His friends to know what they can expect as His representatives in the world. Earlier in His ministry Jesus dispatched His disciples with “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16a).

Jesus reminds His disciples what He said when He washed dirty feet: “Servants are not greater than their master.” If servants are not greater than their master, then it stands to reason, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” But they shouldn’t take persecution personally, because it is a part of the world’s rejection of Jesus and His Father: “they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” It is not about us, but about Him! “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.”

When Jesus talks about His friends being hated by the world, He is talking about the world as “that system organized by Satan, headed by Satan and run by Satan which leaves God out and is a rival.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology). The old Scotch preacher Alexander Maclaren described the world’s hatred of Jesus and His friends:

In the measure in which you and I are Christians we are in direct opposition to all the maxims which rule the world and make it a world. What we believe to be precious it regards as of no account…If you want to escape the hostility drop your flag, button your coat over the badge that shows you belong to Christ, and do the things that the people round about you do, and you will have a perfectly easy and undisturbed life.” (Alexander Maclaren, John)

Jesus wants His friends to know that even persecution happens within God’s providence and care. He wants us to know that the world’s hatred will “fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause’” (quoting from Psalm 69:4). The psalmist David was hated for no reason, and so was the Son of David, Jesus, and any who take their stand with Him. It will “fulfill the word” God spoke long ago!

REFLECT

  • How do I see America as cut off from our Biblical roots and life?
  • Have I experienced the “hatred” of the world for me as a friend of Jesus? Talk with Jesus about this.

O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)

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