Jesus Announces This Coming Persecution To His Followers
In chapter 16 the dominant note remains the same—the departure of Christ and the anticipation of what this would mean. The thought moves along the following lines: Christ’s warning of coming persecution.
In his last moments with his disciples, Jesus warned them about further persecution; told them where, when, and why he was going; and assured them that they would not be left alone, but that the Spirit would come.
Jesus knew what lay ahead, and he did not want the disciples’ faith shaken or destroyed. God wants you to know you are not alone. You have the Holy Spirit to comfort you, teach you truth, and help you.
As Jesus warns of the mistreatment His followers can expect, He disarms fears by noting the most important things.
If the Spirit is within, there is no reason to fear.
In fact, the church will thrive under persecution. Yet humans are obsessed with power and political prominence as a means to influence the culture. Christian citizens have an obligation to strive for justice and freedom through the transforming power of the Spirit in people’s lives. Rather than exerting temporal power, the real work of the Kingdom often thrives under fierce attack and opposition. Jesus announces this coming persecution to His followers, believing this will lead to their finest hour.
“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.
John 16:1-2 (NLT)
There is no reason for the believer to stumble (“be offended,”) when the world stokes up the furnace of persecution. He should expect persecution, if only because his Lord told him it was coming. (Note especially John 13:19 and 14:29 where the Lord warned His disciples in advance.)
Furthermore, they must not stumble when this persecution comes from religious people who actually think they are serving God. The word translated “service” in John 16:2 means “priestly service.” This statement is certainly a description of Saul of Tarsus, who thought he was serving God by destroying the church (see Acts 7:57-8:3; 22:3-4; and 26:9-12).
When anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God most likely refers to Jewish rather than Roman persecution. Some rabbis believed that killing heretics was an act of divine worship.
It is tragic when “religious” people persecute and murder in the name of God. While it is true that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Tertullian), it is also true that their blood is the stain on the pages of history.
They will do this because they don’t know the Father, or else they would know Me.
John 16:3 (VOICE)
What a statement! Those who persecute true believers testify to all who have ears to hear and eyes to see that they are not true Christians.
I’m telling you all this so that when it comes to pass you will remember what you have heard. It was not important for Me to give you this information in the beginning when I was with you.
John 16:4 (VOICE)
As long as Jesus was with the disciples, He was the focus of the Jews’ persecution. Any rejection the disciples encountered by association was more than compensated for by the fact that Jesus was physically present to comfort and instruct them. All this was soon to change.
After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples encountered the full force of the Jews’ rejection even to the point of martyrdom. Jesus assured them that His words about persecution would comfort them. He then went on to mention again the coming Holy Spirit and even stated that the comfort of the Holy Spirit would be even better because He would be in them (John 14:17 and 16:7).