“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.” (John 16:1–4, ESV)
Trails lead to question. This is the normal course of our thinking. When difficult things come our way we frequently begin to question the circumstances surrounding them. We can even question whether we had chosen the right course that led us there. If only we had gone another path, maybe this would not have happened. And sometimes this may be very true, especially when we chose those paths apart from any consideration of the will of God in our lives.
But there are those times when we are exactly where we are supposed to be and things seem very bleak. The monsters on the horizon are huge and imposing and we are tempted to falter in the face of their advancing. Jesus knew that His disciples were going to face difficult time, and He knew that there might be a temptation to turn and run. He knew that they would be rejected because of their association with Him. They would be rejected by the people of their faith. There would even be those who would be rejected by their families. And the crazy thing is that those doing the rejecting fully believe that they are doing the right thing. Jesus told them that the Jews who they counted themselves among would reject them because what they proclaimed did not line up with the system of belief that they had built. These “religious” individuals had become so committed to their system of religious practice that they lost sight of God who they were to worship. In that sense, their practice had become their idol, and they were going to reject anyone who called that practice into question. Jesus had come to set them free from the burden of the law, but they were to reject Him because they were committed to observing a law that they could not possibly satisfy. These people would remain hard hearted toward God and Christ, and they would reject anyone who came in His name.
All that they had known growing up was soon to change, and they would be religious outcasts. In the face of this it could be real easy to question the truth and even to consider giving up. Jesus told them these things not to discourage them, but to encourage them in those dark days to remember that what was happening was just as He said. And in His saying this, He also told them that He was always going to be with them. They were chosen and sent with a purpose, and God would not abandon them in either.
It was not important for Jesus to have emphasized this earlier, as He said, because He had been with them. But with His leaving it was important for them to hear this and to know that what He had told them was indeed true. And because it was true, they were to be encourage to endure the hardship knowing this this was exactly as Jesus had said and God was going to remain faithful. God’s plan was not going awry, and they were to have no cause to question whether or not they understood correctly. Knowing that tough times were to come and that they would even lay down their lives for Him, Christ assured them that God was going to remain faithful to be with them and to bring them through to the other side—even with that other side being eternity in His presence. For this reason the disciples were willingly to face death—so that others might live.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:7–12, ESV)