“But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:21)
Scripture Reading – John 8:31-47
Jesus not only prepares His disciples for the cruel persecution that will befall them, but He also identifies the root cause of that persecution. He says it’s because people do not know the true God. Instead of worshipping Christ, they have designed other gods to worship. Although these gods may no longer be made out of wood or stone, people today are still making idols—idols that people can manipulate into doing what they desire. These idols are often crafted in our minds. John Calvin says that the unbelieving heart is a “perpetual factory of idols.” Calvin explains, “Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; …is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God” (Institutes, I.XI.8). Jesus’ claim to being the one true God confronts modern-day idolaters who reject the truth and persecute disciples, so as to protect their false gods.
Knowing God is only possible through Jesus Christ. He is the Word incarnate given to us to reveal God. When demons were in the presence of Christ, they immediately recognized Him and cried out, “You are the Son of God” (Luke 4:41)! Even the demons were familiar with Jesus, but they didn’t know Him. (To know Him is to have a relationship with Him.) The demons rejected Christ’s rule over them when they rebelled and were consequently cast out from heaven. However, knowing God via a personal relationship with Christ ushers us into the Kingdom of God. Jesus prayed for His disciples saying, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Jesus revealed the Father by showing us that we can enter paradise only through Christ.
Jesus entered history in order to reveal the Father to us. Those who reject Jesus, reject the Father. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders who rejected His claims about being God incarnate. They would not believe because the God that was being revealed in Jesus, was not compatible with the idols that their minds had created. The Jews had the truth found in the Old Testament, so they were familiar with God’s promise that the Messiah would come to set them free and reign as the Son of David (2 Sam. 7:16). As they suffered under the rule of the pagan Romans, the Jews were longing for the Messiah to come and return the nation of Israel to the Jews. They wanted a God that was a political conqueror. Instead, Christ came as a humble servant who would die to pay the penalty for their sins. Their false understanding of God (i.e. idol) was a result of their own ignorance.
Now Jesus’ presence was forcing them to make a choice. Would they turn from their idols and worship God or would they reject Christ and hold on to their idols? The Jews chose their man-designed god and rejected Christ. They showed that they didn’t know the Father who sent Christ (John 8:19). Christ still loved them and sent His disciples into Jerusalem and Judea to proclaim the Good News of salvation anyway. So, too, must we remember that, although the world is persecuting us out of their ignorance about God, the gospel must still be proclaimed. God is sending us into hostile places not with weapons of war, but with words of hope and actions of love. We have the incredible privilege of telling the world about Christ’s death and resurrection so, like Jesus, we can pray for our enemies so that they will come out of their ignorance and turn to the living Christ. How are you responding to those who are ignorant of God?