Here are some of my thoughts after dwelling on John 15:18-16:15 for several weeks:
According to the Gospel of John these words were spoken by the Lord Jesus on the same night of his betrayal. They are part of his last instructions to his disciples before his death and resurrection. A pressing point for Jesus was that his disciples would be hated (15:18-19), persecuted (15:20), marginalized (16:2), and even killed (16:2) because of their association with him. He is telling them these things, he says, so as “to keep you from falling away” (16:1).
The pending pressure of following Christ was going to cause them to wonder, “Maybe I’m wrong about this whole Jesus thing? Maybe I could soften the edges and water down the bitterness of anything I have to say about him? Maybe I should just quit?”
If it is true that I too am a disciple of Christ, then I must assume as well that the world does not love me (15:19). If I am faithfully living and heralding the gospel of Christ, then something is going to be a stench to the unbelieving. Some part of this message is going to cause confrontation. In the Middle East, maybe it will be that Jesus is the Son of God. In the Upper West Side, maybe it will be that homosexual activity is wrong in God’s sight. In the southern U.S., maybe it will be that functional racism is still racism. Who knows?
But the question posed by Jesus’ words is not “Will the consternation of the world come?” or “Will the temptation to quit arise?” The question is “Will I fall away?” The question is “Will God’s word remain normative and my convenience subservient?”
Amazingly, Jesus says that his disciples have more help in their distress now that he is gone than if he had remained on earth with us. He told them, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” (16:7). And now Jesus has gone away, and he has sent the Helper, the Spirit of truth. He is with us so as to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (16:8), and he is with us so as to empower our faithful testimony of Christ (15:26-27).