"I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you."
Ouch! Imagine, if you will, being a disciple and hearing these words. What kind of reactions would these words bring you?
"This is way too hard--I'm outta here."
"Jesus, you're crazy! There's no way that this will happen."
"Dude, you're a real glass is half empty kinda guy, aren't you?"
But in essence, this is not the heart of the gospel message--our Good News for today.
Those last two lines speak about remembering and remembering that Jesus tells us that this is going to be a difficult journey. That people will not like us. And that those who don't like us may even try to kill us and they will think they are doing God's will.
But what we need to remember is not that these people are making things harder for us and even trying to kill us--as we've seen throughout history and even in our culture today that is filled with the madness of terrorism. No, we need to remember that we have known Jesus. That we have had an encounter with the Risen Lord and that encounter is what changes us.
We can not live any other way because of this encounter. And others hate us for that. We challenge their ideals and principles, we care for the poor who they'd much rather dispense with. We love those who indeed make it hard for us to do so--and those we love may even try to kill us--and we love them anyway.
It is the encounter with Jesus that we need to remember--the words that he has given his disciples have strong effects on them and so today he knows they have already changed his disciples. These are words he knows that can be hard to hear and the results of living out these words can indeed be deadly.
It may even get you crucified.
But what about us? Have we had the encounter with Jesus? Or is Jesus just a nice image that we call upon for help now and again? Is Jesus the one who changes us--who calls us to live our lives differently? OR...
Do we hope that we can change Jesus instead?
It would be much easier to not have the encounter. It would be easier to not care for the unborn, or the elderly, or the homeless. It would be easier to sleep in on Sunday rather than to come together to pray. It would be easier to not struggle with moral issues and to just follow what everyone else is doing.
It's easier to make ourselves into Gods than it is to actually have an encounter with Jesus, the God who changes everything by his very presence amongst us.
For when we decide to engage in an encounter and are changed by the radical love of God, the result is always the same:
Are we willing to have the encounter? Are we willing to go to the cross? Are we willing to be reviled and hated because of Jesus' call to love?
We need the encounter, the idea that we are called into love by love itself--God. It is here that we are forever changed and forever called into a new way of being.