Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sacrifices to God

Icon of the stoning of St. Stephen, the first fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy that "everyone who kills you [will] suppose he is offering worship to God" (John 16:2)

In this chapter, Jesus continues to warn them about his coming departure, revealing to them that they will suffer much for his sake. And in spite of this suffering, the Holy Spirit will minister to them and bring them courage and joy.

Sacrifices to God (16:1-4)

1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”

In these verses, Jesus continues to warn the disciples of the coming persecution. The Jewish authorities will expel them from the synagogues, and many of them will face death, some at the hands of Jews and others at the hands of pagans. Many people will think that they are making a sacrifice to God by killing followers of Christ. Fr. Farley has an interesting comment on this:

“In a Jewish commentary on Phineas (who slew the apostates during the time of Moses and was rewarded by God; Num. 25:13), it was said that “whoever sheds the blood of the godless is as one who offers a sacrifice.” It is this deluded mindset that is to take hold of the Jewish authorities as they persecute Jesus’ followers. With such an attitude, the apostles’ persecutors will not cease until their deadly work is done. Dark and dangerous days are coming indeed!” (278).

Even today, many religious extremists (and secular extremists, too!) think that killing Christians is pleasing to God. But anyone who does this does not know God or his Son, as Jesus says in verse 3.

Jesus also tells them that he did not tell them these things in the beginning, because he was with them, to comfort and to explain. But now that he is about to leave the earth, they need to know them to prepare themselves.


charlene.kinsey said...

Father James,
I was pleased that Father Farley interpreted the "They" in Verse 2 to be "the Jewish authorities" and not simply "the Jews". As you pointed out, there were extremists inside (and outside) of religion
organizations back in Jesus' day as well as today. I remember being incensed as a teen or young adult the first time I heard someone say "The Jews killed Jesus". I didn't know the word "extremist" back then,but I knew it seemed wrong to include all Jews in the killing of Jesus. Did Jews kill Jesus? Yes. But did "THE Jews" kill Jesus? I do not think so. There were extremist leaders who did not know God who taught those they had authority over that killing Jesus and Christians was doing something goog for God. Would I be within Orthodox guidelines to make this distinction?

Fr. James Early said...


You are right on target. As you said, "The Jews" did not kill Jesus. To implicate all the Jews of Jesus' day in his death is unacceptable, as well as historically inaccurate. To implicate Jews living today as some so-called "Christian" extremists do, is even less accurate.

As you stated, it was only a handful of powerful Jewish leaders who were responsible for Jesus' death. And to be fair, Pilate was equally responsible, for without his giving the go-ahead, Jesus could not have been executed (at least not legally).

Ultimately, however, it was neither the Jews nor the Romans who bear the responsibility for Jesus' death. Rather, it was me, and you, and all us human beings. For if we were not sinners, Jesus would not have had to die.