Summary: Jesus comforts his disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit who will see them through persecution.
Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples on the night before his trial, and he comforts them in preparation for his departure. He’s leaving, but they won’t be left as orphans; the Holy Spirit will come, and they will love each other. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be without troubles because the world hates him and it will also hate the ones who love him. It will hate, mock, harass, and even kill Christ’s followers because it has not known the Father or the Son. Now he says:
22If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. 23He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
When Jesus came he taught the people and told them he was God’s Son. He didn’t just tell them the truth and let it go, though; he also did works to prove his words were true (Jn. 5:36). The people were expecting a prophet like Moses, so they should have been ready and rejoiced when Jesus finally arrived. However, they were just like their fathers, and they hated the prophets who spoke for God (Mt. 23:32), thus they hated Jesus and wanted to kill him too. Jesus explains that anyone who hates him also hates the Father because Jesus only spoke the Father’s words (Jn. 12:49). What they’re doing is part of something bigger than themselves: they are the children of the devil, and they have no love for God.
If he hadn’t come then they would have no sin. This may be a little confusing, but keep in mind that he’s not talking about imputed or personal sin. There’s no crime if the prophet doesn’t speak; they could have passed him on the street, and how were they to know he was the Son of God? Well, he told them the truth and supported it with signs, but they rejected it. Now there’s no excuse or cloak to cover their sin.
If they don’t know he’s the Messiah, it’s only because they’re willfully blind (Jn. 9:35-41) and ignorant. Their fathers were guilty of the same thing when they witnessed God’s power in the Exodus but still rebelled and complained while in the wilderness. Their crime was unbelief, and Jesus says, “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (Jn. 3:18-20). He came as a light into the world, and they hated him and the Father for it.
Jesus singles out this kind of rejection and it’s recorded in Matthew’s gospel: Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee (Mt. 11:20-24).
It’s hard to imagine what it means for the day of judgment to be more tolerable, but the point is clear. The cities who should have been prepared for Christ’s coming will be worse off than the cities who had no warning. Sodom was destroyed despite its ignorance, so how much worse will it be for those Jewish cities who have Moses and the prophets yet willfully refuse?
This is comfort for the disciples, but it doesn’t really seem like it until we see the next verse:
25But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
This isn’t an exact quote, but it’s similar to several Psalms (35:19, 109:3, 119:161) and sounds a lot like Psalm 69:4. David wrote, “They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty.” This is the same Psalm where he talks about “zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (v. 9; Jn. 2:17) and “in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (v. 21; Mt. 27:34), so we can see that he’s speaking as a type of Christ. This Scripture was fulfilled when they hated him without cause, but it ends in hope: