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Imagine Hating Jesus

21 November 2017 15:02

As a hate-figure he shouldn’t have qualified. For all the things that usually stir up hatred Jesus totally lacked. He wasn’t selfish. He wasn’t cruel. He wasn’t smug and arrogant. He didn’t lie or cheat or take unfair advantage of anyone. He wasn’t a hypocrite or a deceiver. Ever.

On the contrary, there was no-one more loving, kind, and selfless. He went around doing good. He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and preached the best news the world had ever heard. He literally lived to serve and save people. And yet for all that, he was hated. Passionately.

Nor is that putting it too strongly. It is true that in his early years, when he lived and worked in Nazareth, his fellow citizens thought the world of him. I do not doubt there was many a parent who would have gladly had him for a son-in-law. But everything changed when he began his public ministry. All too swiftly people divided over him. He had his loyal and loving followers. But he also had the bitterest of foes.

The upshot? What is without question the darkest episode in our dark human history. For Jesus is the Son of God. And God the Father gave proof of that by the miracles he enabled him to perform. Everyone should have worshiped him. But they didn’t. Instead, they plotted to get rid of him. And when they had him in their power they subjected him to the cruelest of deaths.

So how are we to explain it? It had been prophesied that he would be “hated without a cause” (John 15.25) i.e. without just cause. People did, however, have a reason. People always have a reason for their hatred. In Jesus’ case, we learn what it was from his own lips. Can you guess? He told people unwelcome truth.

Here are his words: “The world…hates me because I testify that what it does is evil” (John 7.7). Just as simple as that. Or here is how one of his disciples put it: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light…” (John 3.19-20a).

I think of what I used to do when my two girls were small and we were on holiday by the sea in Scotland. We would go down to the water’s edge at low-tide and lift up rocks to see what was underneath. How the crabs and other creatures would scurry for cover! They did not like the light!

And nor did the people of Jesus’ day. He told them the truth – about themselves, about their sin, and about how it would all end in judgment if they did not repent. He did it lovingly, too, with their highest interests at heart. But they so hated him for it that they could not rest until they’d killed him.

If you are truly a follower of Jesus there is a message in all this for you. Don’t expect it to be any different. It was what Jesus himself said: “‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15.20). We ought not to be surprised, therefore, when it happens. Faithfulness to him means doing what he did. Calling evil evil. Lovingly but firmly. Warning people that God will reckon with them for their sins. Appealing to them to turn to God in repentance to. People will hate for us that. Inevitably. And they will show it.

Our encouragement? Jesus’ own precious promise: “great is your reward in heaven” (Matt.5.11). He has not been the loser by his faithfulness. And nor will we.