A guest post by Jeremiah Demuth
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20 ESV
Jesus was, by all accounts, a pretty nice guy. He healed people. He cast out demons. He stood up for the downtrodden. He seems like the perfect neighbor.
And people hated him. They hated him enough to kill him. Why?
One could say that evil will hate what is good, simply by nature of what it is. And to a certain extent this is true. But what if Jesus, our meek and mild savior, was the kind of person that would not have been invited on Oprah, or, if invited, would only have been invited once?
Consider how Jesus reacted when he was told of two instances where innocent people had been killed, one a mass murder by the hand of the government, and one the result of a collapsing tower. One gets the feeling his hearers wanted to know why God had allowed these tragedies to occur. Jesus’ answer likely left his audience in stunned silence. “…do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4b-5 ESV).
Imagine the uproar if a modern pastor was asked his thoughts on the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and he responded with “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” But in that moment, in that time, this is exactly what our savior decided to do.
Consider as well how Jesus interacted with and described the religious leaders of his time. In some ways the words of Jesus have lost some of their force, because in modern America we do not have Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, but imagine Jesus debating a popular megachurch pastor, and instead of agreeing to disagree, calling him a son of the devil to his face.
Likewise, imagine Jesus pointing out a conservative faith healer, or a liberal alternate-lifestyle affirming pastor, and saying that “unless you are more righteous than they are, you will never see heaven.” Jesus effectively did both of these things, in Matthew 5:17-20 and Matthew 23.
Finally, consider how exclusive Jesus was. True, he was followed by many who had been prostitutes and tax collectors, and even some who may have been former terrorists. He fulfilled to a “T” the prophecy that “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3 ESV). And yet, Jesus clearly states that his way is narrow, and there will be few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14) and that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
He tells his closest followers “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15, ESV) and makes it clear that a person who is not willing to be estranged from their spouse, parents, or children for his sake cannot be his disciple, and is not worthy to be his disciple (Matthew 10:34-39 & Luke 14:25-28).
In John 6 Jesus tells a crowd of his enthusiastic fans that they did not follow him because they believed in him, but because he fed them. He then proceeds to preach a sermon guaranteed to alienate most of the crowd, and he does not seem to be deeply bothered when his words have exactly that effect.
What is the takeaway from all this? Why was Jesus hated, and why will his followers be if they follow in his footsteps?
He was hated for (at least) these reasons:
1. A central part of the message Jesus had for a world of injustice and sorrow was “repent.”
2. Jesus was vocally and publicly intolerant of teachers who allowed what scripture forbade, or who forbade what scripture allowed; as well as teachers marked by a love of money and hypocrisy.
3. Jesus demanded of his servants exclusive devotion and obedience, and he taught a blatantly exclusive gospel.
In the face of a world that loves sin, that hates the idea of a holy God who commands repentance, and which has no place for an exclusive path to salvation, it is no wonder that our savior was crucified, and that his people everywhere face slander and threats, and some are and even killed for preaching his message.
Jeremiah Demuth writes as a hobby from his kitchen in Littleton Colorado. He lives with his wife, two toddlers, and a hyperactive (but very sweet) chihuahua. He enjoys martial arts, discussing the scriptures, and, occasionally, preaching at a little house church where he is a member. Some of his other writings can be found at https://consumingzeal.com/.