Mar 4, 2008

Why Do Some People Hate Jesus?

Today's Lenten reading is Luke 23:1-25. The question we were asked to reflect on is why do some people hate Jesus today?

The reading deals with the "trial" of Jesus before Pilate and Herod. Pilot makes it crystal clear that Jesus is innocent of the charges being made against him.
  • "I find no basis for a charge against this man" (v.4),
  • "I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him...he has done nothing to deserve death" (vv.14-15),
  • "For the third time he spoke to them: 'Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty" (v.22).
But the crowds, being incited by the Jewish religious leaders, "with loud shouts insistently demanded that he be crucified" (v.23).

Why? Why did people hate Jesus so much?

For the religious leaders, the answer is because they saw Jesus as a grave threat to their religious institution, to their leadership, and to their way of living. Jesus challenged the status-quo, and challenged their institutional loyalty. Jesus was more concerned with what God might want than the preservation of a religious organization.

As great as Judaism was - after all, prior to Judaism, people had no clue what the gods wanted or what the gods would find pleasing. Prior to Judaism, it was a total guess game as to what might please the gods. But Judaism was the first religion where people no longer had to guess because God spoke to His people and made it clear how one could please God. That's pretty awesome - and as great as Judaism was, there came a time when its institutional and religious practices ran the course of its effectiveness.

And as great as some of our main-line denominations have been in recent history, it is not the end all if some of our denominations come and go, and if our denominations go through a massive transformation.

What is a travesty is when we get so stuck to our institutional ways that we fail to see the new things God is doing.

When we're asking why the crowds were so hateful toward Jesus - particularly after the incredible reception on Palm Sunday, that's a more difficult question to answer.

How could the crowds at one moment sing His praises, and then within a week cry out for His blood?

I guess, it's not uncommon even today. We sing the praises of an athlete, politician, or an entertainer, and within the same week they can be in our black list because of something they do or say.

Crowds are fickle. Crowds can never be the sole criteria for what is right and wrong. The crowds in Nazi Germany allowed Hitler to go after the communists without a protest. They allowed the Nazis to go after the Jews without protest. They allowed the Nazis to go after the protestants without protest. Then they allowed the Nazis to go after the Catholics without protest. And toward the end, there was no one left to protest.

Crowds do not determine right and wrong. Only God can, and only the Bible can show us right and wrong.


Mrs. Adams said...

I love the poem you reference at the end of this post. I first encountered this poem while studying Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl in 7th grade. It has remained with me always.

It is easy to sit far removed from atrocities in our human history and say smugly to ourselves, "If I had been there, I would have said something, done something." But how easy is it to stand against the crowd? How easy is it to go against the grain of our own generation?

I see young people every day who are dissatisfied with the state of the world. They are hungry for change. They are seeking a new way. Many of these young people are also turned off by religion, not the fundamental ideas necessarily, but by what they perceive as hypocrisy of some "religious" people.

Our young people are the ones truly poised to make a significant, dramatic impact on our culture and on our world. If they are turned off and tuned out from God, where does that leave us?

James said...

When we ask the average non-churchgoing 20's-40's about what they think about Jesus, most of them think positively about Jesus. The problem with most people today is not with Jesus, it's with what organized religion has come to mean for them.

There are a couple of issues here. First, most people's understanding of who Jesus is very limited and often times a figment of their own creation rather than the Jesus of the New Testament. And it's this nice, wise, peaceful Jesus that people don't have issues with.

Once people discover the Jesus of the Bible, that's another story. Because our rebellion and sin causes us to reject a God who demands and deserves our total obedience and absolute allegiance.

But I do agree with you that we've got to do a better job of doing church in such a way to connect with the next generation of Americans.

Unless we connect and engage, the churches in America will look like the churches of Europe today.