“It Hated Me, Before it Hated You”

Pilate “delivered Jesus to their will.” —Luke 23:25

THE hatred of the Jewish leaders pressing for Jesus’ death was so evident that even a hardened man like Pilate, the Roman governor, seemed appalled at it. It was evident to him that the charges of sedition they were pressing against Jesus were knowingly false, and could not be made to stand; nevertheless they chose to let a convicted seditionist and one who had murdered for its cause, go free instead of the innocent. How unjust and void of reason are the actions of men motivated by hate.

Jesus said to his disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) In the word ‘world’, the Lord seemed to signify the order of things on this earth, especially the rulers—those who exerted political and religious influence.

The special order of Jesus’ day was made up of the scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees, chief priests, and the Doctors of the Law—those representing the Law, and thus the people of that order of things.

We know that these hated the Lord. As he said elsewhere, they hated the light. They hated him, not because he really did them any harm, but because the light that shone from his life and teachings was contradictory to themselves and their schemes. If his words were true, all the plans they had made over the years would be shown as coming to naught. In proportion as they had confidence in their own plans, Christ and his followers would seem to be fools, trying to do some impractical thing.

Our Lord’s principal opposition, then, came from the religious rulers, the teachers, and the Jewish politicians. There was the Sadducee party which believed in nothing beyond what they could see. They were agnostics. Also, the Pharisees were a strict religious sect, preeminently the ‘holiness’ people of the Jews. They were scrupulous regarding outward forms and ceremonies, but as a class were haughty, self-righteous, and unjust. Whoever fell in line with Jesus’ teachings would not have any particular interests in either of these sects or their teachings. They would not respect them or consider them the great ones of their nation. While at variance among themselves, these religious rulers were one in their opposition to Jesus.

It was these sects, together with the scribes and Doctors of the Law, who incited the people to crucify Jesus. We are not to suppose that these learned men got out into the streets with the people and hurrahed for Barabbas, and shouted against Jesus. Rather, they incited the people, and themselves assumed a more dignified line of conduct. In all events, their course led to our Lord’s death.

Not only did they hate the Master, but they hated him with such a bitterness and such resentment as to destroy him. They plotted his death several times, but could not take him until his hour had come. The Pharisees acknowledged that a great miracle had been performed in the raising of Lazarus, but they determined that Jesus should be destroyed on account of this wondrous marvel, because it would influence the people, and the people would in that same proportion become alienated from themselves.

The high priest, Caiaphas, said, “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” (John 11:47-53) The leaders of the nation feared that the people would be so influenced by Jesus’ teachings that they would themselves avail nothing, and that the Romans would come and take away their place and their nation. They reasoned, “We are the guardians of this nation. If we fail, God’s cause will be blotted out from the earth. It is, therefore, expedient that we should destroy this man.” They had an incorrect view of God’s cause and of their nation.

As respects the true people of God, we see it is in proportion to their faithfulness as followers of the Lord Jesus that his people are hated and persecuted. There was a long period of persecution in the days of the Early Church—first by Nero, then by Diocletian, and others of the Roman Emperors. Then came the general rise of the Antichrist, the counterfeit of God’s kingdom. These also hated the true church and held them in contempt, claiming they took the words of Jesus about a future kingdom too literally.

Then followed the long night of bloody persecutions. The true followers were not numerous and were chiefly the poor of this world—not many great, not many learned—but rich in faith. “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith,” to be heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him!—I Cor. 1:26; James 2:5

And coming down to our day, we find that in proportion as the followers of the Lord Jesus are walking in his footsteps, they will wish to let their light shine out upon others. In proportion as they do this, it will show up the misconceptions and errors of the present order of things in the world. The teaching that present institutions are not to be repaired, but replaced by the new heavens and new earth is still unpopular. Those who bear this message must expect to be unpopular as well.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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