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Why the World Hates Jesus of Nazareth (4 of 7)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”  Jesus, Jn. 15:18

In the previous installment, I made the case that Jesus was not religious.

It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus did not seek to get his life from a system of religious beliefs and behaviors. On the contrary, he rebuked religious authorities and was hated by the religious world system.

Instead, Jesus got his LIFE from a relationship with the Father.

When we attempt to get our life from anything or anyone other than the person of Christ, whom the Scriptures testify as the source of all LIFE (Jn 5:38-40), we create for ourselves a religion. We must repent of it.

As I said in the introduction to this blog series, I’m using seven provocative statements as a way of summarizing the radical life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the NT. This is why the world hates Jesus and his good news.

And why they will hate those who choose to follow him.

Now we must seriously consider another reason for the world system’s hatred of Jesus. And it has to do with Jesus’ rejection of wealth and his woeful language to those who hoard it for their own pleasure.

4. Jesus Rejected Materialism

Second only to the religious leaders and hypocrites, Jesus’ strongest rebuke was reserved for those who are rich in this world. It’s a bit frightening.

In keeping with Yahweh’s heart expressed through the Prophets, Jesus carried on the OT tradition of defending the poor and pronouncing woes upon the rich (Prov 14:31; Isa 41:17; Jer 22:6; Ezek 16:49; Lk 4:18).

Listen to the words of Jesus from Luke 6:20-26 (NIV):

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.”

“But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
    for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

It appears that the heart of Jesus’ rebuke against the rich is due to the fact that these people have oriented their entire lives around their wealth and status. They don’t own stuff, it owns them. Meanwhile, the poor suffer.

For these folks, money has become an idol—an idol that demands the reforming of all priorities around the accumulation and hoarding of wealth. Money drives them. They are slaves to their god, Mammon!

“You can’t serve both God and money.” Jesus, Matt 6:24 NLT

Consider how a large bank account kept the rich young ruler from following Jesus (Lk 18:18-25). Jesus asked him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, but the man wasn’t willing or able to do it.

“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When Jesus said it’s hard for the rich to “enter the kingdom” of God, he didn’t mean what many evangelicals mistakenly assume, i.e. that it’s hard for rich people to “go to heaven” when they die. Far from it.

Jesus was never concerned about a post-mortem, disembodied, interim state called “heaven” between this life and the next. What he meant was that those who are are consumed with wealth, fooled by this world system of greed and covetousness, can’t see the beauty of the upside-down Kingdom of God on the earth, and therefore they most certainly will not inherit the resurrected world to come. They reject God’s economy now and forever.

As Jesus told the church at Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev 3:17 NIV).

Therefore, those who are rich in this world are incapable of understanding God’s economy and becoming oriented to the way of a lowly, itinerant Messiah who demands them share their wealth with those in need.

Think about the sort of Kingdom economics that Christ revealed:

  • The first shall be last, the last shall be first (Matt 19:29-30),
  • Leave everything behind for greater reward (Mk 10:29-31),
  • Hire at different times, pay the same wages (Matt 20:1-16),
  • Willing to leave ninety-nine for one (Matt 18:12-14),
  • Sell/leave everything necessary for the Kingdom (Matt 13:44-46),
  • Give out of your poverty, not just abundance (Mk 12:41-44),
  • Cancel the debt owed to you (Matt 6:12; 18:21-35),
  • Don’t hoard, use abundance for the Kingdom (Matt 25:14-30),
  • Seek the Kingdom and needs will be met (Lk 12:31).

Jesus rejected materialism for the sake of the Kingdom. He left his family and livelihood to travel the countryside preaching he was the manger-born Messiah promised by the Prophets. He lived and taught things that your financial planner most certainly wouldn’t approve of, even in a good year.

He turned over the tables of moneychangers and drove out those who profit from religion. Jesus didn’t take money from the bank, he walked in and knocked it to the floor—showing its cosmic insignificance to God.

Jesus called Roman tax collectors to repent, no doubt a treasonous act. He told his followers to pay taxes without grumbling against Caesar, seen as nothing more than blasphemous capitulation to the system.

Jesus said to “store up for yourselves riches in heaven” where nothing can steal or destroy it (Matt 6:19-20). In heaven, God’s space, it’s safe. Jesus’ invitation is to invest in a Kingdom that will last.

When your treasure is with God, you don’t have to worry about economic recessions, falling stocks, and government shutdowns.

You live for the Kingdom until you die. Don’t worry about stuff, because you can’t take it with you. With the Kingdom plan, you don’t have to worry about retirement (Lk. 6:24; 12:13-21). It’s taken care of already.

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Jesus, Lk 12:21 NLT

While Jesus isn’t suggesting that we all live destitute, he clearly warns about the great dangers of living to accumulate wealth, and the power it has to shift the mind to things that are passing away (Matt. 6:24; 13:22).

As the proverb says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” Prov 30:8-9 NIV

Jesus told a sobering parable of a rich man who went to hell, and a poor man named Lazarus who joined the Father in heaven at his death (Lk. 16:19-31). It’s the only parable where the righteous person is named, and the “rich man” is left nameless. How troubling for the rich in this world.

He means to say with this parable that the time to repent is now, before it’s too late. The world system, and those who currently benefit from it, are on the way out. Make your choice: God or money?

“This is what Jesus had in mind: folks coming together, forming close-knit communities and meeting each other’s needs– no kings, no major welfare systems, no presidents necessary. His is a theology and practice for the people of God, not a set of suggestions for empire.” Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President

Let’s face it. It’s greed and power that drives the quest for empire—an empire that is prophesied to fall (Rev 18). It’s that same lust for wealth that seeks to take root in our own hearts. The good news of Jesus declares the old way of competition, accumulation, and domination to be finished.

The love of money is the root of all that is evil in the world (1 Tim 6:10). The clarion call of Christ is to spit out the maddening wine of empire, and instead drink from the fresh springs of God’s economy.

Just know that those who hold the coffers won’t go silently. They hated Jesus and his message, so they will hate those who decide to follow him.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read the next post:  5. Jesus Challenged Worldly Wisdom.

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Why the World Hates Jesus of Nazareth (1 of 7)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”  Jesus, Jn. 15:18

Introduction

Why would anyone actually hate Jesus? It’s much more understandable that people might have an extreme dislike for Christians, being that many professing believers don’t take the teachings of Jesus very seriously.

But hate Jesus?

It’s no secret that many skeptics and critics of Christianity would agree with Ghandi, the Hindu guru who admired Jesus for his call to non-violent resistance. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

I will be the first to empathize with this sort of repugnant response from non-believers against the Christian faith. It’s disheartening to know that many Christians have outright rejected the teachings of Jesus—either largely due to ignorance or extensive efforts to do some manner of hermeneutical gymnastics around the biblical text.

Regardless of the reason, there is simply no excuse for it. If you’re an atheist or skeptic reading this, I’m sorry that some Christians make it difficult for you to see the image and will of God fully expressed in the person of Jesus. I’m sorry when and where I have failed you.

Truthfully, even authentic followers of Jesus will fail to live up to Christ’s example. Therefore, if you are a skeptic, I would say there are Christians that accept all of the teachings of Jesus and are presently on a journey of faith with the intent to see Christ’s life manifested through them by the power of his Spirit. There are real disciples—true learners.

Now let me say that I don’t think that misguided Christians should be the basis by which a person makes a judgment about Jesus Christ of Nazareth. As he said to those in his own day who were trying to make up their mind about him, Jesus says to all of us today:

“Who do you say that I am?”

Who was Jesus? What did he teach? What did he believe about himself? What did he accomplish in his short ministry? And what does it have to do with me? If we will approach the Gospels in all sincerity and with an open heart, I believe we may encounter Christ for ourselves.

So what is it that Jesus had in mind when he said that the world would hate his followers because it first hated him? Well, rest assured that it’s not for being hypocritical, or for purposely being self-righteous jerks.

Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (Jn. 15:19).

What then does it mean to “not belong” to this present world system? For that is indeed what Jesus has in mind. He is not promoting some sort of Gnostic escapism. His kingdom is not of this world, but it is for this world.

As God intends to bring heaven to earth, how has Christ called us to live in this world that lovers of the world would hate us for it?

That’s what this series of posts will address.

I intend to argue that we must take Jesus at his word or do away with him entirely. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer has written, “There are only two ways possible of encountering Jesus: man must die or he must put Jesus to death.” In other words, you must lose your life if you wish to save it.

In an attempt to clarify the gospel message for Christians and skeptics alike, I have chosen seven primary reasons for why the political and religious leaders in the first century hated Jesus and had him put to death. And of course why the world system still hates Jesus of Nazareth today.

I will briefly expound on each of these in the next six posts:

  1. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God.

  2. Jesus was not patriotic.

  3. Jesus was not religious.

  4. Jesus rejected materialism.

  5. Jesus challenged worldly wisdom.

  6. Jesus was loving and intolerant.

  7. Jesus revealed the new way to be human.

This is not an exhaustive list. I have simply decided to use these seven provocative statements to summarize the radical life and teachings of Jesus.

This summary will help us to stare long and hard at the most controversial man in all of human history, and to rethink what we thought we knew about the radical Jewish Messiah from Nazareth.

It’s my hope that Christians will consider if they have fully accepted the teachings of Jesus regarding the gospel of the kingdom of God, and if they are intentional in being obedient to Christ’s commands.

If you are a skeptic, it’s my prayer that you will open your heart to the historical Jesus in the Gospels of the New Testament—that you might know him as being alive today and doing something about evil.

In my next post, I’ll begin by expounding on the first two reasons together, since they are related. For the remaining five, I will address each of them individually. I intend to keep them succinct as possible for easier reading.

1. Jesus Proclaimed the Kingdom of God and 2. Jesus Was Not Patriotic.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


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