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Why the World Hates Jesus of Nazareth (3 of 7)

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

In the previous installment, I discussed two reasons the world system hates Jesus. Jesus Proclaimed the Kingdom of God and Jesus Was Not Patriotic.

When you’re a part of the world system that glorifies one worldly kingdom over another, you oppose the transnational Kingdom of God.

Likewise, when you respond to the good news by following Jesus in radical discipleship, you oppose nationalism and the politics of Caesar. You become an enemy of the state. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself hated like Jesus.

As I said in the introduction, I’m using seven provocative statements to summarize the radical life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the NT.

If you’re a skeptic, I hope that you will seriously consider the historical Jesus of the Gospels. If you count yourself among the church, I pray that you will rethink what you thought you already knew about Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, let’s look at another controversial, and oft-neglected, aspect of Jesus’ teaching and example. This specifically involves the religious leaders and the hatred Jesus incited among them for rejecting their religion.

3. Jesus Was Not Religious

The word “religion” derives from the Latin religio, which referred to a binding obligation. In first century Palestine, the word was not used the way we use it today. In the time of Jesus, if someone said something was “religio to me”, it meant that they had a special obligation to it.

This obligation could be anything from a commitment to cults of the gods, to something more “secular” like oaths to family, government, military, etc.

Whatever the oath involved, this special obligation was about life and identity. Therefore, it meant that this “religion” involved a set of rules, regulations, and rituals that provided cultural meaning and purpose.

The danger of religion, in ancient or modern times, is that LIFE is said to be found in a system of behavior and beliefs.

This requires that a person root their identity in the ideas and boundaries set by the religious community. You don’t want to buck the religious system.

For this very reason, second temple Judaism could not contain Jesus. The religious leaders, and guardians of their sacred religion, demanded strict adherence to their own system of correct behavior and beliefs.

Consider some of the ways that Jesus rejected their religion:

  • He healed on the Sabbath, violating their religious code (Matt 12:9).
  • He ate with enemies and sinners (Matt 9:11; Mk 2:16).
  • He touched “unclean” people, they touched him (Lk 5:12, 8:43).
  • He turned over the tables of the Temple (Mk 11:15; Jn 2:15).
  • He challenged religious traditions (Mk 7:3-5).
  • He challenged traditional interpretations (Matt 5:38-48).
  • He despised religious prayers (Matt 6:5-8; Lk 18:11).
  • He rebuked religious authority (Matt 23:13; Lk 12:1).

While Jesus was certainly a good Jew, a true Israelite (Jn 1:47), it can’t be denied that he opposed religion’s threat against the Kingdom of God. And for this act of sedition, the religious leaders wanted him dead (Mk 12:12).

Since religious people get their life from the rightness of their behaviors and beliefs, anyone who challenges them, is a threat to their life. Their response is to stop the threat, violently if necessary. We call them fundamentalists.

Jesus said that religion is merely a self-righteous platform by which a person can judge others who aren’t like them. It’s bad for the soul. It creates obstacles for people, even repelling them from coming into the Kingdom.

Not only did Jesus oppose this club mentality, invariably found within religion, he rebuked the religious leaders, saying that they themselves didn’t live up to their own standards of behavior and belief.

“The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” Jesus, Matt 23:1-4 NLT

Religious people crush others with their religious demands, and they are a burden as they stand at a distance condemning people that don’t share their beliefs and practices. All the while they’re dirty on the inside.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Jesus, Matt 23:27-28 NLT

The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 23 has to be the strongest rebuke by Jesus in all of the Gospels. In fact, nothing quite compares to Jesus’ rebuke of religious hypocrites. It’s no wonder they hated him.

“Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Jesus, Matt 23:33

Jesus taught that if you want to escape the doom of religious people doing religious things, then you must repent of religion. Stop trying to find LIFE in your system of “right” beliefs and behaviors, even in the Bible. And instead root yourself in the One of who is LIFE:  Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Jesus, Jn 5:38-40 NIV

Many evangelicals are convinced that they are getting their LIFE from Jesus, but instead they continue to drink water from a well that has been condemned by Christ. They drink insipid water. And the symptoms of this religious disease is pride, arrogance, intolerance, and a judgmental spirit.

“The Kingdom’s revolt against religion, including the Christian religion, is on a totally different level. It is a revolt against all attempts to get Life from particular beliefs—including true ones. For where God truly reigns over an individual or a community, their only source of Life is God, not the rightness of their beliefs.” Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Religion, pg 60.

It is quite clear from the Gospels that “religion” is part of the world system. When Jesus said the world hated him first, religion is a part of that world.

Those who repent of religion will stand out like Jesus, and be known for their love, justice, mercy, and forgiveness (Matt 23:23; Jn 13:34-35).

Like Jesus who led the way, his followers may be dubbed a liberal, sin-loving, blasphemer by those who are invested in the religious system, but they will be called the greatest in the kingdom of God.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Read the next post:  4. Jesus Rejected Materialism.

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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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