Have you ever been hated?
Recently a dementia patient whom I was trying to help to take a shower, fought me away, hitting frantically at me in fear and rage. I don’t blame her. I would do the same if I were in her place, feeling trapped and not understanding why somebody had to invade my privacy. Even though I understood, it hurt a little for my loving care to be misinterpreted and rejected.
That doesn’t come anywhere close to being hated. But it made me think of the words of Jesus, speaking of His countrymen, “‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:25)
Why did they hate Him, anyway? Why do you, or why did you at one time, hate Him? Of course, we say, we never would think of hating Him—that seems like far too strong a word. After all, we admire His teachings—but maybe we’re not willing to trust Him enough to anchor our lives to Him. Call it rejection, then—we admire Him but perhaps we have rejected His offer to save us from our sins. Why would anybody reject Him? Maybe we don’t even consciously reject Him, but just ignore Him. Why?
The Jewish people of Jesus’ day saw His miracles, saw Him heal the blind and bless the poor and raise the dead and have mercy on sinners. He promised them rest and comfort (Matthew 11:28-30), forgiveness of sins (John 3:18), and the opportunity for eternal joy with God (John 3:16).
But still they hated Him, a man who was full of good deeds and gracious words. He had a way of putting a finger on their pride, pointing out that maybe they weren’t quite as good as they wanted their neighbors to think (Matthew 23:27). Would we reject Him for the same reason?
Perhaps they hated Him for suggesting that they couldn’t meet God’s righteous standards by their own efforts. (Matthew 5: 17-28). Does it bother us to hear God’s Word that, “There is none righteous, not even one…there is none who does good.”? (Romans 3: 10, 12). Would we hate Him for that? Would we reject a Jesus who tells us the truth we already know deep within, that we tend to do the selfish, proud, willful thing even though we know better? Does anyone have a good reason to reject Jesus, or could He say of some of us, “they hated Me without a cause?”
But there’s something far more surprising than that mankind would reject the best Man who ever lived. It’s the fact that such a Man would love those who hate Him. That, while He was being tortured on the cross, He would look down at His murderers and pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) There was nothing in them, nor in us, to make us lovely to Someone who knows our every thought and motive. In fact, the apostle Paul pointed out that “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” But He loved them, even while they drove nails into His hands and ground a crown of thorns onto His head. And He loves us, with the kind of love that would die for us, die instead of us, being punished for sins that He didn’t commit.We hated Him without a cause. He loved us without a cause. Don’t we have good cause to love and trust and obey Him?