A Hated Messiah?

By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.

The name, Jesus Christ, means Savior-Messiah. As Jesus neared His cross, the Pharisees were seeking every opportunity possible to challenge Him. They knew He claimed to be Israel’s Savior-Messiah, but they saw it as unthinkable. They reasoned the true Messiah would not be willing to suffer the ultimate indignity of crucifixion as Jesus claimed would happen to Him. To them, the Messiah could not suffer at all, and He certainly would carry at least a sword or a dagger. It made no sense for Jesus even to be talking about something so scandalous. Their reasoning brought them to the conclusion Jesus could not be their Savior; hence, Jesus had to be a false Messiah. The result was they completely rejected Jesus and His teaching and became more and more willing to kill Him. They did it even though Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was the truth and the resurrection of Lazarus proved it when Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave on the fourth day.

Jesus was hated and He knew it (John 15:18).

People who hate live in the past, and their hatred makes them blind to many opportunities. In addition, people who hate invariably make poor and very costly decisions.

When Jesus was nailed to a cross the Jewish people had been living for sixty-five years under the cruel Roman occupation of Israel. Jesus’ death was justified, they reasoned, because Jesus had done nothing to reduce Roman taxation as a true Messiah certainly would do. So, Jesus had to be an imposter.

Without question Roman tax levies were cruel millstones hung around the necks of all Jews. For one illustration, if a family could not pay its taxes, Roman soldiers could kidnap a couple’s daughter and sell her into slavery. Then the tax collector would pay their taxes, keeping a good percentage for himself. The child’s dad most probably would never see or hear from the apple of his eye again. As for mom, she could only weep, finding no comfort as long as she lived (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18).

For me, your writer – if my daughter were kidnapped never to be seen again, I’m sure I would never fully get over it. But I know enough about Jesus’ teaching I would try to forgive, even if it took 70 times 7 tries (Matthew 18:21-22). I don’t want to live with lingering hate.

Jesus’ critics reasoned if Jesus wanted to help Israel, He should deal with the Roman abuses first. It was much more important to the Pharisees and religious leaders to save the nation than to save sick and handicapped people whom they saw as outcasts and under a curse, deserving no help (John 7:49; 11:51). But Jesus valued all people, Jews and Gentiles, and wanted everyone to enjoy good health.

To the Pharisees and religious leaders, the Messiah’s first order of business would surely be to liberate the nation by booting Caesar’s legions all the way back to Rome.

In addition, a true Messiah would protect the temple. ‘There’s no way we can stand by and let Jesus destroy our temple, and then try to rebuild in three days what has taken forty-six years to build.’ [Of course, Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection, not the physical temple (John 2:20-21)].

Israelites obviously hated Romans and dreamed of the day when Messiah would come and throw off Rome’s yoke. It was easy for sons of Abraham to think: ‘You Romans can abuse us, kidnap our children, take the food off our tables, even kill us. But one day, Oh! That wonderful day, Messiah will come, and Rome won’t be able to make Him bend His knee in suffering. They won’t persecute Messiah, not Him because He’ll conquer them, and they’ll be bending their knee to our Messiah. And yes! we’ll be shouting happy seeing Rome humbled. But this Jesus of Nazareth is not our Messiah.’

The Israelites were bound by their hatred in part because of what had happened in their past. For some 500 years, the Jewish people had lived under what seemed like one foreign ruler after another. But the Romans were arguably the worst masters. Every generation of Jews longed for their Messiah and was very hopeful He would appear soon.

Yes, hatred breeds bad decisions that lead to lost opportunities. Their hatred meant they could not recognize their Messiah had in fact already come and was on the scene doing marvelous teaching and beyond-imagination miracles.

The very thought of Jesus’ plan to build a ‘spiritual kingdom’ was a stumbling block too, and a joke to these Pharisees. ‘Who wants to live in a spiritual kingdom?’  The truth is even today millions of people dwell in Jesus’ spiritual kingdom and it spans the globe.

Israel’s deeply ingrained bitterness also helped blind the Jews to their own prophets who foretold Messiah’s suffering. It meant they labeled Jesus an imposter (see Isaiah 53). The result was they completely rejected Jesus and His claims and became more and more willing to kill Him as an enemy of the state (John 18:14). Even Lazarus’ resurrection did not change their minds. Their hatred, in fact, made them all the more certain because a Messiah with no sword, or dagger and spear could not help them defeat Rome (John 18:11; Acts 1:6).

Hatred also helped Israel believe a decision so wrong it was a fantasy – that they could defeat Rome on the battlefield. Some 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, hatred for Rome boiled over and Israel rebelled against Rome. The result was a tragedy of unthinkable proportions. The Caesar’s legions destroyed the Jewish temple stone by stone as well as the whole city of Jerusalem. They slaughtered women and children including infant babies, and some 100,000 Jews were force marched to Rome to become slaves for Rome’s construction projects.

Think about it. Islam recognizes Allah as the creator of the heavens and the earth and the supreme authority of the universe. But the thought Allah would come down to this earth to suffer and die to redeem lost people worldwide is anathema to faithful Muslims. Many other world religions think the same way.

The suffering of Jesus Christ, our Savior-Messiah, is exactly the revelation of the God of the Bible. In His infinite love God sent His Son in an incarnation to die on a wicked cross as a sacrifice in our place and for our salvation. Jesus paid for our sins in blood, not a lamb’s blood, but His own blood. Then, He walked out of His tomb on the third day, holding the keys of death and hell in His holy hands (Revelation 20:1). Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

Jesus fulfilled the Heavenly Father’s plan to save the world and did it with no hatred against the people who treated Him so brutally. They called Him a gluttonous man and a wine bibber, as well as a sinner, a Samaritan, a madman, a man who had a devil, yes, and even Beelzebub himself. They also took up stones to kill Him, but none of it made Jesus hate them (John 15:18).

Hatred is a choice and love is a choice, and our Savior-Messiah, Jesus Christ, chose to love His enemies no matter how cruel they were to Him.

Jesus is also a master at turning evil into good. To them, the cross to which they nailed Jesus meant they would be rid of Him for life. They did believe the disciples would try to steal Jesus’ body, but could not comprehend if God could raise Lazarus after four days, then God could and would resurrect Jesus too. On the third day that happened. Jesus walked out of His tomb victorious over death, hell, and the grave. What they meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

Achieving His goal to build an international kingdom-of-the-heart that is worldwide has not been easy. The hatred of Messiah’s enemies has been vicious in every generation and false prophets have been many. In parts of the world today, Jesus’ followers continue to be persecuted and even martyred.

Yes, people who hate live in the past, and their hatred makes them blind to so many opportunities. In addition, people who hate invariably make very poor decisions.

Feel the nails and crown of thorns.
The Savior is so weary, His body torn.
Soldiers whips have left their tracks.
O what pain, and never fighting back.
Look up! O look up!
Jesus is bleeding for me.
O look up. Just look up.
Jesus is bleeding for me.

Author unknown to me.

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