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Why is Christ so hated?
“After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For [there is] no man [that] doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode [still] in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.” (John 7:1-13)
The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, while he walked through this world, was utterly hated by men is obvious. As soon as opportunity was given them, the princes of this world crucified the Lord of Glory. Why? — Why was Christ so hated? Why is the Son of God so hated today? The answer to that question is found in these thirteen verses of Holy Scripture.
This chapter opens with John’s declaration that the Jews sought to kill the Lord Jesus. He was so hated, so viciously despised that the Jews, that is the religious leaders among the Jews (the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the priests, the elders, etc.) were looking for a way to murder him, without appearing to have done anything contrary to the law of God.
The Jews’ Feast
The first thing that is obvious in this passage is the fact that multitudes have a form of godliness, who have no knowledge of God. Multitudes are religious, but lost. We read in verse 2 — “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand” (v.2).
What scathing words of condemnation those are! The Divinely ordained Feast of Tabernacles is here referred to by the Spirit of God as “the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles!” This blessed ordinance of divine worship had so degenerated that it was no longer observed as an ordinance of divine worship, but as a custom of Jewish religious tradition.
The Feast of Tabernacles was a feast God commanded the children of Israel to keep on the 15th day of the seventh month of every year to celebrate his goodness to his people. After they had gathered in the fruits of the land, they were to dwell in tents for seven days in remembrance of the forty years spent in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:34-36, 39-44). The feast was the grand harvest festival, when the Lord of harvest was praised for his mercies.
This Feast of Tabernacles was a time when Israel was reminded that they dwelt in booths in the wilderness and God dwelt with them in the cloudy and fiery pillar. But it spoke of more than that. It foreshadowed that time when God came here and tabernacled in human flesh that he might at last bring God and man together in eternal glory and perfect fellowship, with sin and every evil consequence of it forever expiated, put away, purged, gone, and forgotten forever (Psalms 72:16-19; John 1:14; Revelation 21:1-7).
How sad, how horribly, horribly sad it is to see multitudes today doing exactly what the Jews in our Lord’s day had done, — clinging to a form of godliness, while denying the power thereof, — clinging to outward ceremonies, while despising spiritual worship! Public worship is meaningless, unless it involves heart worship. Baptism is an empty ritual, unless you are baptized into Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a worthless ceremony, unless Christ is held in the memory of the heart.
Let us ever seek grace from God the Holy Spirit to pray with the spirit and pray with the understanding also, to sing with the spirit and sing with the understanding also, to read with the spirit and read with the understanding also, to hear with the spirit and hear with the understanding also, to worship with the spirit and worship with the understanding also.
Second, we see in our Savior’s brethren a glaring declaration of the fact that it is impossible for anyone to believe on the Son of God except by the call, gift, operation, and power of God the Holy Spirit. So obstinate, so desperately wicked, so great is the hardness and unbelief of human nature that we are plainly told, — “Neither did his brethren believe in him” (v. 5). Holy and harmless and blameless as he was in life, our Lord’s nearest relatives, according to the flesh, did not receive him as the Messiah, did not trust him as their Savior, and did not worship him as the God-man Mediator. It was bad enough that his own people, “the Jews sought to kill him.” But it was even worse that “His brethren did not believe in him.”
These “brethren” (vv. 3-5) were our Savior’s earthly kinsmen (Matthew 12:46-47; 13:55). These “brethren” urged the Lord Jesus to go to Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, and let his followers there see the mighty works and miracles he could perform. They thought that the Feast of Tabernacles would be a good time for him to demonstrate his powers, since multitudes of Jews would be in Jerusalem for the feast.
“His brethren” wanted the Lord Jesus to obtain fame, but cared nothing for the glory of God. They thought his fame would be to their advantage. They said, “If you want fame and notoriety you’ve got to put yourself in the lime light. Go to Jerusalem. Nobody will ever know who you are, if you only preach in these small country villages. — You’ve got to go to Jerusalem and there ‘shew Thyself unto the world’” (v. 4). These are the same “his brethren” who said in Mark 3:21, “He is beside himself!”
The fact is, with men, faith in Christ is an utter impossibility. So hard, so depraved is the heart of fallen man that our Lord’s own kinsmen, though they lived constantly in his company, observed his day by day conduct, watched perfection live before them, saw his miracles and heard every word he spoke, did not believe in him. — His own kinsmen did not believe! The fact is earthly relations cannot secure God’s grace. Grace does not run in any family. Faith comes only by Divine revelation. Faith is the gift of God, the fruit and the result of divine operations. Faith is born in the newborn soul in regeneration, brought forth by the effectual call of God the Holy Spirit, and is exercised by the Spirit of God in the heaven born soul.
The mere possession of spiritual advantages and privileges has no saving efficacy. All is useless without the irresistible grace and power of God the Holy Spirit. In John 6 our Lord Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father who has sent me draw him” (John 6:44, 65).
We often hear people assigning blame to preachers and preachers assigning blame to church members for the lack of conversions in a place, as though we might be able to increase the number of God’s elect, if we just did things differently. Do not be so foolish! Salvation is God’s prerogative. — “Salvation is of the Lord!”
Third, we are reminded that everything comes to pass at God’s appointed time. — “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Without question, everything connected with the incarnation, life, obedience, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was accomplished at his own divinely appointed time.
“Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come” (vv. 6-8).
The Lord Jesus refused to go up to the feast with his brethren at this particular time, because the time or hour was not yet come for him to publicly display his miracles in Jerusalem, to have a head-on confrontation with the religious leaders, to reveal himself as the Messiah and King, and so to stir up their enmity and fears of him, which would lead them to crucify him in open shame. He said to these brethren, “Your time is always ready,” or anytime is suitable for you; for you are of the world, and the world does not hate you. They had in mind, like everyone else, an earthly kingdom, great favor, and the applause of the world. But our Lord came to redeem a people, to condemn the social, political, and religious world in general. Therefore, he incurred the wrath of all. When the appointed time came, he showed himself and accomplished his death at Jerusalem (Romans 5:6-8). And everything connected with the salvation of his people is accomplished at his own appointed time of love (Galatians 4:4-6).
The World’s Hatred
Fourth, our Lord Jesus tells us plainly in verse seven that he was hated by the world in which he lived simply because he showed that its works are evil. — “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.”
He says to “his brethren,” his own kinsmen after the flesh, “The world cannot hate you.” That makes it obvious that he is talking to men who are themselves very religious. They are discussing religious, theological, prophetic issues in this chapter. These are not drunks, profligate and morally degenerate derelicts. These men were, themselves, upstanding, conservative religious people. Yet, he says to them, “The world cannot hate you.”
Obviously, “the world” in this context refers to the religious people of this world, or the religion of this world. He is referring to the self-righteous, works religion that is embraced, promoted, loved, and (to a greater or lesser degree) practiced by men everywhere. It may be called Islam, or Judaism, or Christianity, Animism, or Hinduism, or Atheism; but it is the religion of the world. It is embraced by men and women everywhere. And they are enraged when it is shown to be evil (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
Our Savior here declares that the reason the world hated him so was “because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” And that which was true then is true today. It was so even from the beginning. Those things that men call good works, by which they hope they have God’s favor, our God and Savior declares to be evil. That was the reason Cain murdered Abel.
The fact is, as John Calvin put it, “The Gospel cannot be faithfully preached without summoning the whole world, as guilty, to the judgment-seat of God, that flesh and blood may thus be crushed and reduced to nothing.”
Exactly how did the Lord Jesus testify against these men, that their works were evil? He healed a man on the sabbath day, declaring that their sabbath observance was useless. He refused to practice their customs, refused to publicly wash his hands before eating, declaring that their religious customs were worthless human inventions. By his actions as well as his doctrine, the Lord Jesus exposed all their religious activity to be nothing but self-serving hypocrisy.
He preached the Gospel. He preached the necessity of a turning of men to God by God (repentance), the necessity of perfect righteousness, the necessity of complete atonement, the necessity of the new birth, and the necessity of divine preservation. All these things asserted plainly that religion without grace, religious activity without God the Holy Spirit, religious knowledge without faith in Christ is damning.
The world loves religion. It will embrace and be tolerant of every form of religion. It will demand respect for all religions, except the gospel of Christ. That, the world cannot receive. The gospel puts all sinners upon the same level, — in the dust of humiliation. The gospel puts all men in the hands of God. The gospel makes salvation God’s work alone. The gospel strips man of all pride, honor, and distinction. And the gospel puts the crown on the head of the Triune Jehovah where it belongs.
Fifth, we see in verses 10-13 that men everywhere are divided from one another by three very strong opinions about the Lord Jesus Christ.
“But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.”
Some say that Jesus was a good man. Others say he was a deceiver of men. Those two groups of people will always find some way or other to get along, like conservative and liberal politicians. But the third group they will not embrace. — Believers know and are sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the only Savior of fallen men. — “What think ye of Christ?”
“Though all the world my choice deride,
Yet Jesus shall my portion be;
For I am pleased with none beside;
The fairest of the fair is He.”