For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 17
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 19—20; Revelation 8; Zechariah 4; John 7
RATHER NAIVELY, SOME OF US THINK that if Jesus were alive today, our tolerant culture would not give him a really rough time, much less crucify him. We would simply marginalize him, treat him as if he were a harmless eccentric. Is that true? Not according to John. The issues are bound up with the nature of fallenness and its response to holiness.
Nowhere is this clearer than in John 7:7. Jesus’ brothers have been egging him on to return to Jerusalem. If he wishes to become a celebrity, they argue, he must show himself in the capital city on the high feast days. They are thinking like politicians: what will bring you public notice? But Jesus says that the “right time” for him has not yet come. They can follow their own timetable; he does and says only what the Father gives him to do and say (7:6; cf. 5:19ff.). Eventually he will go up to the Feast, but not yet (7:8). And when he does go, he goes quietly, without fanfare (7:10), refusing to draw attention to himself, with all the political fuss that would make. One important reason for this self-restraint is provided in 7:7: “The world cannot hate you,” Jesus tells his brothers, “but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.”
Four brief reflections. (a) The “because” clause is both disturbing and revealing. The assumption, of course, is that the world is not only evil, but desperately hates to have its evil exposed, shown up for what it is. Both by his flawless character and by his candid speech, Jesus makes “the world” horribly uncomfortable. How long would Jesus have lasted in Stalin’s Russia? In Hitler’s Germany? Or in Northern Ireland? Or the Balkans? Or in the United States? The least we would do, I imagine, is have him committed for psychiatric evaluation. (b) But I doubt that it would end there. Consider just one small arena: Some of my friends have had their lives repeatedly threatened because they publicly oppose homosexual marriages. These are not homophobes or gay bashers. Some of them have proven wonderfully fruitful and loving in their ministries to gays and straights alike. Were Jesus ministering among us today, I have no doubt that such death threats would have become assassination. (c) The implication of 7:7 is that Jesus’ brothers belong to the world. That is why they fit in so well. Are we being faithful if no one hates us? (d) This candid exposure of the world is not smug one-upmanship, disgusting self-righteousness. Jesus is righteous; he is holy. Where sin and holiness collide, there will always be an explosion. And we sinners must come to recognize our deep sinfulness, or we will never turn to the Savior for help.