Jesus, Loved and Hated
Jesus brings division. He understood that this would be the case. He did not want his disciples to misconstrue the impact of his coming into the world: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). He knew that people would either love him or hate him, and this would affect even the closest of relationships within the family: “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household’” (Matt. 10:35-36). We have to be prepared for the fact our commitment to Christ may rupture the closest of relationships.
For Him or against Him
Jesus has always brought separation. We see this everywhere in the Gospels, and we see it today. People either cherish him or loathe him. The English Reformed theologian John Owen made the same observation in the seventeenth century. Writing about Christ, Owen affirmed, “It is he whom the souls of his saints do love for himself, for his own sake, and all other things of religion in and for him.” Things are much different though for them who “are not renewed.” “The truth is . . . that Christ, in the mystery of his person and in the glory of his mediation, is the only thing that they dislike in religion.”
Owen reflected upon the real state of the unregenerate: “Those who are not spiritually renewed cannot love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, yea, they have an inward, secret aversion from the mystery of his person and his grace.” Where then do such people place their love, since it is not focused upon Christ? Owen went to the heart of the problem by directing attention upon the disordered love of fallen man: “It is self which all their affections center in, the ways whereof are too long here to be declared.”
Christ’s birth brought division. The magi from the East came to Jerusalem looking for him who had been born king of the Jews. When they found him in Bethlehem, they fell down and worshiped him (Matt. 2:11). Herod the Great on the other hand sought to destroy him (Matt. 2:13). His miracles set people against one another. When he healed the paralytic, the multitudes glorified God, while the scribes accused Jesus of blasphemy (Matt. 9:1-8). His teaching tore people apart: “There was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings” (John 10:19).” “Many of them said, ‘He has a demon and is mad.’” “Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon’” (John 10:20-21).
A Position with Consequences
It is not possible to be neutral about Christ. Jesus made it quite clear: “He who is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30). He who does not love him stands in opposition to him.
This is an issue of fundamental importance. On what side of the aisle do I find myself? Do I cherish him, or do I have a “secret aversion” to him? The presence of love for Christ or a lack thereof anticipates what is coming in the future. Paul concludes his first letter to the Corinthians with a solemn declaration: “If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him” (1 Cor. 16:22; HCSB). At the same time, he affirms in his final letter as he anticipated martyrdom: “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
Jesus was either treasured or abhorred down to the final days of his earthly ministry on the earth. We see this in the last week of his life preceding the crucifixion. There is both devotion and animosity, allegiance and opposition. It is all there—in the anointing of Jesus in a private residence on Saturday and in the public miracles in the temple on Monday. The adoration for him and the malice directed at him as an infant continued down to the very end.