Mocking Jesus of Nazareth
Sermon shared by Michael Stark
When Jesus spoke these words, He was but iterating a position previously established. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil” [JOHN 7:7]. I remind you that the Master spoke those words to His own brothers [see JOHN 7:1-3]. The divine text states of them, “Not even His brothers believed in Him” [JOHN 7:5]. Moreover, when He spoke to His brothers, Jesus was anticipating the presentation of His followers before the Father in His High Priestly prayer. Speaking with the Father, Jesus said, “I have given [those who follow Me] your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” [JOHN 17:14-17].
Unquestionably, the Master drew a bright line distinguishing those in the world from those in His Kingdom. The distinction is not arbitrary—it is based on reaction to His presence. Unbelievers are in the world, and they will not be hated by the world because they pose no threat to those of the world. However, those who are born from above have identified with the Son of God, and they can anticipate that the world will hate them. John writes, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” [1 JOHN 3:13, 14].
There was a saying attributed to Jesus that was extant among the early churches. The saying has been preserved in the writings of several individuals and also in at least one Gnostic writing. Understand that though the saying bears the ring of authenticity, it cannot be verified as authentic. This is the saying: “Whoever is near Me is near the fire.” What is true is that following the Master will expose the one following to calumny and contempt from those identified as belonging to this present, dying world.
Nor should anyone imagine that Jesus meant to make following Him easy. Jesus warned, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” [LUKE 12:49-53].
Mankind generally seeks an easy way to practise religion. Perhaps they can perform some duty, or attend to some particular service, or even recite a prayer, and that will suffice to appease the righteous demands of God Who is Holy. However,