Summary: 1. He faced opposition from people. 2. He faced the evil of a fallen world.
Annie Dillard is one of my favorite authors. In her book Teaching a Stone to Talk, she writes: “You don’t have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is required. The stars neither require it or demand it.” Darkness is a part of the human experience. It happens to all of us at some time. It is true that you will see and experience things sitting in the dark that you never did in the light, but stars can seem like a small reward when you are surrounded by darkness.
Many people complain to God with the words of the Psalmist, “Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24). I have sat with many, many people over the years who have experienced great pain and sorrow in life. It can seem like life is really unfair. Some people seem to go through life with few problems and great blessings. It all seems to come together for them. They have it all: good family, good health, and adequate finances. For others, every trouble going down the road seems to stop at their house.
When that happens, people begin to wonder what they have done wrong, as if somehow they are being punished. Or they even begin to think that God hates them. One young mother wrote Phil Yancey about how her joy turned to grief when she delivered a daughter with spina bifida, a birth defect which leaves the spinal cord exposed. She wrote several pages in spidery script telling the story of how the medical bills had drained the family finances. Her marriage had come apart because her husband resented all the time she devoted to their sick child. She began to wonder if there was a loving God after all and sought his advise.
Over the years I have sat with families with deep sorrow. Some were people whose children died. I have grieved with people when a family member committed suicide. A few families even had family members murdered. Many have had troubled children who seemed intent on destroying their lives and striking out in bitterness against the family. One young teen in a church I pastored several years ago had been out of control for years, even though he had good and capable parents. When he was 10, he set their house on fire. But one day, when he was a senior in high school, he took a shotgun out of his parent’s bedroom and drove to his girlfriend’s house. They had a baby together. As he drug her out of the house by her hair, her parents grabbed the baby out of her arms. He drove to a gravel pit and shot his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself. A tragic end to a tragic life.
What would you say to those parents? How would you comfort them? How would you talk to them about where God fits in all this? Jesus confronted people like this all the time — the widow whose only son had just died, the man blind from birth, lepers, people rejected by society. Of course, his response was to bring the boy back to life, heal the blind man, cure the lepers, and forgive and welcome the ostracized. It’s not so easy for us. But Jesus also experienced his own personal troubles with life as well. Jesus lived with many difficulties, annoyances, trials, frustrations, and of course the awareness of his own impending suffering, crucifixion and death. The terrible injustice of this perfect and righteous man having to die for a rebellious and sinful world would have made anyone else bitter.
Let’s look at the life of Christ and consider what he faced. First of all, Jesus faced opposition from people. The Bible reading today said, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). Jesus had all kinds of difficulties with people who tried their best to make his life miserable. There were the legalistic religious leaders who plagued his every step. They were always looking over his shoulder to see if he did something wrong or said the wrong thing. They were constantly plotting ways to do away with him. They held his feet to the fire over every little religious law they could come up with. They demanded to know why he would associate with sinners. They complained when he ate in the homes of sinners, and gave them attention like they really mattered. They brought a woman caught in adultery (a situation they had probably set up), and said that the law demanded that she be stoned to death — so was he going to obey the Scripture or not? They tested his political loyalty and asked whether it was right to pay taxes or not. They planted sick and disabled people in the synagogues where they knew he would be, to see if he would break one of the Ten Commandments by healing on the Sabbath. They maligned what he believed and who he was. They watched his every word. They dogged his every step. They opposed him at every turn. They hated him. They were constantly looking for a way to do away with him. And all that was from good, religious folk.