Why was Jesus hated? Jesus warns us that we will share the persecution that he experienced (Matthew 10:24-25). Are we likely to be hated for the same reasons that Jesus was hated? Let me ask again, why was Jesus hated?
1)He refused to support the temple-sacrifice religious system being practiced in Jerusalem. Jesus’ teachings about spirituality emphasized the heart and private prayer. His example prepares us for the lock-down church at home of our COVID-19 era, rather than the mega-church circus we envied before this.
2)He refused to accept the racial and class divisions of his day. I have no doubt that Jesus marches in spirit with the protestors on our streets. When we are told that he ate with sinners (Luke 15:2), remember that many in his day and ours are considered sinners, not because of some crime, but because of the way they look, who they love, or the work they have to do.
3)He contrasted the Kingdom of God with the current political system and gave people hope. He died on a Roman cross. Jesus was political, but he didn’t support the zealots who were actively working to overthrow the government. That, and the fact that his resurrection is the first thing we think of with Jesus, shows that he was willing to instill hopes that we won’t obtain until we reach heaven. Much like the serenity prayer, Jesus encourages us to change the political systems that we can change, to remain nonviolent, reluctantly accepting the limitations of human sin and political failure, and to pray for the wisdom to know the difference.
Jesus doesn’t advocate Christian martyrdom for the sake of theology. Jesus is not asking for our loyalty. He is asking us to hunger and thirst for justice, and to accept abuse if it comes to us for speaking truth to those in power.