JESUS AND HIS ENEMIES
If Jesus loved the down-and-outs like that, what about His enemies? When we read the gospels, it seems that He had it in for them. He took every opportunity to tell them off in public and to make them squirm and look like fools. Did He tell His disciples one thing and do the opposite? He was big on “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you. Don’t take revenge. Let God avenge the wrong they do to you.” But He mercilessly exposed the wicked hearts of the religious leaders. How loving was that?
We have to concede that Jesus was always guided by the truth. When He collided with the Pharisees and the religious leaders, what was His motive? What was the difference between the “sinners” and the Pharisees? Need!
Jesus did not have to tell the “sick” ones how sick they were. They knew it. Just like a medical doctor whose job is to prescribe treatment for the sick, not condemn the patient for his condition, it was not Jesus’s role to beat on those who knew they were sick. They flocked to Him because He had treatment for their diseases, both physical and spiritual. They hung on His words because He supplied answers for their need.
The religious ones, on the other hand, were so full of their own self-righteousness that they didn’t need Jesus or the message He came to bring. They were quite satisfied with the status quo, thank you very much, and even hated Him for showing up their shallowness, emptiness and hypocrisy. They needed to hear the diagnosis, whether they wanted it or not because, unless they understood how deathly sick they were, they would die without even trying to find a cure.
Jesus revealed His love for them in the very truth He told them which they refused to hear. Once He had told them the truth, it was up to them what they did with it. If they chose not to respond, their guilt was theirs on Judgment Day when they had to give an account of what they did with their lives.
Surely, speaking the truth is the most loving thing a person can do, regardless of whether the other person wants to hear it or not, or will respond or not. The responsibility becomes his when the words have been spoken.
This is where attitude and motive come in. What was Jesus’s attitude? His very words and tone conveyed anger. Why was He angry? Was it right for Him to be angry? Anger is not sinful if it directed at the right object and for the right reasons. Jesus’s anger was not selfish. He had nothing personal to defend. His anger was directed at those who misled the people they were supposed to be teaching the truth.
The whole of Matt. 23 is an outburst of anger against the Pharisees for misrepresenting God and His Word and for increasing the load of rules and rituals on the people and then judging them for failing while they basked in their hypocritical self-righteousness. Righteous anger has a redemptive purpose if it is heeded, but brings judgment if it is ignored. It was Jesus’s anger that eventually took Him to the cross because he never gave up on exposing those who opposed Him.
What was His motive? Once again it was the truth. He wanted them to hear and to respond to the truth. If they refused, it was on their own heads.
As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. (John 12: 47-48)
Jesus’s words of accusation were never vindictive or directed towards settling a personal grudge. He was fighting for justice for those who were wronged by the attitude and behaviour of the Pharisees.
His exasperation with those who refused to listen to Him culminated in an outburst of tears.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,’ (Matt 23: 37-39)
And, in His dying moments, He prayed for them. Is that not the expression of love?
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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