I was coming back from the shops with my oldest grandson, down the steep cobbled lane with the early morning Saturday sun hitting our faces, past the tiny gospel hall and the Hindu temple next door, looking down towards the river with the railway bridge snaking its way round into Fife; when he stopped, retraced his steps, and said “Look”. Pointing to the noticeboard on the wall he read “I am the way the truth and the life – Jesus“ Having recently discovered the new world that had opened up to him through the joy of reading, he read everything. “Good” I said and trundled on. “No!” he said pulling me back to the spot “Look” and pointed to a large “X” scratched across the glass. “Someone has done that – someone who doesn’t like Jesus” We walked on for a bit and then he asked “Why do people hate Jesus?”. At once two thoughts rushed into my mind; “out of the mouths of babes and children… “ and “Why do they always have to ask such difficult questions” and so I mumbled something like “I don’t know, but I think it is because Jesus is so good that people hate him”. He was silent for a time and then, totally unconvinced, responded with a “So that is it?”
As always happens, I thought about the question afterwards. I tried to come to a better answer but the more I did the more I became convinced that that was, in fact, it. People hate Jesus because he is good. Good people are often admired but seldom liked. It is as if a good life points up how shallow, selfish and self-centred is our own and faced, with a pure one, we are so aware of our own hypocrisy, greed, lust, deceit and pride. It is best to keep a good person at a distance. It might actually bring out hatred. At the root of most of the emotion is not so much over what Jesus said or who he was but what he did. What he did when he allowed himself to be led through the suffering and torture to his execution on a rubbish tip outside of Jerusalem 2000 or so years ago. I remember listening to a tirade from someone about the film “The passion of the Christ”. They hated it and went on and on about the violence. Somehow they could take Tarantino excesses in their stride but Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Jesus’ suffering was just too much to stomach. I am not a fan of Mel Gibson nor the film but was taken aback at the ferocity of the attack. Violent the film certainly was, gratuitous perhaps, but the context and meaning of the film was clearly stated in the words from Isaiah, shown in the opening sequence -“by his stripes we are healed” and I think that was what caused the most offence. If the son of God should have justly suffered all of this, and if it was for me, then I must be totally messed up. My life a hopeless sham and the good that I thought I was, could be nothing more than pathetic childish pretences, what Paul calls “filthy rags”. That truth is hard to swallow and so much easier to ignore. But because it is true, then we hate every reminder of it and hate the person who, by their very presence and existence, reminds of it. That, I think, is why people hate Jesus.