Have you noticed that people can fall out when they just don’t need to? You can, for example, make a phone call to a client, thinking you are helping the company and discover you have upset an account manager who saw your actions as stepping on his toes. You may have been acting out of good motives but provoked a strong unpleasant reaction.
Such was the nature of the Son of Mans statement “they hated me without reason”. But Jesus knew full well that there were roots to the hatred he experienced, he even diagnosed them, but the bottom line is that the very people who hated him did not need to – they chose to.
It is wise to know the nature of those who oppose. I’m going to, over the next few pieces, describe the groups who oppose the Son of Man because this will, I promise, help you handle opposition in your life as well as show you where the enemies lurk within your own heart.
Although the groups I identify are real and historical I’m also going to give them nick names or shorthand names because that will help contemporize them and show their ever present reality.
The first group I will name ‘legal eagles’.
Have you noticed we as humans have the capacity to take ten great commandments and turn them into a thousand smaller rules? Then we take a thousand smaller rules and multiply them into a million minute regulations. We then take these million regulations and fashion them into an armoury of weapons. We then take these weapons, along with the arsenal of ammunition we create, to lethalize them and then use them to cause immeasurable damage.
There, in a nutshell, is a description of the first group who continuously opposed, and indeed hated, the Son of Man. Historically they are known as Scribes and Pharisees but their spirit is timeless and ubiquitous.
When these legal eagles thought of the law of God they considered the ten commandments and then the first five books of the Bible.
For them, however, this was not enough. Scribes set about expanding, codifying and clarifying so that there were more and more details added.
So, for example, what started as keeping the seventh day holy and not doing work, ended up with work being defined under 39 different headings called the ‘fathers of work’. One such father was the carrying of the burden. Burdens were then codified and classified so that there were countless permutations of what you could and could not do on the Sabbath. Over the centuries before and after Jesus, volume after volume of detailed and codifying was added so that every single aspect of human life was covered in microscopic detail.
If the Scribes assembled the army it was the Pharisees who supplied the ammunition and then the campaign began.
What I’m about to say may irritate you but please be careful as these things are the difference between life and death.
Every religion, every denomination, every church and, I would argue, every human group generates its countless regulations. Once generated here’s how they are used.
First to exclude those who don’t or can’t comply. You can’t be a Christian if…you can’t be an Episcopalian if…you can’t be a Baptist unless… . We create our systems of exclusion by adding to Jesus’ great gospel of Grace our minute codes of conduct.
Before you get too irritated it’s not just religious groups that do this. Scientists have come to believe that the scientific method is the way, the truth and the life. Politicians have their credos and mass media have their ways of labelling what is, and what is not, acceptable.
Religion, when plagued with this illness, gets reduced to external behaviour. If you keep the rules you’re in, if not you’re condemned.
Love takes tenth place, compassion is relegated to the cheap seats and mercy is thrown out the window. Compliance is all, failure is frowned upon and guilt is handed out like confetti at a wedding.
And Jesus would have none of it.
He healed on the Sabbath, he touched the untouchable, mixed with the drinkers and party goers, spoke to prostitutes and befriended the friendless. He was not interested an elite of scholars who knew a million ways to wash their hands, he came to pour living water into dirty souls and create clean hearts.
So they hated him because, if he was right, they were wrong. And he was right.
Dear reader, the legal eagle spirit lives in all our souls. If you want to miss the point of the Son of Man altogether then give in to it. But, if you’re reading this piece, you do not want to do that I know.
Now check your own inner life. Have you added to his way, truth and life a whole bunch of extra stuff you have to do or to be?
The great good news is an invitation to a relationship of love with God. The way is open, the truth is personal, the life is a gift. Don’t block the way, pollute the truth or monetise the gift.
Now look around you at your outer world this week. What unwritten codes are ruining relationships? What unspoken rules are generating guilt, discouragement and condemnation? If you must work, work on reducing the rules, deleting the dictates, simplifying the story till freedom calls to freedom and the Son of Man is seen in sharp focus.
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