Why the Religious Elite Hated Jesus: Don’t Fear Rejection!

by Frank Viola

The religious elite ignored Him as long as they could. Since Jesus sported no theological degrees and wasn’t part of the pastors guild, they didn’t take Him seriously. He was not credible in their eyes. But they could only follow this course for so long. His influence grew so large that they couldn’t ignore Him any longer. So they must extend to Him the credibility of engagement.

They came out with all guns blazing, seeking to refute Him. First, their pushback was targeted at the content of His teaching. But after realizing that they couldn’t successfully discount what He said, they downshifted to an ad hominem assault. Personal attacks became their new weapon for dismissal: “He has no authority to say what He’s saying.” “He’s not seminary trained.” “He has no ordination papers.” “He’s not a scholar.”

Then it escalated: “He was born as the result of fornication.” “He’s a blasphemer.” “He’s deceptive.” “He’s a glutton and a drunkard.” “He’s a false prophet.” And the ultimate attack: “Satan is working through Him!”

Strikingly, this same story has been played out on virtually every bloodstained page of church history. And unfortunately the destiny of many who have followed in Jesus’ steps has been the same as His: persecution, suffering, and even execution.

“Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”

Human nature changes not. Nor do the systems men create, be they secular or religious. The reactions are all the same. When men feel threatened, the evil they are capable of in the name of God (and while defending Him) defies sanity. Jesus was put to death chiefly because of jealousy.

For he [Pilate] knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.

The favor and anointing of God will always garner the jealousy of those who do not possess them. Abel, upon whom God looked with favor, is not alone in those who were persecuted by a jealous Cain.

Jealousy still lives and breathes in the hearts of the religiously ambitious and insecure.

Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.

When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.

Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city.

The ways of God changes not either.

Fear not. Follow Him. No matter what the cost!

This post is an excerpt from chapter 6 of Jesus: A Theography (Thomas Nelson, October 2012).

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