John records a scene which took place when Jesus was teaching in the temple.
The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:31-33).
There was more than a little irony in Jesus’ statement. Earlier in the conversation, the hostile crowd had demanded a sign that Jesus was the Messiah (10:24). Jesus had given them signs—the works which He had performed were proof a million times over! But Jesus recognized that no amount of proof would suffice for them, since they were not part of His flock.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:27-30).
That last statement was the one they seized upon. They ignored everything else, including His promise of eternal life, because they could not, and would not, recognize Jesus as Lord, no matter how many signs proved it.
Those who reject Jesus today should wrestle with the same question. Why do you reject Jesus? Is it because He loves you so much? Is it because He has the power to heal your infirmities? Is it because He promises you fellowship with the Creator and eternal life?
We who are Christians sometimes face the same hostility. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:8). Paul remarked that those “who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Does the world persecute Christians because we are kind and submissive? Do they hate us because we preach love and light and salvation? It is because we are helpful and generous?
The gospel challenges people’s way of life. When Christians speak up, people of the world get offended. Ephesians 5:11 says, “do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” Now, God means for this to be a process of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) because we want to share salvation. But the suggestion that one must change to be saved can be offensive. Jesus said in John 7:7, “The world … hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”
The gospel requires people to make a change. But, other groups try to make people change, yet do not receive the horrible backlash. Vegans, for example, do their own version of vocal evangelism, but no one is crucifying them! What is different? Vegans are easily dismissed. But everyone suspects that the gospel’s demand to repent is correct! People can’t dismiss Christianity, because everyone holds a deep seated concern that their own sin is storing up the wrath of a holy God, and they do not like to be reminded! Thus, the gospel message cuts to the heart in a way that other systems do not, and stir hearts to violence against it. For it is not just the voice of Christians, but “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men … because that which is known about God is evident within them” (Romans 1:18). And when one has a guilty conscience, it’s easier to strike out, than to repent.
In fact, a Christian hardly even needs to speak up to become the target of efforts to destroy him and eliminate his irritating existence. You don’t have to say, “y’all shouldn’t go to that office drinking party”; all you have to do is decline to go, and your superiors will become greatly annoyed. You don’t have to say, “y’all should be in church on Sunday morning”; all you have to do is be seen driving toward church in your Sunday clothes, and people who are mowing their lawn and loading up the golf bags will mutter under their breath, “who do those people think they are…” The very existence of a faithful Christian is a thorn in the eye of the worldly man. When he gets the power to act, he often will.
Peter and John “went on their way … rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Keep holding forth the light, for there will always be a few who respond and be saved! —John Guzzetta