Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Who do you imagine when you think of the most hated man in history? Many people may think of men like Hitler, Stalin, or even Bin Laden. A case can be made for each of these individuals to be the most hated man the world has ever seen. They were responsible for mass genocide, the starving of millions, and a vast array of terrorist attacks. There were worldwide celebrations when these people died because it meant the world had finally been released from the strongholds they created. There is no doubt that these men have been universally hated throughout history. But I would argue, a case could be made for an even more hated man, Jesus.
During the height of his popularity, he was feeding thousands with just scraps of food; he was healing blind eyes and raising dead men back to life. When Jesus was doing these things, people loved him. He built a massive crowd of followers during this time because he was meeting all their physical needs. But when he shifted his ministry from the material to the spiritual, that love turned to hatred.
During this time, many people’s physical conditions were weak, but their spiritual condition was even worse. He began to challenge the very social and religious foundations that the community around him had laid. He was shaking up the culture of the world. Jesus was determined to get all of humanity back on the right track spiritually. He was determined to set everyone’s eyes back on God. However, it was the determination for this mission that led to the immense hatred from the very people he was attempting to save.
Hatred built up in these people because Jesus was calling them to change parts of their lives; he was challenging their comfort. While Jesus was meeting their physical needs, they were happy. But when he wanted to shake things up to meet their spiritual needs, they pushed back, and that love turned to hatred. Over time this hatred boiled over, and the people around Jesus couldn’t take it any longer. Jesus was making them so uncomfortable they had to get rid of him. The people had Jesus crucified, and they mocked him as he died. But those men and women weren’t the only ones whose actions showed hatred towards Jesus.
I heard a preacher tell a story of a dream he had once. He saw a man kneeling over a cross, hammering the nails into Jesus’s hands. He ran and threw the man off of Jesus, but he was shocked by what he saw. The preacher was now looking at the man crucifying Jesus, and he was horrified because the man looking back at him was himself. This dream made him realize something. He was just as responsible for killing Jesus as the ones who physically nailed him on the cross.
In the 21st century, it can be easy to think back and criticize those who crucified Jesus. We think to ourselves, “What were they thinking,” “I would have never done such a thing.” But in reality, our daily actions contradict those very thoughts. Every time we sin, we’re slashing Jesus with the whip one more time. Every time we disobey, we’re hammering the nail into his hands a little bit further. Every time the hatred in our hearts comes out through our actions, we require Jesus to spill one more drop of his blood. We, the people of the 21st century, and the rest of humanity are the ones who killed God’s son. That’s why I believe a case can be made that Jesus is the most hated man ever to live. Who else has been hated and killed by everyone in the world?
It’s a terrible feeling to have once you realize just how responsible you are. But thankfully for us, it didn’t end there. While Jesus hung on the cross dying, he said in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” When he said this, he wasn’t only looking out at the Roman guards who nailed him on the cross; he looked at us. He was looking at every single one of us, knowing we were the ones putting him through that agonizing pain, and he begged his Father in Heaven to forgive us because we didn’t understand the gravity that our sins carried.
That’s how the most hated man loved. Amid the worst possible pain a human being can go through, he chose to forgive. He had the power to remove himself from that situation at any time he pleased, but he chose to stay. He chose to stay because he knew our sins needed to be covered by his blood. He knew that if we were to have eternal life, he must die.
Jesus said in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” No one deserved this kind of love from Jesus. We have all hated him with our actions, but God’s grace creates in us the ability not only to be loved by Jesus but to love like Jesus. We are called to love others as he has loved us. We are called to show people, immense love, even if those same people hate us. If we are to love as Jesus loved, we are to love others more than they hate us.