Of those who opposed Him
The Lord Jesus was constantly opposed by many different factions. These were often at odds with one another but, perversely, they found it convenient to unite in their common hatred of the Son of God. Such was the case when one day Pilate and Herod "were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves" (Lk 23.12).
What was it in the Saviour that drew forth such vehement opposition from His enemies? We can trace a number of different reasons, all rooted in fear. They feared His popularity with the common people; they feared His power to heal and perform other miracles; they feared His purity that exposed their own rank corruption; they feared His perception for He could see right through them and knew their thoughts; they feared His pronouncements when He roundly condemned them for what they were, a proud and self-serving group of hypocrites. He also proclaimed that He was the Son of God who had come from heaven and would set up His Kingdom as the Messiah. To them this was the height of blasphemy.
There are contemporary writers who would have us believe that the Lord was a rather fragile and timid mystic and dreamer. The Scriptures support no such view. The Lord had no fear at all of these critics and enemies. They were nothing but vicious murderers the Mafia of their day yet He boldly confronted them, alone, and head on. When they deliberately challenged Him in public, invariably they had to retreat, wounded and defeated by the simple questions of the Son of God.
When the Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the Pharisees and Sadducees were onlookers. He did not spare them at all and castigated them because they had rejected John's call to repentance: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Mt 3.7-8). This was not the only time He referred to them as "vipers" (Mt 12.34; 23.33).
Early in His public ministry the scribes too found fault with the Lord: "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mk 2.7). These questions were unspoken but fully known to the Lord who responded immediately, "Why reason ye these things in your hearts?". This must have horrified them nothing could be hidden from Him! He knew their every thought.
Soon afterwards, the Pharisees were incensed when the Lord healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day in the synagogue. They had been watching Him, hoping to accuse Him, and they had the evidence they needed. But when He asked them, "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?" they could not reply (Mk 3.4). The Saviour was angered at the hardness of their hearts: they cared nothing for the man. Immediately they sought an alliance with the Herodians and planned to destroy Him.
As we read through the Gospels we sense that as the opposition intensified it became more desperate. There was only one satisfactory conclusion as far as Christ's enemies were concerned His death. This would involve subtle manipulation of the common people and coercion of the Roman authorities. The Saviour knew it all, saw it coming, and still went through with it to the last detail, "that the scripture might be fulfilled".
Contending for truth
The Lord often challenged the consciences of His enemies. His questions were simple and straightforward, and the answers were self-evident to all except those who had become twisted in their deceit and hatred of the Son of God. He stated the obvious, a thing we are often reluctant to do.
What must the soldiers have thought when He challenged them saying, "Are you come out, as against a thief...I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not" (Mk 14.48-49)? Their swords and staves would suddenly have seemed ridiculous. How did Judas feel when the Saviour asked him, "Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" (Lk 22.48). The thirty pieces of silver had seemed a good bargain but was it really worth it? His belated attempt to return the money and his hasty suicide gave the answer.
The Lord knew His Bible, not only the text of it but also the meaning and application of it. Many of His enemies professed to have read it but their bias closed their minds to the truth of it. They were in the habit of picking and choosing the verses that served their own narrow reasoning and conveniently forgetting the rest; hence His frequently repeated question, "Have ye never read?"... (Mt 21.16,42). They were greatly displeased when the people of Jerusalem welcomed Him with cries of "Hosanna".
The Pharisees and scribes had also murmured when publicans and sinners drew near to hear the Lord. He received them and even ate with them. The Lord's parable in three parts posed a number of questions: "What man of you...if he lose one of them (sheep), doth not leave the ninety and nine...and go after that which is lost, until he find it?". "What woman...if she lose one piece (of silver), doth not...seek diligently till she find it?" (Lk 15.4,8). They all knew the answers. Those who loved the lost would seek them, just as the Saviour had.
Of the God who forsook Him
As He hung in the darkness upon the cross and the waves of divine judgment rolled over Him, the cry was heard: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt 27.46). This question echoed through the universe but remained unanswered.
It will ever remind us of the price of our redemption, paid in precious blood. We are humbled and thankful that He loved us so much as to bear the burden of our sins and the terrible judgment that God's justice demanded. In the abandonment of Calvary the work was finished. We rest there.
To be continued.