The Book of Isaiah describes an innocent servant of God who is “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3)—a prophecy that was perfectly fulfilled in Jesus. In his gospel, John identified this rejection as coming from “the Jews.” Misunderstanding of this point has contributed to centuries of anti- Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people. John didn’t mean that all the Jewish people of his day opposed Jesus. For John, “the Jews” doesn’t mean all Jews but the group of Pharisees, chief priests, and members of the Sanhedrin who rejected Jesus and tried to engineer his death (see John 7:32,45,47-48). And even among these authorities, some accepted him (7:50-51). As today’s reading points out, many Jews who saw Jesus’ miracles actually believed in him (11:45).
How easy it can be to point our fingers at these first-century “bad guys” and blame them! It can be difficult to admit, but haven’t we all rejected Jesus? Isn’t this the whole point of the cross? It’s because we were all “enemies” of God (Romans 5:10) that Jesus came and poured out his blood. There are no good guys and bad guys, just a race of sinners who are passionately loved by their heavenly Father and who have been undeservingly redeemed by his beloved Son.
Isn’t this good news? Isn’t it comforting to know that no matter how much opposition to Jesus remains in our hearts, he still loves us and never regrets the sacrifice he made for us? Isn’t it extremely encouraging to know that Jesus continues to intercede for us and pours out grace upon grace to deliver us from every form of evil!
As Holy Week begins, let’s examine our hearts. Do we condemn certain individuals or even groups of people as evil, beyond hope, absolute enemies of God? Instead, let’s ask Jesus to show love and mercy. He died for everyone. He holds out hope for everyone right up till the last minute. He urges us to do the same. Let’s bless, not curse. Let’s intercede, not condemn. We are all one family in Christ, and the more we love one another, the more the gospel will triumph in everyone’s heart.
“Father, you sent your Son that all humanity might be reconciled to you. Now you have given the church—and each of us—a share in your ministry of reconciliation. Empower us to draw others to you.”
meditation: The Word Among Us