Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them…“He has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish Him and then release Him.” Luke 23:13, 15-16
Not so long ago, I had the opportunity while standing in line at the grocery store to observe two little boys about three and four years old who were doing what three- and four-year-old boys do best: fighting with each other. The battle escalated with the older doing the taunting and the younger fighting for position. Eventually, because he couldn’t come up with anything better, the younger said, “I hate you!” The older replied in kind, “Not as much as I hate you.”
Realizing she had lost control, Mother resorted to a bit of bribery. “Boys, you know we don’t talk that way to each other. I’m not going to take my two young men to McDonald’s as long as they hate each other.” Recognizing superior wisdom when he heard it, the four-year-old capitulated, “I don’t really hate you.” But the younger replied, “I’m not hungry. I still hate you.”
Will Rogers said that he never met a man he didn’t like. That may have been true for the cowboy-philosopher, but most of us find many qualities in others we don’t like. The know-it-all at work, the crazy driver on the expressway, the rude clerk, the uncaring relative: All are targets for our contempt. “I know I shouldn’t feel that way,” we confess, and then we add, “But they deserve it.” Possibly. We’re all sinners.
Except for Jesus. Jesus did nothing wrong. His judge, Pontius Pilate, knew He was innocent. Christians know why. As God’s Son, He was perfect. Anyone who looks at Jesus’ life must conclude that He has, following the Father’s plan to save us, done everything right. He healed the sick; He fulfilled the laws we had broken; He lived His life perfectly for us.
And how have those He came to save treated Jesus? His friends deserted and betrayed Him, His church and government crucified Him, and the crowd called for His death. With the rarest of exceptions, the world, like the boys in the story, yelled out, “I hate you.” The world still despises the Savior. But Jesus never hates back. He gave Himself—all that He was—to live, die, and rise for them. For you. Which is why we say, “Jesus, I love You, because You first loved us."
Excerpt from The Lutheran Hour sermon preached on April 4, 2004
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I have done nothing to deserve Your love. You did nothing wrong, yet You took the punishment for my sins. Thank You for loving me! Help me to share the good news of Your love with those around me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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