After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. (John 7:1)
It is a short distance from the penthouse to the doghouse. You can go from hero to zero in a heartbeat. Popularity is a fleeting thing because people are fickle creatures. Jesus had fed 5,000. The throngs that pressed upon Him wanted to make Him their king! That was in chapter six. In the next chapter, the masses are missing. The acclaim has changed to anger. In about six months’ time, His life is in danger.
What happened? Jesus identified the problem in John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” The sinful world hated Him for exposing their evil. They hated Jesus for the same reason an obese person hates a mirror. The life of Jesus was a light that shone into the darkness revealing their wicked hearts and habits. The lessons of Jesus confronted them with God’s Holy standard and their need of repentance. Even those considered models of morality in those days—the Pharisees—were not spared His searching gaze and scathing indictment. They were what we all are apart from grace—criminals in violation of God’s law and deserving condemnation.
The reaction of the religious leaders was not humble confession, but to form a hateful conspiracy. They look at Jesus with a critical eye; they listen to Him with a condemning spirit—trying to entrap Him with His words. They whisper and plot behind His back. “And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.” (7:12a)
Although the world’s hate focused on Jesus at the time—His followers would eventually suffer for His sake. When they could no longer reach Him with their venom, they would sink their fangs into His followers.
Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)
The church that is faithful to Christ will be attacked. The Christian who holds to the truth will be assailed. If we denounce sin as Jesus did and dare to speak the “intolerant” words that only Christ can save a man or woman, then it is not popularity but persecution we will know.
Let us stand and speak truth nonetheless. Our Savior stands with us, even if all men forsake us. The cross precedes the crown and suffering paves the way to glory. Far better to have the Father’s embrace even if it means the world’s exclusion.