In Matthew 26:1–13 we read two contrasting stories of how people reacted to Jesus in the week before His crucifixion.
In verses 1-5, we find people reacting to Him by plotting His death:
When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
In verses 6-13, we find a woman going to great lengths to show her love to Him:
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Two very different stories side-by-side in the Bible. And yet apparently the two incidents didn’t happen right after one another. The first incident happened two days before the Passover (see v.2). The second incident happened six days before the Passover (John 12:1), four days before the first incident. The stories in the gospels are not always in chronological order. The authors, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sometimes arrange them in a different order for literary purposes.
This leaves us asking: Why do you suppose Matthew put these two stories together out of order? It is possible, maybe even likely, that he did so to highlight the contrast between the hate Jesus received and the love He received. You have to really hate someone to start planning to kill him. And you have to hate someone even more to start suggesting to others that you make a plan to kill him. And, on the other hand, you have to really love someone to come up to him at a gathering and pour “an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment” on his head.
However, Jesus was not just very loved and very hated. I would suggest that He was the most loved and the most hated man who ever lived. The reasons for this are easy to see in a theological sense, but I think history even bears it out.
The Most Loved Man Who Ever Lived
What person has been more loved in history than Jesus? More have died for Him, more have lived for Him, more have worshiped Him than any other. More books have been written about Him, more songs have been sung about Him (and not just any songs but LOVE songs). More buildings have been erected in His name, buildings specifically set apart so those who love Him can gather to express their love for Him and learn to love Him more. More pieces of art have been created of Him or for Him, more monuments set up in His memory, more meetings have been held in His honor. His name has been called out by more people in trouble and lovingly whispered by more dying lips. For 2000 years, since His death, people all over the world have celebrated His birth, His death, and other events of His short life. For 2000 years, those who love Him have been trying to get others to love Him, even investing great amounts of time and energy, even traveling to the most obscure corners of the earth, even sacrificing friends and family, careers and comforts, just to help others love Him. In fact, in terms of being loved, He is so far out ahead of the pack that it’s hard to even judge who might be in second place.
Think about His birth. Most babies are loved when they are born, loved by parents and siblings and often other relatives and friends. But this One, when He was born, was loved by many who never had heard of Him before, who had never known or heard of His parents before. They came from all around. Rich people came. Poor people came. Some traveled from far away to visit Him at His birth. Some who saw Him had been waiting to see Him since even before His parents had been born. They brought Him expensive gifts. They gathered around Him. They looked at Him. They treasured Him. They admired Him. They held Him. They said wonderful things about Him. He had a cousin named John who was born just six months before Him. But John's parents, though they loved their own son dearly – more than most parents love their children – yet they loved this One more than they loved their own son, John.
The Most Hated Man Who Ever Lived
This point might attract more controversy than the previous one. Many would argue that someone like Adolf Hitler is more hated than Jesus. But Hitler was one of scores of men who did the same kind of thing he did and were deeply hated by the generations that followed. But eventually the memory of them fades away. Hundreds of years from now, Hitler might just be another name in a history book, and there will be other villains that will have taken his place on the most hated list. But this is not the case with Jesus. He is not a mass murderer, or a human exterminator. He never lifted His hand to strike another human being. He never did anything that most people would think of as evil. He was just a Jewish teacher who went around the countryside, teaching people and touching people for three years in first century Palestine. But I would argue that He is far and away the most hated man in all of human history.
He was hated as soon as he was born. The king (Herod the Great) tried to kill him as an infant, even to the point of being willing to slaughter many innocent children to try to get him. Before He had done anything controversial, there was irrational fury and loathing aimed at Him.
He was hated when He grew up. Though He had done nothing wrong, many wanted to kill him. It wasn’t just one or two exceptions, it was the rule (John 15:18). And it was not because of anything He did. His accusers were desperately trying to figure out some charge they could bring against Him. Jesus Himself said, “They hated Me without a cause” (John 15:24-25). After about ten attempts on His life, He was finally crucified by the governing officials, men who ordinarily were extremely persnickety about proper procedure, after they abandoned standard lawful procedure. Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect who adjudicated the case against Jesus, said that there was no reason to convict Jesus (John 18:38).
He has also been hated all through history. Many of His followers have been killed just because they were His followers. Apparently, it happened to all twelve of His twelve apostles. It happened to many in the early church. The Roman Emperor Diocletian set out to destroy the Christian movement by slaughtering believers and demolishing church buildings. There are large books which catalogue the persecution and murder of Christians through the centuries. In some countries loving Him is often punished by death even today. Some nations will tolerate almost anything being brought into that country, anything except the message about Jesus. Even in the USA, hatred of Jesus runs rampant. His name is one of the most popular words to use in derision. Many accuse Him of being the archenemy of the human race. Many books have been written to discredit Him. Much art has been displayed which is designed to demean Him (e.g. when Andres Serrano displayed a crucifix submerged in his own urine). Movies were produced to make Him out to be a sinner (e.g. The Last Temptation of Christ). And it goes on and on, even in our day of toleration. What other person from hundreds of years ago is still the object of such hatred? Amazingly, the most loved and the most hated person in history are the same person: the One they called Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus predicted it. He said that there would be two groups: those who were for Him and those who were against Him.
I understand something about hating and loving Jesus Christ. Until 1970, I hated Him. I was an evangelist against Christianity. I belittled those who believed in Him. I remember praying to God that He would strike me dead, just so I could say, "See, You don't exist." But then, without my ever seeking Him, I found Him. Suddenly, I loved – more than anything else in the world – the very One that I had hated more than anything else in the world.
What about you? Where do you fit in? Many issues face our society today. But the biggest issue of all is, has been, and will always be, Jesus Christ. Do we love Him or do we hate Him? There is no third option. Jesus said that if we are not for Him then we are against Him.
And He is who He is. We cannot adjust Him to fit our preferences or consciences. The Jesus of our imagination is only in our imagination. The real Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible. If we love the real Jesus, we must love all He is. If the one who cannot accept the Jesus of the Bible, refuses the One who is our only hope. No other Christ can save us other than the true Christ — the Christ of the Bible.