Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

Palm/Passion Sunday.23 “Holy Hatred” John 12:20-43

Hate has a bad name in our world. Hate crimes will get you the most severe sentences secular courts can mete out. Hate is not a family value. Being a hater is going to get you cancelled by today’s high culture elites.

So you would think the one thing Xns must avoid is hate, right? God is love and love is the opposite of hate, right? I hear that a lot. So Xns ain’t gonna hate, right?

Uhm. Well. Not exactly. Not according to Jesus, at least. In fact, we learn in this very surprising Gospel text that Jesus is actually not only fine with hate, for him, hate is great, holy even. He loves it. “Holy hatred, Batman! Say it isn’t so!” Well, what do you make of this verse: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”? Sounds to me like hate is not just OK with Jesus, sounds like it’s actually a requirement for membership in his kingdom, for eternal life with him. Heaven, if you believe Jesus—and I believe him, as I hope you do too, will be filled with… haters.

I know it’s tempting to dismiss this verse as a one-off, maybe “pray the hate away”. But the truth is that while God is love, he is also great at hate and commends it to his beloved. Just a quick review of some of the great hate passages (and these are just tip of the iceberg stuff—C.S. Lewis points out nearly 1/3 of the Psalms are imprecatory, hate texts) for example: Ps. 5:5 “You are not a God who delights in wickedness… you hate all evildoers”.

Proverbs 6:16 gives us a list of 6, uh, actually 7 things “that the Lord hates: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” For the record, I hate all that shtuff too.

For the longest time, I thought I couldn’t be a Xn because I can’t love everyone and everything, all the time. But when I found that hate is a large, even essential component to the whole Xn thang, I was like “Oh, hey. Maybe there is a place for me in this crew, after all?” 😉

And there’s more to hate, as David, speaking ex personae Christi, says in Psalm 139:21 (my favorite one) “do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred. I count them my enemies.” I’m not sure my hate is perfect, yet. But I’m working on it. 😉

The voice of Christ’s Wisdom says in Proverbs 8:36 “all who hate me love death”. In Amos 5 God declares to Israel: “I hate, I despise your feasts; I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” [to put that in context: in Amos’ day Israel had been experimenting with do-it-yourself contemporary worship. Sure glad that doesn’t happen in our Beloved Synod!] and God exhorts Israel instead in Amos 5:15 “Hate evil, and love the good”.

So, we see that Jesus’ exhortation to hate our lives in this world is part of a long and honorable tradition of holy hatred in holy scriptures.

But what about God being luuuv? Is he not that? Oh yes, God is love! He loves what is good, which means he hates what is evil. It’s two sides of the same coin. To love good is to hate evil. To love light is to hate darkness. To love truth is to hate lies. To love God is to hate the devil and his pals. So does God love the world or hate it? Lutherans? “Yes!”. God is the great multi-tasker.

Jesus says elsewhere that he did not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword, to divide father against son, daughter against mother, to be a divider (not a uniter 😉 of families. And our world doesn’t like that. We live under a bizarre fantasy that we should “include everyone who includes everyone”.

To that nonsense I always say “What? You love Hitler? You include him in your friend circle? What about Arius? What about Satan himself? You include everyone and everything? Pedophiles? Serial killers? Mass shooters? I don’t!!! I hate all those guys! I exclude them rigorously and count them as enemies.”

There was a later king of Judah named Jehoshaphat. His father Asa was an okay king who slipped away from the true faith in his later years when he put his faith in doctors to keep him healthy and safe instead of trusting only in the LORD. Again, I’m glad that never happens in our world, today! Anyway, Jehoshaphat, his son, grew up a decent, if nominal Israelite. He was confirmed according to Luther’s Small Catechism, liked the ’41 hymnal, but would put up with the odd guitar mass and other hippie shtuff.

He was amiable. Maybe not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree? He proved Alasdair MacIntyre correct: you really can’t be both good and stupid ;-). Jehoshaphat just wanted to be friends with everyone. And when his distant cousin King Ahab of Israel wanted his help against the Syrians, Ahab formed an alliance and helped Ahab and was nearly killed in the battle with the Syrian king who did kill Ahab, accidentally. When Jehoshaphat got back (barely!) to Jerusalem, the prophet Hanani came and met him and said “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD…” 2 Chron. 19:1-2.

And this is the trouble modern people have with following Jesus, I think. There is no true and holy love of the good, true, and beautiful, without a holy hatred of what is evil and false and hideous. You can’t be a Sally Field Xn—if you have to be liked by everybody, Jesus’s gonna hate you. The Hitler, Arius, Satan friend-thing, again, OK?

Friendship with the devil—as Adam, Eve, Judas, Caiaphas, Herod, et. al., made friends w/him—is enmity with Christ, and vice versa.

I love it that John tells us the reason there was a large crowd of pilgrims in Jerusalem to greet Jesus on the Palm Sunday road was because they’d heard he’d raised Lazarus from the dead and for this reason, the Pharisees wanted to kill him. To love death so much you’d kill the LORD of life is pretty… nuts, right?!

But that’s sin. It’s stupid; and goodness and stupidity mix like oil and water. But we’re all sin/saint hybrids on this earth; so Jesus comes to divide us from our bad friend, Satan, make us Christ’s friends, again.

Jesus’ great glory is to die for a sinful world, that we may not be alone in our sin but united with Christ in the death that destroys the sin, death, and hell in us. In that (still-empty!) tomb in Jerusalem, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there’s a hidden door to heaven and the biggest and grandest party of all, that goes on forever…

Jesus says: hating our life in a sinful, lying, evil, dark, dirty world—this is the Way through the door to Christ’s Country.

Maybe the most disturbing-delightful verse in the bible is when Jesus says “where I AM, there will my servant be also.” He says this on his way to the cross and hell.(!) It’s a bit of conundrum, [a great song] and a good question: Do I really “wanna be with you, everywhere” Jesus?! Oooh-ah.

Well… if you hate your life here, enough (and you should—the sin thing, again), you do. Because, if you are with Jesus on the cross, you’ll be with him in Paradise too, forever. In His Holy Name. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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