I opened God’s Word with a heavy heart, feeling the burden of opposition.
A friend had recently attacked my character due to a difference of ethical beliefs. Stunned and hurt by this, I quickly recognized my unpreparedness in facing this attack. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit prompted me to seek the Lord and the truth of his Word. I opened my Bible and was led to Hebrews 12:3, which answered my prayer for relief: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Six Ways Jesus Faced Opposition
Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, experienced opposition far worse than my situation. But in his eyes, it’s not relevant, for all who call on his name receive the same power and ability to face opposition. In studying and understanding the character of Jesus revealed in Scripture, I felt thoroughly equipped to face this challenging situation by mirroring Christ’s response.
When we are antagonized or provoked, our first step should always be to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts, minds, and words. 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to “give an answer to those who ask,” and Colossians 4:6 instructs us to speak graciously “so that [we] may know how you ought to answer each person.”
1. Jesus exposed motives.
In Mark 3, we find Jesus approaching a disfigured man in the synagogue. Verse 2 explains, “[The Pharisees] watched Jesus to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.” Mark tells of Jesus challenging them by responding, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (v. 4). Manmade rituals enforced by the Pharisees had made God’s Law joyless, and Jesus exposed their prideful and judgmental hearts.
2. Jesus sought peace.
When Jesus is arrested, in fear and protection, Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Instead of affirming this act of violence, Jesus commands peace:
“Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52-54).
Not only does Jesus condemn this behavior, but displays his loving nature by healing the man’s ear (Luke 22:51).
3. Jesus applied Scripture.
In Matthew 9, Jesus is found “reclined at a table in the house” with tax collectors and sinners (v. 10), which stirred up controversy amongst the Pharisees. They ask his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” (v. 11). How does Jesus respond? “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (vv. 12-13, NIV). Jesus used Hosea 6:6, the very scripture the Pharisees preached, to challenge their hardened hearts. Later in Matthew 12, Jesus uses the same scripture from Hosea to challenge the Pharisees: “If you had known what this means…you would not have condemned the guiltless” (v. 7).
4. Jesus prayed.
As Jesus awaited his impending suffering and death, he stepped aside in isolation to pray. Opposition caused Jesus to feel sorrowful and troubled, overwhelming his soul to the point of death (Matthew 26:36-38). Jesus, fully God yet fully man, still needed his Father. Three times in Gethsemane, Matthew says he “fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (vv. 39, 42, 44).
Similarly, in the Gospel of John chapter 17, Jesus prays for himself, for his disciples, and for all believers. As his impending death and resurrection approached, he prayed for salvation and for the Father’s glory as he awaited this fulfillment (vv. 1-5). He lifted up his disciples in prayer for physical and spiritual protection, unity, the full measure of his joy, obedience, and sanctification (vv. 6-19). Jesus prayed for all believers, that they may hear his message, believe, unite, evangelize, and be saved (vv. 20-25).
5. Jesus remained silent.
When Jesus is arrested and faced with the Sanhedrin looking for false evidence against him, they question him. “’Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent” (Matthew 26:62-63, NIV). Jesus was aware of their bias, hostility, partiality, and their past history of twisting his words. His silence demonstrated how undeserving they were of a response. Though Jesus later responds in truth to their questions, he is still accused of blasphemy, declared worthy of death, spit in the face, struck with their fists, mocked, and provoked (vv. 64-68). Yet amidst the turmoil, he chooses silence.
6. Jesus loved.
As Jesus languished on the cross, he didn’t counter his accusers with insults, cursing, and retaliation—nor did he use his power to inflict pain. His submissive silence was a divine response from the nature of an almighty, all-powerful, sovereign God in the flesh—an example for all his people to follow. He withstood excruciating agony as long as he could so the door would be open to salvation, including for his enemies. Jesus forgave the thief on the cross hanging next to him who had earlier hurled insults at him, yet repented in his last moments (Luke 23:39-43). He prayed for the forgiveness of the very people who were crucifying him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). Even those responsible for the crucifixion had forgiveness available to them in love from the Lord.
Can you imagine the results had Jesus responded differently under opposition? Lives wouldn’t have changed, hearts wouldn’t have been transformed, and his beloved wouldn’t have been welcomed into his kingdom.
Equipped for Opposition
In following the tactics used by Jesus in the face of his opponents, this encounter with my friend ended in a manner I was not expecting. Though not immediately, our relationship was healed and elevated to a new level of intimacy and love—a true miracle of the Lord’s mercy and grace. Be encouraged, dear friends; though opposition in this world is inevitable, we can stand equipped under our Savior’s example and by his life, rising victoriously over it.
I wrote this article originally for Unlocking the Bible on 1.26.17. ©Unlocking the Bible. Used with permission. Unlocking the Bible is the Gospel-centered teaching of Pastor Colin Smith (Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Chicago, IL). The ministry challenges listeners to believe that their lives can be transformed by ‘The Power of the Open Book’ through consistent study of the Bible and a deepening faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Cover image used with permission from picjumbo.com.