If there is one challenge we all will face at some point or another, it is disagreements with those that do not believe the same way we do. It will happen with many different subjects. We see and experience it every day. People feel a connection to one another when they share a common experience or belief. But it is difficult to comprehend and accept one another when we interact with those that cannot see eye to eye. Many spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince others that their way is the only right way. But Christ showed us a better way.
Jesus Christ experienced so much push back from His own people because His gospel differed from the traditions they were familiar with and had been in place so many centuries prior to His arrival. He was rejected by the people that knew Him before He started His ministry when He went back to teach them that He was the promised Messiah (see Luke 4:16-32). Because they knew that Jesus was Joseph’s son and the humble circumstances He had been raised in, the Nazarenes’ unbelief that this man could be the Son of God led them to the extremes of pronouncing Jesus’s proclamation as blasphemy and in turn planning to kill Him. It amazes me that despite the wrath of the people that Jesus likely called His own neighbors and friends in the town he had been brought up in, He did not fight back. These people were filled with so much anger, that they cast Jesus out of the synagogue and the city and almost cast him off a hill. This is a beautiful verse from this passage: “But he passing through the midst of them went his way” (Luke 4:30). Most of us in a situation that intense would likely fight back to avoid death and to defend the truth of our statements. Jesus allowed Himself to be cast out, but He was quiet enough to not be noticed as He simply just slipped away from the mob. What astonishing character Jesus had! And this was just one of the many instances He experienced rejection and violence against His preaching.
So, what is the lesson in this and other similar stories about Jesus Christ and what do we learn about His stature in these circumstances? Christ loved EVERYONE. He knew His mission. He knew there would be opposition. He did not stand up to them to condemn them for rejecting the Son of God after He declared the fulfilment of that passage from Isaiah. He LOVED them. He understood that He would die for them. He understood that what He was teaching was difficult to comprehend. He allowed all to learn at their own pace, even if it cost Jesus His life. He was MERCIFUL.
Can we be merciful with those around us? The spiritual part of us may jump up and say ‘yes,’ but the carnal part of us is weaker. Only when faced with very difficult situations of rejection and persecution will our true character manifest. Many of us may deal with feelings of anger at someone that disagrees with how we have chosen to live our lives, especially when it comes to religion. But many of us may have been able to overcome those feelings and allow the love of Christ to permeate those disappointments as He has taught us another way—a better way. The only way for us to reach His stature in this matter is for us to repent. When we repent, humble ourselves, and plead with Him to remove the bitterness from our hearts, a brand-new perspective will come about the individual(s) you are struggling to love and understand.
As I was pondering what to write in this post, the Lord shared with me a few verses in John 5 that opened my eyes to what the other side of persecutions looks like. Jesus had gone with His disciples to Bethesda. There lay a great multitude of helpless individuals waiting for their chance at being able to be the first to step into the pool when the angel went down to trouble the water. Many of these individuals had been healed at those times. Many still awaited their turn. Jesus noticed such a man and approached him with the question, “wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6). The man must have been taken aback; he had been waiting thirty-eight years for his opportunity to go into the pool, but someone always got ahead of him since he had no one to help place him in the water. Then, the Master Healer approached Him and asked if he would be made whole. The man may or may not have known at that time that Jesus was the one asking him the question. In one instant, he was made whole because of his faith. I don’t know about you, but I would rather wait decades for Jesus Christ in the flesh to heal me of my infirmity than be healed by the water at the pool of Bethesda. All that waiting would have been worthwhile for that grand miracle.
When we read about that and other miracles, we are in awe at the love Christ had for those whom He approached and healed. In turn, we are appalled at the individuals who chose to look the other way and focus on the fact that Jesus had “sinned” for healing on the Sabbath day. They also condemned the man who had been healed for carrying his bed on the Sabbath day; never mind the fact that he had probably never carried his own bed for several years. Here come the verses I would like to focus more on:
16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
17 ¶ But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
Despite the persecutions and the accusations, Jesus stood His ground and testified of the Father. He continued to testify of His mission. He never flinched. He never backed down. He continued to show them all that the Father had sent Him to do a special work—for them. When Christ said “and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” my heart DID marvel. I marveled at all the miracles He continued to perform then and now, most importantly the miracle of the cleansing power of His Atonement.
When faced with persecutions, we as disciples of Jesus Christ need to stand our ground and not back down. We need to continue to testify with words or quiet actions pending the situation and the guidance of the Spirit. Why? Because somewhere someone will be touched as they see the works of the Father and the Son in their lives or the lives of others, and they too will marvel. No matter how harsh the persecutions, we will stand as one, the body of Christ, and show unto the world that He transformed us into new creatures through His Atonement. We will bring others unto Christ through the persecutions we endure as we show the world what true love is. Oftentimes, we will never see the end from the beginning—how our boldness and testimonies can bring others around. But it does not matter if we see the fruits right away. Our purpose is to leave others marveling and let the Father and the Son do the rest—in their own time and way.
Fulness of Christ Series