Critics of Jesus

illustration of Pharisees doubting Jesus

Our natural tendency is to dismiss our critics while gravitating toward those who praise us. While this may be beneficial to our psyche, there may be worthwhile things in the words of our critics. In this lesson, we’re going to look at five statements made by critics of Jesus. These five points are also things anyone, friend and critic alike, should be able to say about us as His followers.

No One Ever Spoke Like This Man

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stands among the multitudes in John 7:32-39, and calls all who thirst to come unto Him. He claims to be the source of eternal life and salvation foretold by the prophets. The multitude divides over His statements, but, in verse 45, when the Pharisees ask Roman officers why they did not arrest Christ, those officers answer, “No one ever spoke like this man.”

Titus 2:8 tells us we should possess sound speech. What can people do with their words? How often is is said of us that our belief in God and Jesus is evident in the way we speak? Everything that comes from our mouths should reflect a Christ-centered attitude, so others can feel the same about us.

See How He Loved

In John 11, we read of Lazarus’ death and Jesus raising him from the dead. In verses 34-36, Jesus is moved to tears. Many present speak among themselves and say, “See how He loved him.” We know the new commandment of John 13:34 — that we love one another as Christ loved us. His love was evident and open, so it could be seen by all, even His critics.

In his epistles, John calls on us to love in deed and truth rather than in word only. Can those who see us day to day see the love we have? Do we love sacrificially, compassionately, and openly, so we are known as a loving person? Christ was unashamed to demonstrate His love for Lazarus, and our love for our fellow man should be so evident.

The World Has Gone After Him

In John 12, Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to His arrest and crucifixion. In verse 19, the Pharisees look on this and say, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” Jesus influenced all around Him, and we are capable of doing the same.

In Romans 1:16, Paul says he is unashamed of the gospel as the means for salvation to all. Later, Paul calls on his readers to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Paul knew the example he set for others. Just like Paul, we can be so influential to those around us, both by our words and our actions.

I Find No Guilt in Him

In John 18, Jesus is now being shuffled through trial after trial. Pilate questions Him. Herod questions Him and returns Him to Pilate. They speak of Jesus’ kingship and of truth, and in the end, Pilate goes back to the Jews and says, “I find no guilt in him.” Both in the eyes of man and the eyes of God, Christ was without guilt.

We don’t have to give in to sin, and Christ showed us that in His life. In I Peter 2:21-24, Peter says we are called to follow this example, and Hebrews 4:14-16 assures us that Jesus our High Priest knows the temptations, sorrows, and pains we face; yet He never sinned. We are indeed fallible creatures, but we do not have to succumb to that fallibility. We can live as blamelessly as He.

Truly This Man Was the Son of God

In Mark 15, Jesus is hanging on the cross, and darkness descends upon the land. Some bring Him vinegar to drink in His pain, and Jesus gives up His life as the temple veil tears. In verse 39, a centurion looks upon Christ and says, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Both the letters to the Romans and the Hebrews impress upon us that we are adopted sons of God, heirs with Christ to the promises of God. Galatians 2:20 calls on us to crucify self in our lives and live as Jesus lived. We are sons of God, and our attitudes and conduct should reflect that relationship that others may say the same of us.

Jesus, Our Sabbath Healing

moment-of-peace

Over the past couple of lessons, we’ve looked at how Jesus fulfills the promise of Sabbath. We’ve looked at Him as our Sabbath rest, as our our spiritual freedom, and as our eternal redemption. In this last lesson, we’re going to look at Jesus as our healer. As the Sabbath was a time of healing and restoration for God’s people and His land, so too does Jesus heal and restore us.

Leviticus 25:3-4 reads:

For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land…

This was a time for the land to heal after years of cultivation and strain. Furthermore, the forgiveness of debts, the freedom of slaves, and the redemption of land during the Sabbath years and the Years of Jubilee provided a healing that went further than the land. These acts of redemption and forgiveness provided healing to families and individuals throughout the land of Israel. Sabbath was a time of collective healing and restoration.

The Great Physician

Many miracles during Jesus’ ministry involved healing. He brought children back from death. He made the paralyzed walk. He restored sight to the blind. He healed, and He healed, and He healed. Time and again, Jesus took a person with health issues or disabilities, and He made them whole.

His power of physical illnesses would serve to prove the power He has over the spiritual. To see this, let’s examine Matthew 9:1-8:

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Furthermore, Jesus addresses this type of restoration in Mark 2:16-17, when He was coming under criticism for the ungodly company He kept:

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This is why Jesus came, and this is the restoration He promises us. It is not a message of temporary healing; it is one of eternal spiritual health. He takes away our sins and heals us of the pain and guilt that can leave us so spiritually disabled and pained. He reaches down to heal us and restore us to God the Father so we may walk in spiritual wholeness.

Sacrificial Healing

I Peter 2:24 simply states that we have been healed because He was wounded, and I John 1:7 tells us that Jesus’ blood heals us from all sins. Our illness was so great that our Physician had to sacrifice Himself to restore us. Nothing less could do. This goes beyond letting the land restore its nutrients. This is bigger than the discouragements and grudges worldly debts can produce. This is about healing us from the sickness of sins in a way they we can be restored to God and be free from all spiritual debts.

This is a greater healing than anything we can experience in this life, but like our recoveries here in this world, our Physician requires us to make some changes. Paul says, in II Corinthians 7:1, that we should cleanse ourselves of worldly defilements because of the healing we have in Christ. Because we have been restored, we should now strive to stay away from those things that infected us to begin with. We wash our hands and disinfect ourselves of sin.

Think of this like a heart disease. Anyone who has survived a heart condition knows they have to make changes to their lives to reduce the risk of a second, and potentially more serious, attack. They have to change the foods they eat and the activities they pursue, and we have to do the same when we are healed from sin. No longer do we feed ourselves from the world. No longer to we pursue the things of this life. Instead we look up, and we sustain ourselves with spirituality and hope.

Our Savior, Our Healer, Our Sabbath

To conclude, let’s return to where we started these lessons in Mark 4:16, when Jesus read from Isaiah to the synagogue in Nazareth:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

This is who Jesus is to all who believe on Him. He heals. He restores. He redeems. He releases, and He provides rest. He is our Sabbath hope if we let Him in and reshape us after His image. Don’t let the illness of sin afflict you any longer. Come to Jesus, and He will heal you. He will restore your soul to its former purity, and He will raise you up to a better hope than any found in this world.

lesson by Robert Smelser

Jesus, Our Sabbath Freedom

moment-of-peace

We’ve been looking at Jesus fulfilling the hope promised by the Sabbath, and, in Leviticus 25, we can read about both the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee. These were times to withdraw from labor, to forgive debts, and to give rest to the land. Furthermore, it was a time of freedom, a time when slaves would be released from their indentured labors just as God had freed His people from the shackles of Egypt.

Freedom by Grace

In His grace, God provided time for His people to retreat from the cares and stresses of this world, but this was a grace paired with faith. In this grace and faith, those who owned indentured servants were to release them form their labor. It was a time of forgiveness and freedom. Debts were forgiven, and chains of servitude were released, giving those indentured individuals a new lot in life filled with new hope and new responsibilities.

This was an act of grace. It was to teach the people about God’s grace — both as givers of grace and receivers of grace. This would be a life-changing moment, released from the debts that had accumulated during your life. It is a great act of forgiveness, and Christ offers us an even greater forgiveness in the redemption He provides us through His sacrifice.

Freedom by Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be difficult. We may have a hard time forgiving someone who lied to us, who hurt us in any way — especially if that person is someone we care deeply about. Now imagine the love Christ has for us, the harm we inflict upon Him through sin, and the great debt we have built up with our sins. The beginning of Galatians 4 tells us we were once slaves held down by chains of unrighteousness, but now Christ has freed us and made us sons of God.

Christ releases us from the debts of sin. He frees us from our slavery to unrighteousness. He gives us peace from the turmoil of this world. He has lifted us from the status of slave to being members of God’s family. This is grace that is greater than all our sins, and it is a grace that no power in this world or the next can stop.

Freedom for All

The freedoms provided in the Sabbath system were worldly freedoms. It was a forgiveness of physical debts. Jesus promises something greater than this world. He provides a freedom that goes beyond this world and gives us a home with Him in the next. He releases us from chains that Satan would put around us, and it is a release none but Him can provide. He is our redemption. He is our forgiveness. He is our hope. He is our Sabbath Freedom.

lesson by Alan Miller