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.

A Consistent Influence

water droplet

We’ve been looking closely at the influences we have in our lives, both from and on others. We’ve looked at influence in the workplace and everyday lives, the influences we have and receive at home, and we’ve looked at our spiritual families and the way we impact them. As we wrap up, we’re going to look at the hope we demonstrate in our lives and how that impacts the influence we give and receive.

I Thessalonians 1 opens this letter with Paul praising the positive and hopeful influence that congregation had on others. Think of the encouragement this opening would be to those in Thessalonica, how they would continue their faith, hope, and love because they knew those qualities were positively impacting others around them. Paul encouraged this congregation with their own encouragement.

Faith, Hope, and Love

A work of faith, a labor of love, and the patience of hope — these qualities are so powerful, and they will help us grow relationships and attitudes that will increase the positive influences in our lives. We share God’s word with others because we love His word and we love those around us. It is a labor of love, and that love makes all the difference between bringing others closer to Christ or pushing them away.

Yes, there were times when Paul would warn and even condemn, but these times were motivated by love and based on a close relationship where that love was never under question, even if it had to be tough love. We all know that love sometimes requires difficult conversations, but those conversations are easier when we all know we are putting each other first, when we are putting hope first, when we are focusing on faith before ourselves.

Give Hope

Later in the book, Paul talks about what a great encouragement the Christians in Thessalonica have been to him, and the application for us is this: are we living in such a way that we increase hope or remove hope? In I Peter 2:11–12, Peter reminds us to stay away from world-centered passions but rather remain focused on above, helping others see Christ’s hope in each of us.

What does this look like? Do my actions, my words, my conduct, and my behavior on social media reflect spiritual hope? How do I behave around my spiritual family or my physical family? A life of hope does not get bogged down in the problems of this world. A life of hope trusts God and finds peace in Him regardless of other storms. A life of hope gets up after a fall and propels me to labor in love, to live in hope, and to patiently work with others in life that glorifies our Lord and Savior.

lesson by Donn Koonce

Influence in Our Church Family

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Influences can be good or bad, and we need to make a concerted effort to surround ourselves with good influences while also being a godly influence for others. At work, at school, among our families — our conduct informs the type of impact we’ll have on those around us. This is no different when we’re with our spiritual family.

Whether we intend to or not, we influence and are influenced by people whenever we’re around others. We are always being an example and seeing examples, and negativity can be very contagious. A negative influence spreads quickly, and we can find ourselves succumbing to negativity all too easily. When this happens in our church family, things can begin to fall apart.

Godly Influences in the Early Church

Barnabas in Acts 9 is a great example of a positive influence in the early church. They even call him by the name of Barnabas as a direct result of how encouraging he is. When Paul converts to Christ, Barnabas is one of the first Christians to accept Paul, take the new convert under his wing, and try to help others accept him. He helped make sure Paul had a place in Christ’s family at a very delicate time in Paul’s relationship with the church.

Paul then becomes a large positive influence on the church. He helps set up numerous congregations and works to make sure they are well-founded. Paul took time to mentor a young man named Timothy who would later become another strong force of good in Christ’s church. Both Paul and Barnabas were able to be such great influences because the time they took to build relationships and forge bonds between themselves and others.

Relationships and Influence in the Church

The right words and attitudes can make a bad situation better, but the opposite is also true. The church’s worst enemy is not what’s outside our walls. Rather it can be the lack of love and positive attitudes inside. It’s a lack of relationship-building and care for others. We can’t encourage each other without love and good relationships. We also can’t correct error without having a positive loving relationship first. Our love for each other and our love for God has to be evident for growth to occur.

We should be loving God with all of our heart, mind, and soul. When we have that relationship, then we will be putting other positive relationships in place. This is especially true among our brothers and sisters in Christ. This also means our brothers and sisters see the same conduct outside the assembly that they see at worship and in Bible classes. Our words and actions must agree.

Godly Influences Outside of Worship

Our church family and God’s work should be important in our everyday life. Hebrews 6 tells us God rewards those who diligently seek Him, and this is a faith that comes into every part of our lives. We spend time seeking after God; we dedicate time to build up fellow Christians; we make our faith center to every aspect of our lives.

Paul and Barnabas gave up time to dedicate themselves to encourage other Christians. We can get ourselves so busy with work, with extracurriculars, with school, and with hobbies that we may squeeze out any time we should have to encourage our fellow Christians. What kind of influence can we be if we are not allowing time to study, to pray, or to encourage. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to work with each other in love and gentleness. This takes time. It’s a commitment.

What Does This Look Like?

  • Bring a good attitude to worship.
  • Put God and church first on your schedule.
  • Prioritize church gatherings and activities.
  • Show support to those taking responsibilities.
  • Avoid criticism and complaints.
  • Take time to help those in need of support and encouragement.

We have been so blessed by God, and we should be focusing on those blessings every day. We should be bringing love and a positive attitude to our church family, and we should express enthusiasm and excitement for the work of our congregation. We should be living graciously and gratefully toward each other, doing all that we do for the Lord. There’s more than enough negative influence in this world. Let’s help build each other up to be the closest and most encouraging church family we can be.

lesson by Mark Ritter