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.

Worship 24 x 7

woman holding a month calendar

For many of us, worship consists of what we do when we come together once or twice a week. We have this worship broken down into five formal acts – singing, praying, teaching, communion, and contribution. This is not all worship is, however. Worship is also something that should be happening outside the walls of your congregation. We have to understand more about worship if we are going to live worshipful lives.

Worship from the Heart

The Greek word for worship literally means to prostrate one’s self, to bow down. The English root is “worth-ship.” It is something we do, not because we are commanded or because we get something out of it, but rather we worship because God is worthy. True worship will indeed build us up as we draw closer to God, but our worship centers on Him first and foremost.

We know John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jesus says this in context of a question about the proper place of worship. Jesus says worship is from within. In Mark 12:28-31, Jesus says the greatest of the commandments is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength. It is a love we carry with us everywhere and at all times. It is not constrained to a specific time and location.

Worship in Our Lives

Amos 5:21-24 outlines God condemning acts of worship that are following the prescribed pattern. They were doing what was commanded, so why was God not pleased? Isaiah 1:11-17 repeats this condemnation, telling the people that their lives did not match their worship. They came and went through the steps of worship while living in a way that invalidated that worship. Today, we can be guilty of the same if our lives do not lift God up in worshipful living.

Real worship is a life devoted to our God. Without that form of worship coming daily from us, our assembled worship means little. Hebrews 13:15-16 says,

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Our lives should be sacrifices of praise, doing good to others, giving of ourselves for the sake of others, defending and helping those in need, living prayerfully – all of these things constitute worship. It is a surrendering of our lives to God in all places and at all times.

In Romans 12:1-2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To live sacrificially, we have to remove the world from our hearts while we live that life among the world. We are transformed, putting our former selves to death, worshiping God from a well that comes from within. Hebrews 12:1-2 calls on us to lay aside the weights of this world in our lives, and verses 12-15 then instruct us to strengthen those around us, to live peacefully, to live morally, to lift the fallen. This is the acceptable worship spoken of in verse 28.

Examples of Worshipful Living

David exemplifies worshipful living in Psalm 51, calling on God for forgiveness. He not only asks to be forgiven, but David asks God to make his life pure and a life of praise. He knows sacrifices and offerings are not enough, and David calls a humble and softened heart the true sacrifice God desires. Back in Mark 12, the scribe who asked Jesus about worship understand this, and Jesus commends him, saying the scribe is near to the kingdom.

Philippians 1:19-20 records Paul saying that Christ will be honored in him in life or death, and verse 27 encourages us to make our lives worthy of the gospel. Chapter 4:18 calls the generosity of the church in Philippi a sacrifice acceptable before God. Ephesians 5:1-2 uses these same terms to describe walking in love, and Paul goes on to describes what such a life looks like – free of immorality, free of covetousness, free of deceit. He calls on us to walk as children of light, to walk with care and wisdom, using our time wisely and forever giving thanks to God and living humbly before Him and others.

lesson by Dawson Guyer

Putting Others first in Christ

Carl Bloch's painting depicting Jesus sitting before a crowd and delivering the Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount
Carl Bloch, 1890

The Sermon on the Mount is easy to understand but challenging to live. We have to really open our hearts to the message being taught by our Savior so that we may walk the way He would have us. James 1:22 – 25 encourages us to see ourselves in comparison to God’s word, to take that comparison to heart, and then do something about it. So as we’re looking through Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5 and 6, let’s do so in a way that allows each of us to become more spiritually complete.

Matthew 5: 33 – 48:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

These words continue the theme set up earlier in the chapter that Jesus wants something deeper than outward compliance. He wants us to change our hearts and the attitudes that motivate us. This is a fundamental shift in thinking.

Let Your Yes Be Yes

In Numbers 30:2, God’s law talks about taking pledges and making oaths. This was part of their culture, and it’s still part of ours in some situations. Jesus, however, says that oaths and pledges are unnecessary if we are fundamentally honest people. Jesus addresses this again in Matthew 23, when Jesus talks about the Pharisees placing oaths on various sacred relics and then giving different weights to those different oaths. Jesus goes on to say not to make any oaths at all. Just be a person of your word.

This shifts from a legalistic approach to our word and toward a more spiritual approach. This is not about external signs. It is a way of life and a reflection of your spirituality and your character. Our honesty then gives credibility to the message we bring. It reinforces the changing power of God’s word in a simple, immediately evident way. By our honest word, we show that we mean what we preach.

Others Before Self

Jesus then addresses the nature of personal vindication. Again, the law lays down fundamentals of equitable recompense when wronged. Jesus says instead to get over it and move on, for by this time, God’s people had taken rules that were meant to be applied to a legal system and made it personal. See Leviticus 19:17 – 18 for an example of how God’s people were supposed to keep personal feelings out of legal resolutions.

These concepts are not new, but Jesus is ensuring we understand the importance of love — even for those who don’t love us. Be generous; avoid vengeance; go the extra mile; bless those who hate you. This takes a major shift in our own concept of fairness. It means avoiding the easy way out and doing right by others, even when we don’t feel they deserve it. It’s not our place to dole out punishments to everyone we don’t like. Instead, we should be living peaceably and without animosity toward others anywhere.

Perfect As God Is Perfect

All of this leads us to spiritual wholeness. These teachings and others in the Sermon on the Mount lay down the template for what godly living truly looks like. That template abandons worldly reason and secular justice. It demands a complete self-sacrifice and a change in heart. Let your words and your actions agree. Let go of all resentment or anger you might have toward others, and be ready to do good toward all. In these ways, we grow closer to Christ and show Him to others through the way we live.

lesson by Don Larsen