Thursday, May 14, 2020

Enduring Opposition Beyond Our Comprehension

Imagine being hired for a job, but even before you can report to work, people who didn’t favor your hiring already begin condemning you: your qualifications, character, capabilities, values, even your physical appearance and traits.

Nothing changes after arriving on the job. You dive into your responsibilities, learning as you go and striving to be as diligent as you can, but the critics are unrelenting. They quote what you say out of context, or misquote you to suit their nefarious purposes. All your achievements and good deeds are ignored or flipped around into fodder for more criticism.

In both corporate and public meetings, you’re bombarded with fierce attacks and strong opposition, and no matter how you respond, you’re criticized. Talk about a no-win situation! Would you sign up for a situation like that?

We can see examples of this in everyday life, but the greatest example of all is found in the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus Christ was rejected by people in his hometown. His miracles delighted some, but filled others with fear. He set strict guidelines for following Him, and many who had thronged to Him then rejected Him.“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).

It’s impossible for our finite human minds to fully grasp the magnitude of what Jesus did for us. In 1 Corinthians 5:21, the apostle Paul wrote of Jesus Christ, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” As a friend of mine used to say, in the vernacular of the day, “Jesus took the rap for us.” Who does this? 

Writing many centuries earlier, Isaiah prophetically expanded on that, giving us a powerful, penetrating description of the opposition and abuse the promised Messiah would face: 
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:2-5).

Throughout the gospels we read how the religious leaders – the Pharisees, the Sadducees and other Jewish officials – mounted their false accusations against Jesus, despite His extreme humility, profound teaching and inexplicable miracles. They questioned His methods, motivations and message. He was hauled before a “court” in which the verdict had been predetermined, leading to humiliating accusations, excruciating torture, and ultimately, public execution on a crude Roman cross.

How could Jesus endure this? Why would He endure it? We find the answer in Hebrews 2:17-18:
“For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Jesus willingly endured abuse that was utterly and totally undeserved; inconceivable opposition and pain. He was doing so willingly, fully prepared to give His life for you, for me, and any who would accept His perfect and unconditional gift. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). 

And yet…many still reject Him.

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