“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved,” said Jesus (Mark 13:13).
The reality of Jesus’ warning is what underlies my strong belief in counting the cost of discipleship with those who are considering a walk with Jesus as his disciple. Whereas the Christian societal norm is to take a “Woo-Hoo!!” approach to one who says they want to follow Jesus, my approach is more aligned with “Whoa! Not so quick there cowboy. Have you really thought this through?”
A walk with Jesus puts one on a perilous path, one that is constantly at odds with the values system of the world in which we sojourn. Just one part of that experience is being accused of things that are untrue. Standing on conviction in contemporary society opens the Christ-follower to any number of accusations. You may be called a homophobe, a racist, a hypocrite, or worse. All of this is to be expected.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:11-12, ESV
Enduring false accusation from those who stand in staunch opposition to our faith puts us in the good company of Christ. Jesus was repeatedly accused, and ultimately the false accusations led him to the cross. This week we will look at the accusations laid against Jesus, and from them gain encouragement that similar accusations laid against us are not in any way unusual.
Accused – Fellowshipping Sinners
And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” – Matthew 9:11, ESV (See also Mark 2:16 & Luke 5:30)
Matthew was a τελῶναι, a publican. Not all tax gatherers were publicans, but all publicans were tax gatherers.
It is difficult to overstate just how despised tax gatherers were to the Jewish society of Jesus’ day. Not only were they extorting money from their own people, they were doing so on behalf of the oppressive occupying government of Rome. They were the ultimate traitors, engaging in arbitrary exaction and fraud. According to Lange and Schaff, “The taxes were sold by the Roman government to the highest bidders, who gave security for the sum to be paid to the state, and were allowed to collect from the provinces as much as they could beyond it, for their own benefit and that of their numerous agents and subagents.”
Jesus was repeatedly criticized for fellowshipping with tax gatherers and sinners, but worse than that, he ate with them. Sharing a meal with someone, anyone, is a statement that you view the one sharing the meal with you as your equal. For a person (sinner) to invite Jesus to a meal, possibly even a banquet, was a statement of that equality. For Jesus to accept the invitation was viewed by society as that same acknowledgement toward the host.
Accused – Gluttony, Drunkenness
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” – Matthew 11:18-19a, ESV (See also Luke 7:33-35)
Again, we see the “tax collectors and sinners” accusation, but now we have added drunkenness and gluttony because Jesus shares meals with them. Note that Jesus’ cousin, John, had an entirely different approach to his ministry than did Jesus, and both were legitimate, yet, both were criticized by the guardians of orthodoxy.
There are those who will never be pleased. As in political party squabbles, the other side can do nothing right. If Jesus were isolated, melancholy, and morose (like John) they would say he has a demon. If Jesus is free, open, and conversant, he is a glutton and drunkard. Polar opposites, and both rejected.
Accused – Blasphemy
Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” – Matthew 26:65-66, ESV
In his hypocrisy, Caiaphas determined that the false charges standing against Jesus were not going to be persuasive, so he tore his robes in feigned righteous grief and indignance, and placed Jesus under oath by using the phrase “Give glory to God.” Now Jesus is bound by oath to tell the truth.
Being bound to truthfulness under oath seems like a small matter to western believers today because we see perjury with the same frequency as we see the sunrise. But the Jews took the crime of swearing falsly by God’s name quite seriously (Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2).
While under oath, Caiaphas demanded again to know if Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” – Matthew 26:64, ESV
Caiaphas knew Jesus would give that answer, and Jesus took it even further, applying to himself Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. That answer did not fit Caiaphas’ political model so he bypassed the evidence and passed an arbitrary sentence.
Accused – Insanity
And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” – Mark 3:21, ESV
What Jesus’ family heard was that crowds of such magnitude were following Jesus that he didn’t even have time to stop and eat. He had lost control and could no longer lead a “normal” life. So they traveled thirty miles from Nazareth to Capernaum to “take charge of him.”
When we are completely invested in Jesus (as all of us should be) it frequently elicits just such a reaction from our friends and family. “She’s lost her mind.” When the apostle Paul witnessed to Festus, the Roman procurator of Judea, Festus accused the apostle Paul of having gone mad. The word used to describe Jesus mental condition is quite literally “ecstasy,” and not in any good sense.
Accused – Possessed by Evil
The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” – John 7:20, ESV
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons. – Mark 3:22, ESV
There will come times when the life you live, or the teaching you bring so contradicts that dogmatic understanding of those who hear you that they will conclude you are allied with the devil. That sounds extreme because it is extreme, but men and women will go to extremes to protect the comforts of their sinful lives.
Accused – Sabbath Violation
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” – John 9:16a, ESV
What prompted this reaction from the Pharisees was the healing of a man who had been born blind. Rather than rejoice at having witnessed an astonishing miracle, these religious leaders, in their predisposition to dislike Jesus, decided to cast it in the most unfavorable light possible. Personal bias often blinds one to the most obvious truths. Religious and political biases are the worst of all.
Accused – Treason
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” – John 19:12, ESV
The extent of manipulation to which some will go to achieve their designs is often astonishing. Telling Pilate that if he releases Jesus, he is no friend of Caesar had to induce fear in the heart of Pilate. Enjoying the favor of the emperor (says Lange) was the supreme law of life. The Jews are so invested in their rage and hatred of Jesus that they invoked the name of the emperor who was the face of their own oppression.
What is the point of enduring trials and false accusations? Is there an upside? Indeed, there is. In speaking of fiery trials that come our way, the apostle Peter had this to say:
These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:7, NIV-1978
If I paraphrase Peter’s statement, it reads like this: These trials have come so that your faith may be proved genuine. This authenticated faith results praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Stand firm in the trials. Let your faith be refined and proven to be the genuine article.
Stand with the accused and hold your head high.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Victoriously in Christ!
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Twitter – @DamonJGray
I agree that often Christians take a “Woo-hoo!” approach to someone who says he or she wants to follow Jesus. When I first began attending church regularly, it seemed there were two approaches to new people coming into a church. One seemed to be the:” well, we’ve got that person saved, let’s go get someone else.” The other approach was: “Now that you’re a Christian, the devil will really be coming after you.” The first approach doesn’t take into consideration the process of discipiling that person who just “got saved”; the second approach (which I personally heard) scared me, because I thought, “I have enough problems already–you just put something else on me to be afraid of.” Neither approach advocated a serious, thoughtful consideration of just what is meant by choosing to follow Jesus.
Peggy, a third approach I have seen is such intense “discipleship” and control that is is cultish. None of that aligns with what Jesus modeled for us.
True. I haven’t read much on cultural practices in Biblical times, but what I have read, and what Jesus modeled, is that rabbis and their disciples had a lot of time with each other. The disciple could see how the rabbi lived, in various situations. That meant relationship, and relationships take time.
In general, I think, those of us in the West have a results-oriented view, and that doesn’t work well with relationships sometimes. A friend of mine and her husband pastored a small church. They reached out to bikers through the “Blessing of the Bikes”. It was very popular with the bikers, some of whom were on the rough side and probably heard the gospel for the first time. There were complaints because bikers don’t usually come to church regularly. My friends’ church reached other people too, who were exposed to the love of God for perhaps the first time. Eventually, though, the denomination’s conference closed the church down because of too few members, even though the church made all the necessary payments to missions, etc.
My point is that though the church had few members, it was reaching out to people on the fringes. It was doing God’s work.
I love the biker story. Without going into too much detail, our local church family is a place where any and all of those bikers would feel right at home. Just let your imagination run when I say there are brothers and sisters in Christ in this family with some VERY rough past lives. But there is no judgment. Only celebration as they overcome their challenges. We don’t condone sin, but rather celebrate as it is conquered and purged. And we are seeing many new believers come to Christ. It is beautiful, but it is also a challenge because we don’t want to simply plant them and say, “I hope you grow.” And as you said, true discipleship and relationship building takes a lot of time.