“Treacherous colleagues, competitive friends, bloody-minded commuters – it’s a war out there. And according to Robert Greene, it’s a conflict we’re ill-equipped to deal with. Now, after analysing the moves of history’s great military leaders, he’s written a rulebook to achieving victory in life’s daily battles.”
Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Abundantly illustrated with examples from history, including the folly and genius of everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to Margaret Thatcher, from Shaka the Zulu to Lord Nelson, and from Hannibal to Ulysses S. Grant, each of the thirty-three chapters outlines a strategy that will help you win life’s wars.
Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars. According to Penguin the publishers, this is “
An indispensable book…The great warriors of battlefields and drawing rooms alike demonstrate prudence, agility, balance, and calm, and a keen understanding that the rational, resourceful, and intuitive always defeat the panicked, the uncreative, and the stupid… The 33 Strategies of War provides all the psychological ammunition you need to overcome patterns of failure and forever gain the upper hand.”
The book is indeed a remarkable tour-de-force on how people typically deal with opposition. haven’t read all of Robert Greene’s book so I cannot say if he draws on the wisdom of Jesus in handling opposition but judging from the titles of the 33 strategies he writes about, I doubt it.
This morning in our journey through Mark’s gospel we come to chapter 3:1-12. Our aim is to get to know the real Jesus better. Today we are going to observe the anger of Jesus. We are going to discover how Jesus channeled his anger and dealt with the opposition. First, by way of introduction and to set the context, let us just observe how the Pharisees dealt with opposition. Remember they saw Jesus as the opposition!
1. The Pharisee’s Strategy
“ When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”… One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” (Mark 2:16, 23-24)
What was their strategy?
1.1 They stalked his disciples
They were close enough to the disciples to see them helping themselves to some ears of corn. Luke 6 adds, “The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely.” (Luke 6:7). This is what Greener calls Strategy 11 “Know your enemy”. Get close enough to know their weaknesses. They stalked his disciples.
1.2 They criticised his behaviour
They asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful…” (Mark 2:24). They were seeking to intimidate Jesus and his disciples, by accusing him of law breaking. This is Strategy 10 in Greener’s book – “Create a threatening presence – deterring strategies”. Stalking their prey with a critical spirit. They stalked his disciples and criticised his behaviour.
1.3 They condemned his values
“Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” This is Strategy 25, the “Righteous Strategy” – claiming the moral high ground and questioning your opponent’s motives.
For them, doing things right was more important than doing the right things. Their rules and traditions about what you could and couldn’t do on a Sabbath mattered more to them than being led by the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Stalking his disciples with a critical spirit, appealing to tradition, condemning their values. When Jesus refused to be intimidated or back down,
1.4 They conspired to destroy him
“Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath… Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mark 3:2, 6)
Luke adds “they were furious” (Luke 6:11). Jesus had flouted their laws, overruled their authority, and exposed their hatred before the entire crowd in the synagogue. They were so jealous of Jesus’ popularity, his miracles, and the authority in his teaching and actions that they missed who he was — the Messiah for whom they had been waiting.
When Jesus exposed their motives, he became their enemy, and they began looking for ways to destroy him.” Jesus anticipated this when he instructed his disciples,
“I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
He didn’t say become sheep in wolves clothing or worse, wolves in sheep’s clothing. That is why you probably won’t find the strategies Jesus used to overcome evil in Robert Greene’s The 33 Strategies of War. So how did Jesus deal with opposition? And how does he want us to deal with opposition?
2. Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture
“He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:25-27)
The Pharisees would have been taken aback by Jesus’ question “Have you not read…” They were professional students of the law. This was their high calling in life, their claim to fame. Jesus began by asking these scholars if they had ever even read the text to which He referred. It is His way of saying, “You question is a very elementary one, and one that reveals a very poor grasp of the Scriptures.” These words must have come as a slap in the face to the proud students of the law.
The story is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Each week twelve consecrated loaves of bread,
representing the twelve tribes of Israel, would be placed on a table in the house of God, the tabernacle. This bread was called the bread of the Presence (or showbread). At the end of the week, the bread would be replaced with fresh loaves, and the old loaves would be eaten by the priests (Leviticus 24:9). On one occasion, the high priest gave this consecrated bread to David and his men to eat as they were fleeing from Saul. The priest understood that their need was more important than ceremonial regulations. The loaves given to David were the old loaves that had just been replaced with fresh ones. Although the priests were the only ones allowed to eat this bread, God did not punish David because his need for food was more important than the priestly regulations.
By comparing himself and his disciples to David and his men, Jesus was saying, in effect, “If you condemn me, you must also condemn David.” Jesus was not condoning disobedience to God’s laws. Instead, he was emphasizing discernment and compassion in applying the ceremonial laws, something the self-righteous Pharisees did not comprehend. People’s needs are more important than technicalities. Jesus and his disciples were taking a Sabbath afternoon stroll, pausing to eat grain in a farmer’s field along the way. On any other day, this would have been acceptable (Deuteronomy 23:25).
But on the Sabbath, Jewish religious teachers had prohibited this because it was considered reaping and threshing. In other words, it was work… [We might feel] the Pharisees’ reaction to Jesus seems overstated. But by imposing a bewildering system of Sabbath laws, the religious leaders had, in fact, made themselves lords of the Sabbath and thus lords over the people.” By claiming the title of the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus was stating his divinity and challenging the authority of the religious leaders. By remaking the Sabbath into a day of refreshment, worship, and healing, he prized open the tightfisted control the Pharisees held on the people.”
Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture. Brothers and sisters, the Scriptures are to be your only offensive weapon, not your pen or email, not our blog or tongue, and least of all the back of your hand. The Scriptures are the sword of the Spirit. The Word of God in the hands of the Spirit of God, will cut through every human argument, every false premise, every deceitful scheme. What is our part in this? The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy, “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Get to know the Scriptures – read it with God every day – ask him to help you understand it and apply it. Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture. And we must too.
3. Jesus challenged their motives with substance
Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.” (Mark 3:3-4)
Someone has defined tradition as “the living faith of those now dead,” whereas traditionalism is “the dead faith of those now living.” Jesus’ critics were locked into traditionalism. They had long since forgotten the reason behind the Sabbath observance: honoring the Lord. Instead, they focused solely on the mindless rule keeping that is the empty soul of legalism. Never let your traditions become traditionalism.
“People become like the Pharisees when they use religion to judge and condemn others instead of reaching out to them with loving concern and the truth of the gospel.”
How does Jesus respond? He takes the initiative. He stands up to his opponents. But he will not fight on their hypocritical terms or use their methods. Instead he turns the tables on them.
Strategically, he takes the controversy to them. Jesus appeals to their logic as well as their conscience, as he did on a previous occasion when he said, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Mark 2:9). This is because Jesus is seeking a change of heart and mind in his opponents, not trying to win an argument.
His desire is to bring them to repentance and faith, so they can experience forgiveness and reconciliation. And that must be our motivation with our opponents also. As Jesus said, “That they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
How ironic that Jesus was seeking to heal while they were plotting to kill. It must have been obvious to everyone in the Synagogue who was actually guilty of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus dealt with the causes not the symptoms. Knowing what they were thinking he spoke, he was proactive. Mark tells us “But they remained silent.” (Mark 3:4). They were unwilling to repent, unwilling to concede to his logic, unwilling to recognise Jesus power, unwilling to submit to his authority. Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture. Jesus challenged their motives with substance.
4. Jesus channelled his passion into saving
“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” (Mark 3:5)
I think this is the only time we see Jesus perform a miracle while angry. He is angry and in deep distress. But how does he channel his deep anger and distress? He does not call down fire from heaven to wipe them out as he so easily could have done. He looks around at them in anger but says to the man in compassion “Stretch out your hand.” As the man did so, his hand was miraculously restored. God created the world with the power of his spoken word. And the Son of God does so here, to their utter amazement. How should we handle opposition?
God insists, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil… do not take revenge… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17).
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (Ephesians 4:26)
Jesus said “I have come to seek and save the lost” and he would not allow those who opposed him to side track him from his purposes, or to deflect him from his mission.
He doesn’t back down. He isn’t intimidated. And neither must we.
Opposition is an unavoidable consequence of following Jesus. Jesus promised us “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20).
The apostle Paul adds, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). This is not theoretical. This is not an exercise.
You can either buy Robert Greene’s, The 33 Strategies of War and learn to handle opposition the way the world does, or you can read you Bible and learn from the way Jesus handled opposition. Like Jesus, you have a mission to fulfill, regardless of your circumstances, irrespective of the opposition – to follow Jesus.
What ever keeps you from your God-given purposes is your enemy. What are your purposes? They are summarized in our membership covenant and we will explore them on Sunday mornings over the next five weeks. You were planned for God’s pleasure, so spend time in each day with our Lord Jesus Christ, reading God’s Word and praying. You were formed for God’s family, so meet with God’s people every Sunday to build one another up. You were created to become like Christ so follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in reaching out in love to others. You were shaped for serving God so use the gifts and talents God has given you to serve within the Body of Christ at Christ Church. You were made for a mission so take and create opportunities to share the Good News of how Jesus Christ died on the cross for us.
How did Jesus handle opposition? As the Son of God, Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture. Jesus challenged their motives with substance. Jesus channelled his passion into saving. How should we handle opposition?
• Don’t let people impose their values, their priorities or traditions on you. Instead live by God’s Word.
• Deal with the causes of opposition not the symptoms and seek peace and reconciliation.
• Don’t let anyone deter you or anything to distract you from fulfilling God’s purposes and completing your mission – to know Jesus and make Jesus known.
• In the week ahead, when you face opposition, as you most certainly will, remember its not a question of which strategy you will use but whose strategy.