How did Jesus deal with Opposition? Luke 6:1-11
“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 to Margaret Thatcher, Shaka the Zulu to Lord Nelson, Hannibal to
Ulysses S. Grant, as well as movie moguls, Samurai swordsmen, and diplomats,
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
Let me give you a flavour. Strategy 1. Identify and declare war on your enemies: The Polarity Strategy “Life is endless battle and conflict, and you cannot fight effectively unless you can identify your enemies. People are subtle and evasive, disguising their intentions, pretending to be on your side. You need clarity. Think of yourself as always about to go into battle. Everything depends on your frame of mind and on how you look at the world.
A shift of perspective can transform you from a passive and confused mercenary into a motivated and creative fighter. Without getting paranoid, you need to realise that there are people who wish you ill and operate indirectly. Identify them and you'll suddenly have room to manoeuvre. It can be someone who blocks your path or sabotages you, whether subtly or obviously; it can be someone who has hurt you or someone who has fought you unfairly; it can be a value or an idea that you loathe and that you see in an individual or group. People are usually good at hiding their hostility, but they often unconsciously give off signals showing that all is not what it seems. Trust your instincts: if someone's behaviour seems suspicious then it probably is. It is best to be on your guard.”
Here are some more of the 33 strategies Greene explores:
7. Transform your war into a
crusade: morale strategies
9. Turn the tables: the counterattack strategy
10. Create a threatening presence: deterring strategies
14. Overwhelm resistance with speed: the blitzkrieg strategy
16. Hit them where it hurts: the centre-of-gravity strategy
23. Weave a seamless blend of fact and fiction: misperception strategies
I am sure you can
identify with one or more of those strategies - either because you have been on
the receiving end or they just happen to be the tactics your company employ or you
saw used at home as a child. 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 we begin a new series of studies in Luke with the purpose of getting to know the real Jesus better. Today in Luke 6:1-11, our title, rather appropriately, is the question “How did Jesus deal with opposition?” Before we try and answer it, let us just observe how the Pharisees dealt with opposition. Remember they saw Jesus as the opposition!
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:1-2)
Notice their strategy?
1. They stalked his disciples (Luke 6:1-2)
They were close enough to the disciples to see them helping themselves to some ears of corn. Verse 7 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.
2. They criticised his behaviour (Luke 6:2)
They asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful…” (Luke 6:2). They were seeking to weaken and inhibit Jesus and his disciples, by criticising them, to intimidate and make them feel guilty. This is Strategy 10 - “Create a threatening presence - deterring strategies”. Stalking his disciples with a critical spirit.
3. They condemned his values (Luke 6:2)
“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 the 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,
4. They conspired to destroy him (Luke 6:11)
“But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (Luke 6:11).
Mark adds “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mark 3:6)
“This blatant act was too much for them to take, so they became wild with rage. Jesus had flouted their laws, overruled their authority, and exposed the hatred in their hearts to 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.
They refused to acknowledge Jesus because they were not willing to give up their treasured position and power. When Jesus exposed their attitudes, he became their enemy, and they began looking for ways to destroy him.” Sound familiar? Been there this week? How should you respond? Well, not with like for like.
Jesus said, “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?
1. Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture (Luke 6:3-5)
“Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:3-5)
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 (Lev 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 enforcing the ceremonial laws, something the self-righteous Pharisees did not comprehend. People's needs are more important than technicalities. Jewish life in Jesus' day revolved around the Sabbath. Elaborate laws had been designed so that everyone knew exactly how to keep the Sabbath...
Jesus and his disciples had only been 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 (Deut 23:25). But on the Sabbath, Jewish religious teachers had prohibited this type of activity 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 confronting the position of the religious leaders. By remaking the Sabbath into a day of refreshment, worship, and healing, he pried 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 your word processor, not your 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? “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.
Let me give you an example. We are expressly forbidden to engage in “godless chatter” - in gossip in handling our opponents - why? Because God says, “those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” (2 Timothy 2:16). To make this even more graphic, the Lord insists, “Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” When you think of gossip - think gangrene and make the one as abhorrent as the other - for gossip is far more dangerous than gangrene. How? At worst gangrene infects a part of the body and that can be cut out.
Gossip on the other hand corrupts the soul. Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture.
2. Jesus challenged their motives with substance (Luke 6:8-9)
“But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:8-9)
Someone has defined tradition as "the living faith of those now dead," whereas traditionalism is "the dead faith of those now living." Jesus' critics in Luke 6:5 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. 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’?” (Luke 5:23). This is because Jesus is seeking a change of heart and mind in his opponents, not just 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. That they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16).
How ironic that Jesus was seeking to heal yet 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 recognise Jesus power and authority. Jesus countered their hypocrisy with Scripture. Jesus challenged their motives with substance.
3. Jesus channelled his passion into saving (Luke 6:10)
“He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored.” (Luke 6:10)
Mark tells us more about how Jesus felt at this point. “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…! (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.
He channels his deep emotion, all his anger, all his distress into what? He does not call down fire from heaven to wipe them out.
He looks into the eyes of the man with the shriveled hand and says “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 Jesus does so here, to their utter amazement. How do you 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).
Jesus said “I have come to seek
and save the lost” and he would not allow the opposition with their legalism,
their traditionalism to side track him from his purposes, or to deflect him from
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 fulfil, 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: 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? As children of God? Don’t let people impose their traditions on you - live by God’s Word. Deal with the causes of opposition not the symptoms and seek 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. And 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. Lets pray.
 Emma Gold, Life's a Battle, The Independent, 8th May 2006, http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/reviews/article349421.ece
 Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War (Profile Books, 2006) http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,0_9780670034574,00.html?referrer=doi
 Luke: Life Application Commentary (Harper)