It goes without saying that no man can be greater than Jesus who is Lord and the Son of God. However every person can aspire to be like Jesus. One of the reasons for his appearing was to provide us with many examples of how we are to live in this world. He modelled the attitudes and behaviours that we are to copy and learn from so that we can learn to be like him.
However, as we saw in his life, he was maligned and opposed by the authorities and religious leaders of the time. He is preparing his people who choose to follow his path in this section of scripture so that they are not surprised when people turn to attack them. The apostle Peter also wrote that we should, “…not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) The apostle Paul also wrote that, “…all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
It is clear that those who choose to follow Christ will be opposed. Why is that so? There is a puzzle in this situation, but it is a fact that this does and will occur. When we consider that the intent of the followers of Christ is to live a good and peaceful life, it makes you wonder why Christians suffer such opposition. Jesus gave us the answer to this puzzle in John 3:20, “For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” They oppose those who want to do what is good and right because they themselves are evil. The nature of man is not to do good but to do evil. Most people are restrained from doing evil because they fear retribution from the authorities, but even that is not always a deterrent. The person who wants to do the right thing and stands against those who choose evil is maligned. They are called names, opposed, attacked verbally and sometimes physically and all because they have exposed the evil of these other people. Those who are evil are exposed for their evil and suffer guilt in the presence of those who do good. They feel as if they are being attacked, when in truth their own consciences are attacking them with guilt, and so they attack those who have exposed them.
In my opinion, this is the reason why Christians are opposed and maligned. It is because they choose to do good and not go along with the evil desires of the world. What makes it even harder for the Christian is that they are choosing to be like Jesus, and many in this world will oppose them for this reason alone. As the Lord said in verse 24, “If they have called the master of the house Be-el’zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” If they called Jesus a devil, which is who Be-el’zebul was, then they will also call those who follow Jesus all manner of evil things.
But as Jesus says, we need have no fear of them. Their ends will correspond to their deeds, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:15. We need not be worried about them or take offence at them when they do oppose us. Who knows, in time they may see the errors of their ways and turn in repentance and come to Jesus themselves. I always take the optimistic view that if someone who so utterly opposed the Lord as the apostle Paul did before his conversion on the Damascus road could come to the Lord, then so can anyone else.
The best advice and action we can take is to do as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5:44-45, “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.” We do not know the hearts of these people or when, where or how the Lord may choose to prick their conscience in the hope they may turn to him for forgiveness.