One outstanding feature of Jesus' life that most of His followers today tend to overlook, is that He was almost continually PERSECUTED! Imagine, Jesus was PERFECT, He never made a mistake, He was GOD manifested in the flesh! (John 1:1,14) Yet His enemies relentlessly accused Him of all kinds of horrible crimes, sins and wrong-doings, and finally arrested and CRUCIFIED Him!
Jesus virtually promised us that EVERYONE who dedicates themselves to follow Him will ALSO suffer persecution: "Truly I say unto you, there is NO ONE who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My sake, and the Gospel's, who will not receive 100 times more in this present age, WITH PERSECUTIONS; and in the World to come, Eternal Life!" (Mark 10:29,30) But if we never suffer any persecution or have any trouble, then we must NOT be DOING anything for Jesus!--Because the Bible says that, "ALL who will live GODLY in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer PERSECUTION!" (2Timothy 3:12)
The first time that Jesus returned to His home town after beginning His ministry, the Gospel of Luke tells us, "He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue (the Jews' religious building)." (Luke 4:16) When He arose and read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, a prophecy about the Messiah that was fulfilled in HIMSELF, He told the wide-eyed congregation, "'TODAY this Scripture is FULFILLED in your hearing! ... But I tell you the truth, no Prophet is accepted in His home town!' (Luke 4:21,24)
"And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with WRATH, and they rose up and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him to the edge of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw Him down the cliff! But He, ESCAPING through the midst of them, went His way." (Luke 4:28-30)
All Jesus had done was tell them the TRUTH, the good news that God was fulfilling His promises and prophecies, and had at last sent the Messiah to His people. But they REJECTED this revelation of Truth and tried to KILL the Messenger Who was delivering it, saying, 'From WHERE does HE get such Words and authority?--Is not this the Son of Joseph the carpenter?' And they were OFFENDED in Him." (Luke 4:22; Matthew 13:55,57)
As Jesus' ministry continued to prosper, the false accusations against Him mounted and multiplied as His jealous enemies attempted to discredit Him. One of their prime accusations was that He had fallen in with bad company. During Jesus' time, Israel was occupied by Rome, and the most despised persons among the Jews were the PUBLICANS, Jewish tax collectors who worked for Rome, who made their Jewish brethren pay their taxes. Jesus, ignoring all customs and prejudice, befriended such despised publicans, and actually chose one of them to be one of His Apostles, Matthew! (Matthew 9:9)
When the Jewish religious leaders found Him actually entering publicans' houses to DINE with them, in horror they asked His disciples, "How can your Master EAT with such PUBLICANS and filthy SINNERS?" (Matthew 9:11) Jesus acknowledged their accusations, saying, "John the Baptist came neither eating or drinking wine, yet you say, 'He has a DEVIL!' The Son of Man is come eating and drinking, and you say, 'He is a GLUTTON and a DRUNKARD, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is proven right by all her children (by their life, character and deeds). For by their FRUITS ye shall know them!" (Luke 7:33-35; Matthew 7:20)
Jesus' Own RELATIVES also misunderstood His Words and actions, and on at least one occasion they felt He'd actually gone CRAZY: "And when His family heard of His deeds, they went out to lay HOLD on Him, for they said, 'He is OUT OF HIS MIND!'" (Mark 3:21)
Although Jesus made it clear that He came to bring PEACE to the lives and hearts of all who would RECEIVE and BELIEVE on Him (John 14:27; 16:33), because He knew that many would REJECT Him, He said, "Do you think I am come to bring PEACE on Earth?--NO, I tell you, but rather DIVISION!" (Luke 12:51)--And certainly this was the case. Wherever He spoke, there was always a clear division drawn between those who RECEIVED and those who REJECTED His message:
"Many said, 'Of a truth, this is the PROPHET.' Others said, 'This is the CHRIST!' But some said, 'Shall Christ come out of GALILEE?'... So there was a DIVISION among the people because of Him!" (John 7:40-43) Another passage tells us, "There was a DIVISION therefore among the Jews for His sayings. And many of them said, 'He has a DEVIL and is MAD!--Why do you listen to Him?' But others said, 'These are not the words of him that has a devil!'" (John 10:19-21)
When the religious hierarchy heard how Jesus was healing the sick and curing those who were possessed of evil spirits, "The Scribes came down from Jerusalem and said, 'He has BAALZEBUB, and by the PRINCE of the DEVILS He casts out devils!'" (Mark 3:22) Imagine, the most RESPECTED religious authorities of His day accused the Son of God of being POSSESSED by SATAN! Regarding accusa tions of this nature, Jesus warned His followers, "The DISCIPLE is not above his MASTER, nor is the SERVANT above his LORD. And if they have called ME, the MASTER of the house, BAALZEBUB (the prince of the devils), how much MORE shall they call THEM that FOLLOW Him?" (Matthew 10:24,25)
Frequently Jesus was criticised not only because He consorted with "publicans and sinners", but also due to His association with WOMEN of very questionable moral character. Once, while dining in the house of a prominent religious leader, a PROSTITUTE suddenly burst into the room where they were eating, fell at Jesus' feet, weeping and washing His feet with her tears as she wiped them with her hair. As she began kissing His feet, the skeptical religious leader thought to himself, "This Man, if He were REALLY a Prophet, would know WHO and what KIND of a woman this is that's TOUCHING Him!--For she is a SINNER!" (Luke 7:36-39) But Jesus loved that woman, forgave her sins and sent her on her way with His blessing.
His Love and mercy put His religious enemies to shame because it exposed how LITTLE love and mercy THEY had! Their religion was based on their OWN good works and SELFrighteousness, whereas Jesus taught the common people that FAITH in God's Love and mercy was all they needed to be saved. He added insult to injury by telling the chief priests and elders to their faces, "Truly I tell you, the PUBLICANS and the PROSTITUTES are entering the Kingdom of Heaven before YOU!" (Matthew 21:31)
On another occasion, the religious leaders brought a woman to Him whom they had caught in bed with someone else's husband. St. John tells us that they demanded of Him, "'Master, this woman was caught in the very ACT of ADULTERY! Now MOSES in the Law commanded that such should be STONED, but what do YOU say?' This they said TEMPTING Him, that they might have something to ACCUSE Him with. But Jesus acted as though He heard them not.
"But when they KEPT asking Him, He said to them, 'He that is WITHOUT SIN among you, let HIM cast the FIRST stone at her!' And when they heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, they went out one-by-one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus was left alone with the woman, and He said to her, 'Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?' She said, 'No man, Lord.' And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.'" (John 8:4-11)
One reason that His enemies were so infuriated with Jesus was because He was always BREAKING their RELIGIOUS LAWS and TRADITIONS. Once, He entered a synagogue on the Sabbath (the Jewish holy day in which no one is supposed to work), and found a man whose hand was deformed and withered. The Bible says, "The Scribes and Pharisees WATCHED Him closely, whether He would HEAL on the Sabbath day, so that they might have an ACCUSATION against Him." But Jesus ignored them and healed the man anyway, and it says, "They were FILLED with MADNESS and held a council against Him, how they might DESTROY Him!" (Matthew 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11)
One story that clearly shows how His enemies worked against Him is found in St. John, chapter 9, where Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. The fact that this formerly blind man could suddenly see caused such an uproar in his neighbourhood that his neighbours brought him straight to the religious rulers, the Pharisees, who after interrogating him, snapped, "'This Man Who healed you is NOT of GOD because He doesn't keep the SABBATH day!'
"Others wondered, 'But how can a man that is a SINNER do such MIRACLES?' And there was a DIVISION among them! Then they said to the man who was blind, 'What do YOU say of the Man Who opened your eyes?' The man answered, 'He is a PROPHET.' They then told the man who was blind, 'Give GOD the praise; we KNOW that THIS Man is a SINNER!' But the man answered and said, 'Whether He is a SINNER or NOT, I don't know; but one thing I DO know, that, once I was BLIND, but NOW I SEE!'" In the eyes and minds of the religious rulers, Jesus COULDN'T have been of God, because He broke their hallowed traditions and did not observe their rigid religious rules, regulations and laws! In fact He often did things completely CONTRARY to what they would expect from a "righteous" man!
Furious and concerned about Jesus' mushrooming popularity, the Pharisees debated among themselves, "'We have not been able to stop Him.--Look how the whole WORLD is going after Him! What can we DO? For He does many MIRACLES. If we let Him alone, ALL men will soon believe on Him, and the Romans will come and take away our position and our authority!' Then from that day on," the Bible says, "they took counsel together how to put Jesus to DEATH." (John 11:47-54; 12:19)
Knowing that their Jewish RELIGIOUS accusations would bear no weight with the Gen tile Roman governor, Pilate, they decided the only way to get rid of Jesus was to frame Him on some POLITICAL charges. Thus they told the governor, "'We have found this man SUBVERTING our NATION!--And He OPPOSES payment of TAXES to Caesar, and claims to be a KING Himself, the CHRIST!'"
But after personally questioning Jesus, Pilate replied to Jesus' accusers, "'I find NO FAULT in this Man.' For he knew that for ENVY the chief priests had brought Jesus to him." (Luke 23:2-4; Matthew 27:18) Upon hearing this, "They were even MORE furious and said, 'But He STIRS up PEOPLE all over Judea with His false teachings!' Then the chief priests and the religious elders swayed the MULTITUDE to destroy Jesus." (Luke 23:5; Matthew 27:20) But Pilate, still convinced of Jesus' innocence of any real CRIMES, sought to release Him.
The elders then cried out before the crowd, "'If you release this Man, then you are no friend of CAESAR! Because whosoever makes himself a KING is speaking against CAESAR!'" (John 19:12) Pilate, like a typical POLITICIAN, then yielded to this political pressure, and turned Jesus over to His vicious enemies, symbolically washing his hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this good person; see YE to it! It is YOUR responsibility!' And the people answered, 'Let His blood be upon US, and upon OUR CHILDREN!'" (Matthew 27:20-25)--Pilate lacked the moral COURAGE and CONVICTION to RESIST these false accusers, and therefore an INNOCENT Man, a PERFECT Man, was cruelly CRUCIFIED!
But, thank God, only three days later, Jesus AROSE from the dead, and led His tiny band of followers to ultimate VICTORY!--And the Love of God rolled over His jealous enemies like a gigantic tidal wave to cover the whole Earth with His Gospel of God's Love!--And His foolish foes were left far behind, as dead and dry as He said they'd be!
Jesus told us, "The servant is not greater than his Lord, and if they have persecuted ME, they will ALSO persecute YOU!" (John 15:20) So why should it come as a surprise to anyone that dedicated Christians TODAY receive the SAME kind of antagonistic response to their message and methods as JESUS HIMSELF did to HIS? If you are actively preaching the Word of God, delivering souls from Satan's kingdom and winning them into the Kingdom of Heaven, the Devil will FIGHT you and ATTACK you every way that he possibly can to try to stop your good work!--Just like he did to JESUS!
"Oh, but isn't this the 20TH CENTURY," some people argue, "a CIVILISED age? Aren't things DIFFERENT now?"--NO, they're NOT! The DEVIL is as real and evil as EVER, and his PEOPLE are as vicious, bitter and in opposition to God's children as they EVER were!
From our lowly beginnings among the lost youth of Southern California in 1968, we found that our very LIVES exposed and infuriated the self-satisfied members of many powerful religious organisations, and they have hated us from the very START!--Because we were DOING what THEY said COULDN'T be done, and what they REFUSED to do!--"Going into ALL the World and preaching the Gospel to EVERY creature!" (Mark 16:15) And therefore we have ALWAYS experienced persecution and false accusations at their hands!
ANYONE who follows Jesus and the Bible ALL the way by "FORSAKING ALL, PREACHING the Gospel to EVERY creature, serving GOD--NOT MAMMON, living by FAITH", etc., will be considered a misfit, odd-ball or fanatic by the MAJORITY of complacent Christians whose religion consists of merely going to CHURCH once a week! THIS is the main reason why so many conservative Christians find our doctrines, beliefs and freedoms rather odd and hard-to-swallow! But our MAIN emphasis has always been JESUS, His LOVE and SALVATION!-And reaching OTHERS with it! This is what we preach the MOST, as those of you who KNOW us can certainly testify!
In fact, if we have helped YOU to find and know JESUS, or to understand the Truth of God's Word in the BIBLE, or we have somehow helped YOU to come closer to the Lord and into a more personal relationship with Him, if you hear slanderous accusations against us that you don't understand or are unable to answer, then, like that blind man answered JESUS' accusers, you could honestly answer OUR accusers: "Whether they be sinners or not, I don't know.--But the one thing I DO know, is that once I was BLIND-or once I was LOST and didn't know JESUS, or I didn't know His WORD, or I didn't understand about PRAYER or telling others about God's Love--but NOW I SEE!"
According to JESUS, THIS is how you can tell if someone is truly of God or not, by the RESULTS of their ministry! He said, "Every tree is known by its FRUIT. A GOOD tree brings forth GOOD FRUIT, but an EVIL tree brings forth EVIL FRUIT.--So by their FRUITS you shall KNOW them!" (Matthew 7:15-20)
Our faithful followers and the good results of their work for the Lord around the World are certainly sufficient proof that we ARE of GOD, a GOOD tree bringing forth GOOD FRUIT for His glory! Hallelujah!--With over 11 THOUSAND MISSIONARIES in over 80 COUNTRIES who have personally won over 10 MILLION SOULS to Christ by preaching the Gospel in 60 LANGUAGES to 120 NATIONALITIES, with over 3.2 BILLION PAGES of Gospel literature published to date!--And we're reaching countless more with God's Love and Word EVERY DAY!
So in spite of any and all persecution, false accusations and bad publicity, God has BLESSED and KEPT us, PROSPERED and INCREASED us, and helped us to survive both the betrayal of friends and the onslaughts of enemies! No matter how much our bitter and jealous enemies may LIE about us or try to FIGHT us, they can NEVER win! For we are UNBEATABLE, because GOD is with us! (Romans 8:31) Praise God! "If this counsel or this work be of MAN, it will come to NOTHING! But if it be of GOD, NO MAN can overthrow it, lest they be found even to be fighting against GOD!" (Acts 5:38,39)
So for God's sake, don't believe the LIES, SLANDERS and FALSE ACCUSATIONS of our jealous and bitter ENEMIES!--And if you are tempted to wonder how CHRISTIANS today could possibly be accused of so many crimes and wrong-doings, just remember JESUS and all of the lies and accusations HE suffered from HIS enemies!--And DEATH! Amen? God BLESS you!