Session #086 Positioned for Opposition
Scripture Matthew 12:15-21
Summary Matthew 12:15-21 closes Jesus’ encounter with the religious leaders. Quoting from Isaiah 42:1-4, this passage describes the nature of the Servant of the Lord. Learning from the example of Jesus, Henson shares seven principles of how we can be rightly positioned for the opposition, and how we are to respond that we may continue faithfully on our kingdom assignments.
Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; And in His name Gentiles will trust.” Matthew 12:14-21
“God does not promise that our assigned tasks would be easy ones nor would the same be executed in comfortable and cushy situations. We must be reminded that we are in the business of advancing the kingdom of God. And wherever there is advancement, we can expect opposition.” Say To Archippus, p114
Once you take up a kingdom position, you can expect opposition. It happened to Jesus. We must be prepared for the same to happen to us.
That It Might Be Fulfilled… (Matthew 12:17-21)
There are more than 60 Old Testament references that were mentioned in the book of Matthew to show that Jesus is the fulfilment of what has already been foretold by the prophets.
Matthew 12:18-21 is taken from Isaiah 42:1-4, known as one of the Servant Songs of Isaiah, The Gentle Servant.
When the passage is read in the context of prophetic fulfilment, we learn and accept that opposition is very much a part of the big picture. It counters the popular contemporary notion that if you are walking in the centre of God’s plan and will, it will be smooth sailing all the way. Consequently, too many give up when the opposition is encountered, rationalising that this cannot be an assignment from the Lord.
Now that we accept the possibility and probability of opposition, what can we learn from this account?
Pick Your Battles (Matthew 12:14-15a)
Know when to engage, when to disengage.
The hostility of the Pharisees towards Jesus has been building up, and now they are ready to kill Jesus because of His actions and His teachings.
Jesus was not a pushover at all, nor a coward. He knew when to engage and how to engage, and He also knew when to withdraw.
Learn to pick the right battles to fight. You do not have to answer every WhatsApp message or respond to every Facebook post. It is ok to withdraw as withdrawing does not mean that you have lost. Sometimes, it takes more strength to withdraw.
There is a time to answer and engage, but know when to disengage lest you become like the person you are trying to convince (Proverbs 26:4-5).
Opposition to Assignments Need Not Be Distraction from Assignments (Matthew 12:15b)
Know your assignment and which battlefront you are fighting in. Do not be distracted to fight the wrong battles however important it may appear to be.
Jesus continued on His assignments despite increasing hostility and opposition. He took opposition in His stride, but His kingdom assignments remained His priority. He did not spend all His time refuting and rebutting the religious leaders. In pointing out their errors, Jesus demonstrated what the kingdom of God is.
What is your assignment? Too many do not know their assignments. They are distracted and easily influenced by the latest fad, jumping on any and every bandwagon that ‘sounds’ right.
There are many battlefronts (opposition), which is yours? Those who know their assignments will be very passionate about what they are supposed to do. But not everyone is called to support every cause. You cannot fight every battlefront. You just need to know which battlefront you need to fight in.
Some of these oppositions can become distractions to what you have been assigned to do. That may be why Christians are so busy and so distracted. We want to do everything but end up achieving nothing.
However, do not swing to the other extreme and be an ostrich. This does not mean you do not care about these causes, or remain clueless about them. Leaders have a responsibility to teach and prepare members, and then equip, empower and release those who have assignments in these areas.
Do Not Compromise Prophetic Purpose for Promotion and Popularity (Matthew 14:16)
No opposition does not mean any compromise. Stay on assignment!
The signs point to Jesus as the Messiah but were people following the signs or the Messiah?
It is not what the people wanted, but what Jesus was sent to do and fulfil (kingdom assignment).
Beware that the opposite of opposition is a promotion (popularity). It is easy to be humble when you are not known. What happens when you become more popular? There will be a temptation to
pander to the popular vote or follow a current trend. Avoid controversial topics, play it safe. Which programmes draw the biggest numbers? What is most convenient and achievable?
It is not about promotion or popularity, gaining more likes or shares on social media. Remember the purpose – why are you doing what you are doing.
Stay on assignment even if the numbers are not impressive. Let God bring the right people at the right time. Stay hidden and faithful. Almost anonymous. We do not need titles or positions.
We are concerned with the results. God is concerned with the response. Trust God’s timing and promotion. Jesus did not have to promote Himself because of His obedience, God exalted Him to the highest place, to be the Name above all names.
Knowing Your Identity Ensures Your Security (Matthew 3:17; 12:18)
Son before Servant. Please God. Not men.
Jesus knows His position, Son before Servant. The Son knows that He is loved and accepted by the Father. The Son then seeks to serve and please the Father and to fulfil the Father’s Will.
“Before Israel was ever called to be God’s servant, Israel was regarded as God’s son. Jesus was the beloved Son of God before He was sent to be the Servant of the Lord. That seems to be the order of relationships, and it would do us well not to miss the significance and get it upside-down. Or worse yet, major on one at the expense of the other.” Alignment Check (Start with Love, p35)
Jesus does not seek the approval of men or the system. He knows who He is and what He has to do. Even if He is rejected by all, that is fine as long as He pleases the Father. Paul and other apostles said the same thing and lived the same way (Acts 5:29, Galatians 1:10;1 Thessalonians 2:4).
Do you know your identity and your position in Christ? Your identity ensures your security against the opposition. You fear God, not man. You serve God and Jesus, not man. You seek God’s approval, not man’s.
Protecting Your Rights Is Different from Declaring God’s Justice (Matthew 12:18)
Be willing to give up rights for the sake of God’s justice.
Everyone is campaigning for their rights, Christians included. To be fair, human rights are a Christian concept, where we protect the dignity of every person because we are all created in God’s image. But if not careful, it can be self-serving for one’s selfish purpose. Taken to extremes, it becomes ridiculous where children have the right to choose their gender, human beings can identify as animals.
As a Son, Jesus knew His rights but rested and trusted in God’s justice. His obedience to His Father was more important than the protection of His rights. As a Servant, He knew that He had no rights.
Everything depended on His Master. His part was obedience, that is all. He knew His Master (Father) knew best and would fight for Him.
Jesus came to declare justice but suffered a lot of injustice. He came to fulfil righteousness, to bring God’s justice, He knew He had to die. Although innocent and not deserving of death, He relinquished that right that God’s justice may be declared to the nations.
Are you willing to give up your rights that God’s justice can be declared and demonstrated through you?
Do Not Become Wrong in Trying to Prove Yourself Right (Matthew 12:19-21)
Be gentle/humble when defending your position. Don’t stumble/hurt others along the way.
Are you right? How do you try to show others that you are right? Are you rebellious and quarrelsome, always needing to prove yourself right? Are you passive-aggressive? Do you take to social media to rant and rave? Do you need to always win an argument? Do you need to always have the last word on the matter? Are you one who just simply cannot “let it go!”
What if, in trying so hard to prove that you are right, it comes out all wrong? What if people get hurt and killed along the way? What kind of testimony are you then? How have you declared the justice and righteousness of God?
In wanting the best for our cause or organization, do we only look for the strong and talented and resourceful? Do you use people? Do you discard or ignore them if they are no longer useful?
An African proverb says, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” It means that the weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful. So often, when two parties refuse to give way, splits and divisions occur. People get hurt along the way. Many are not interested in political or religious agendas. But are simply caught in the crossfires, forced to take sides.
The Jews expected the Messiah to come as a strong aggressive political and military character. But Isaiah prophesied Messiah as one who is gentle, mild, meek and humble (Matthew 5:5; 11:28).
Matthew 12:18says, “I will put My Spirit upon Him”, and Galatians 5:22 states that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.
Jesus is firmly resolute in His assignment, bringing justice to victory. But along the way Jesus is gentle and caring, to the down and out, to the nameless and faceless.
Reeds are common and readily available. In other words, if broken, they can be thrown away and replaced. But in the Way of the kingdom, everyone is precious.
Smouldering candles or lamps are snuffed out because it no longer produces light, and the smoke can be irritating to one’s eyes. But in the Way of the kingdom, there is hope for the hopeless.
Jesus does not make use of people for His purpose. Jesus loves, saves and restores people. In return, we are willing to wholeheartedly serve Him and His purposes. Every Archippus can be redeemed for the kingdom.
Great advice from Paul to Timothy, avoid foolish and ignorant disputes (2 Timothy 2:23–26). Those who generate strife are doing the devil’s will. It is a strategic ploy to distract others from kingdom assignment. I want to do the Father’s will, not the devil’s will.
Living by Conviction. Trusting in God’s Vindication.
When all is said and done, let God have the final say. Jesus has the last word.
Being gentle and humble does not mean never saying and doing anything in the face of injustice.
Based on our convictions, we should speak up and speak out. Be wise as serpents, know what to say, how to say, and when to say; and when to shut up and bail out. Be harmless as doves, be gentle, innocent and above reproach.
There is no guarantee that things will go your way, or people being interested in what you have to say? The objective of wolves is to kill and devour.
Gentleness and humility in the face of opposition mean willingness to disengage and withdraw if needed. Do not get caught in foolish disputes and strife. Bless those who oppose you. Pray and forgive. Do not avenge yourselves, but let God handle them. Trust that God will vindicate you in the end.
Pick your battles, know when to engage, when to disengage. Do not let opposition to the assignment be a distraction from the assignment. Do not compromise purpose for popularity, please God not men.
Knowing your identity ensures security, positioned for the opposition. Fight for God’s justice not my rights. Be gentle and humble when defending your position. Do not stumble or hurt others along the way.
Live by conviction. Trust in God’s vindication. When all is said and done, let God have the final say. Jesus has the last word. He is the ultimate Judge.