As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." (Matthew 9:32-34 NASB)
This passage gives us a little bit of insight into how Jesus was received, and we would do well to understand this little bit. First, when the crowds saw what He did they were amazed, seeing that one who was possessed was exorcised and could speak again. The initial reaction of the people was positive to Christ’s ministry. At the same time the Pharisees injected doubt into their minds, saying that it is by the ruler of the demons that Jesus cast out demons. Notice that the Pharisees cannot deny what Christ has done, but they can deny how and why He has done it. Ultimately the Pharisees stance on Christ will gain more adherents than the truth about Christ will gain, and He will be nailed to a cross in light of that. There is a lot to be considered here.
First, we need to have a biblical understanding of persecution. Christ clearly was being persecuted by the Pharisees for the entirety of His ministry on earth, but notice how the persecution came. Jesus was not persecuted overtly for righteousness sake, instead the Pharisees conjured up doubt in the minds of the people around Him. It was not at all that they were opposed to the works of Christ, they were opposed to the person of Christ, and more than that the Father who gave Him the authority to perform those works. If we are to be persecuted we will not be persecuted as ‘Christians’, or ‘for our good deeds’. We will not be persecuted on the basis of truth, but on the basis of lies. Jesus did not cast out demons by the ruler of demons, but that was accusation. Unfortunately Christians have a very false sense in these days of what persecution is really going to be like. We have a thin skinned view that somehow taking ‘In God We Trust’ off money, or removing the pledge of allegiance from the schools somehow amounts to persecution. We are too busy fighting the wrong battles.
Real persecution when it comes will come more in the form of lies. Maybe we will be accused of being pedophiles, or murders, or homophobes or whatever. When you see people talking about how Christians are out shooting up abortion clinics, even though the death of Dr. Tiller was the first clinic shooting in nearly 10 years, that is a form of the persecution that is to come. When everything said by the secular and unbelieving religious community about genuine Christians becomes lies then we know real persecution has arrived. We need to shed this romantic view of persecution that we have, because it is not the biblical view. When we are persecuted it will not be some glorious suffering in the eyes of the world, or even our brethren, no it will be embarrassing lies, half-truths, and misconceptions that are spread about us.
Jesus was not criticized for what He did, instead He was lied about. We ought to expect the same.