A Love in Spite of Rejection
When I was a kid, I would hear the story of Jesus and wonder why in the world he would let people be mean to him and not do anything about it. I would think how much of a pansy he seemed to be. Why wouldn't he just fight back when they were hitting him with a whip and beating him senseless? Didn't he have any power at all?
It took me a long time to sort through my confusion and realize just how powerful he was to NOT fight back. He knew what he was doing. It was his plan all along. He knew he had to die so that we could live. Without his sacrifice, without his blood being a covering for our sin, we would have no way to enter heaven.
I was reading Luke 23 and Jesus says something interesting in verse 34. He says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Did they not know they were mocking him? Did they not know they were hurting him? Did they not know they were killing him? What in the world did he mean that they didn't know what they were doing?
He meant they didn't know who they were dealing with. According to the law (Deuteronomy 21:22), a cursed man is supposed to die on a tree. They thought he was a heretic, a blasphemer. They thought they were punishing sin, as they were supposed to. What they couldn't understand was that God was punishing him for our sin and their sin. They didn't get it. They rejected him.
Isn't it amazing that even in his last moments, Jesus was still begging the Father to forgive us? Even though we weren't there, aren't we all responsible for his crucifixion? If we've sinned, we have all placed a nail in his hands or feet or the crown of thorns on his head. But notice he still died for all of those people standing and watching, for the people who made fun of him, for the people who betrayed him, and even for the people who would be reading this 2,000 years later. In spite of the rejection and the unbelief, he still loved us enough to sacrifice himself.
He sacrificed himself for you. Yes, you reading this. Let the magnitude of that sink in for a second. He died to save YOU.
Do you know how often Jesus is rejected in the Bible? A lot. Probably at least 20 instances mentioned just in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In Matthew 9, he has just performed tons of miraculous wonders, like casting demons into pigs, raising a little girl from the dead, and healing two blind men and a paralyzed man. Yet, when word of what he did spread, he was still turned away. They were afraid.
A thought came to me as I was reading the story. How could they possibly reject someone as wonderful as Jesus, after he was doing all these incredible things for anyone who had faith and believed in him? Why would they turn him away? Then, like a gut-punch, I felt like the Lord whispered to me: "How are you rejecting him in your life right now?"
At first, I felt defensive. I believe in Jesus. I pray, I read the Bible, I go to church. I do all the things I'm supposed to. But the thought still nagged at me, "How are you rejecting him in your life right now?"
So, I had to look in the mirror and answer the question. How am I rejecting him? Not spending enough time with him everyday. Not trusting in his promises. Letting worry occupy my mind. Walking in sickness instead of health. Feeling judgmental toward others. Allowing frustrations with nit-picky things at my job and church eat away at me. All of these are rejections of Jesus and what he came to do, what he instructs us to do in this life.
"Perfect love casts out all fear." (1John 4:18). "Cast all your burdens on him for he cares for you." (1Peter 5:7). "All things are possible with God." (Matthew 19:26). "Judge not, or you will be judged." (Matthew 7:2). "By his stripes, we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5). "The lily neither toils nor spins." (Luke 12:27). "Love your enemy and do good to those who hate you." (Luke 6:27).
I can rest knowing this: Although I reject him in some way everyday, just as the people shouting, "Crucify him!" and the people taunting him on the cross, he will still ask for my forgiveness from the Father. In spite of my rejection, he loves me anyway. It's the kind of love that makes me want to do better, be better. It's the kind of love that is almost unfathomable. It's the kind of love that will change the world.