People love to go to race tracks to see car accidents. It is the same way people go to hockey games to watch fistfights. Probably very similar to the way the Romans went to the Coliseum to see the death of the gladiators.
There is something thrilling and sad about a train wreck; we just can’t stop watching. Shows like American Idol, I have been told, are more exciting to watch, early on during the first auditions. That is when ‘the cats’ and ‘the tone deaf’ come out to sing.
Take for instance, Season 9, Jan. of 2010 in Orlando, Florida. A young man named Donald Jarrod Norrell, a graphic designer, drove from Georgia to audition. After stating, that he thought he could win the competition, he went on to sing ‘Amazing Grace’.
He was awful! One look at the disgust on the faces of the judges revealed ‘the truth’; and they quickly told him so, saying he “sounded like a lawnmower.”
But Jerrod refused to take no for an answer and went on to sing again, the same song. Eventually, they called in the security guards. He cried out, “I can’t leave!” as they escorted him out anyway but he put up a fight and ended up handcuffed and arrested.
Now that is some serious rejection!
It is tough enough dealing with rejection privately, but quite another – when it is broadcast for the whole world to see and hear. It never goes away! I am sure all of us have felt the sting of rejection.
It may have been when the person you asked out laughed in your face. Or the time you were excluded from a party. Maybe it was the best friend who rejected you for another. Or the job interview that did not go as planned. Maybe it was because you were too young, too old or too different. Finally, it may have been, when you were rejected by a dating partner or a spouse.
Rejection can be defined as ‘the act of pushing someone or something away’. It may consist of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or the withholding of affection. Dr. Charles R Solomon specializes in spiritual counseling, with a specialty in how to deal with rejection. He defines rejection as “The absence of meaningful love.”
Rejection not only wounds us but can also hinder us from trusting, believing in others and/or engaging with others again. Not only can rejection leave us feeling paralyzed, we may also heap additional pain on ourselves and make it worse. Experts tell us that rejection affects us; emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, and physically. The question is, “Why is it so painful?”
The answer, scientists tell us, is that our brains are hard-wired that way. Researchers used MRI machines to question people who felt rejected and they found the same areas of our brains that are activated by physical pain also react to the experience of rejection.
Now, that being said, those who had a better handle on their emotions, did much better. In other words, those people who did not place too much value in the eyes or actions of others, seemed to react in a healthy manner. So, while rejection hurts, internalizing it and not dealing with it is far worse.
While rejection often feels personal, as in, it is our fault or an outright attack, it often has less to do with us than we imagine. There are often extenuating circumstances beyond our grasp; things that have little to do with us and more to do with the other person.
No one understood this better than Jesus. Before he was even born, Isaiah 53:2-3 described him like this, “He grew up before us like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
John 1:11 reads, “He came to those who were his own, but his own did not receive him.”
Isaiah literally says that Jesus was despised; he was not merely ignored or disliked. He was hated and loathed by the religious leaders and in the end, by all the people. Jesus was not just being discarded as unwanted or useless; he was considered a real threat to the status quo. Why?
Jesus questioned their interpretation of scripture, their traditions, their way of using the Temple and the way they treated the least, the lost and the outcasts. They accused him of being a drunk, they belittled him, tried to trap him and even called him the devil, himself.
In our Luke text, Jesus returns to Galilee and preaches throughout the countryside. It says he taught in the local synagogues and everyone praised him. From there he went to his hometown, Nazareth.
Then, on the Sabbath day, Saturday, as was his custom, he went into the synagogue. While there, he stood up to read. The scroll was handed to him and it was unrolled to Isaiah 61:1-2, and he began to read, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners – and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, – and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
After sitting down, he proclaimed, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And scripture says they were amazed and a bit shocked by his teaching. They acknowledge that he was speaking with wisdom and acting with power, but something just didn’t sit right. Isn’t this Joseph the carpenter’s son? Carpenter’s sons do not become prophets.
Here he was in the synagogue, a carpenter trying to teach them something about God and the Law. They all knew him. How could Jesus possibly be ‘who he was claiming to be’: the Messiah, God’s very own Son?
Not surprised, Jesus said, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Then Jesus had the gull to go on and compare himself to Elijah and Elisha. All of the people in the synagogue immediately took offense and became furious. They saw this as scandalous, an abomination, and a threat to everything they stood for. This was no prophet, this was Mary’s son and they knew Jesus’ brothers and sisters.
So they rejected him and drove Jesus out of the synagogue. They took him out of town to the cliff of a tall hill. Once there, they planned on throwing him off to his death.
Mount Precipice is a cliff near the city of Nazareth in Israel. It has a 1,000 foot plunge, almost straight down. This is serious!
One pastor writes, “I don’t know about Jesus, but at that point ‘I’m going Ninja on every last one of those suckers. I was thinking’, he wrote, ‘Jesus, just take them all out!’”
But scripture says, “He walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:30). The same pastor writes, “Jesus is amazing, no anger . . . no Ninja. He just remains calm and stays in control.” (I love that!)
Over and over in scripture we see Jesus being rejected and we see his reaction. How could he remain so humble and not call down an army of angels? Only because Jesus knew that God had a greater purpose for his life. Jesus never got sidelined by other people’s problems and control issues. Here are several examples of times when he was rejected;
1) Jesus faced rejection from his own family. John 7:3-5 reveals that Jesus’ own brothers wanted him to reveal who he really was, but he said his time had not come. And so they rejected and did not believe in him. Also in Mark 3:20-21 Jesus went to a home but a crowd gathered and they were unable to eat. When his family heard they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind!”
2) Jesus would eventually face rejection from the other Jews in Jerusalem. They refused to call him ‘The King of the Jews’ and said ‘their only king was Caesar’.
3) Jesus faced rejection from his own followers. Judas betrayed him. All of the disciple’s abandoned him and Peter denied him 3 times.
4) Jesus was offered up with Barabbas, a thief and murderer. His own people chose Barabbas instead of him. Funny, Jesus was accepted by his enemies; a Roman soldier, Samaritans, outcasts – even Pilate could find no wrong in him, – yet the Jewish people rejected him; the ones he came to save first!
5) Finally, Jesus was rejected by God on the cross (or at least it appeared that way).
As he hung on the cross dying, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In truth, I do not think God ever rejected Jesus, I think he simply turned his back on all our sin. But I don’t imagine that is how it felt at the time.
Maybe, in the back of his mind, Jesus was thinking about what God had said to Samuel when the people rejected him. The Israelites went to Samuel and demanded a king ‘to be the judge’ over them. Samuel was crushed but,
In 1 Samuel 8:7 the Lord said, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; ‘it is not you they have rejected’ but the have rejected me as their king.” Again, God was being rejected by his people. They see Jesus – but they do not recognize him as their God. Imagine the pain of the Father in heaven as well as Jesus, who was before them.
In anger and frustration, Jesus could have said, “Enough! Father end this now, destroy them all! They will not learn.” But he does not. One of the most amazing things is Jesus never loses his focus for his mission. In the face of rejection, he offers grace, mercy, hope, love and forgiveness.
“Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing,” he said in Luke 23:34
Jesus wasn’t looking for our approval, he had God’s. Remember what God said at his baptism? “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).
A few thoughts here… We can never avoid rejection. In fact our risk has not decreased, it has only increased. It used to be limited to our ‘one on one’ social interactions. Today, thanks to electronic communication, we can be rejected on dating apps, chat rooms, news posts, texts, Facebook, and all kinds of other social media.
The thing is, we have to put it into perspective. We have to be careful whose approval we seek. And one wise counselor explained, “Always consider the source and the substance.”
Instead of letting every situation get to us, we must do what Jesus told the disciples to do as they traveled from town to town. In Mark 6:11 he said, “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you; shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
Jesus’ ultimate goal was to guide us into a loving relationship with God and one another. He did not come to destroy lives; we do that well enough on our own. He came to save lives. He said in John 10:10, “I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.”
Which brings me to my last and most important point; Jesus will never reject you. When someone else rejects you there will be deep wounds, there’s no denying that. He knows how we feel and he offers us an answer…
Isaiah 53:3-5 reads, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Surely he took up our sicknesses, and he carried our sorrows; yet we considered him stricken by God, struck by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, — and by his wounds we are healed.”
No matter how much rejection we are dealt, the love and grace God gives in return, covers it all. Like him, we can turn to the Father for assurance and find the comfort we seek.
May God guide you, to find in rejection, creative ways, like Jesus, to go the extra mile to serve even those who despise you in this life. As Luke 6:27-28 reminds us, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
That is your assignment… Amen.