Ever been rejected? Or laughed at or overlooked or ignored? It is likely you have; it’s part of the human experience. And our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who existed as God in eternity past but left this heavenly glory to become a man and live among us, faced much rejection during his time on earth.
Consider the various groups of people who came face to face with Jesus, only to come away with an incorrect view of his identity.
At the age of 30, Jesus left home to begin his ministry. Eventually Jesus’ family heard of what he was doing and decided it was time to reel him in. Mark records this amazing statement: “they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).
Jesus had 4 half-brothers (see Mark 6:3), yet John tells us that “even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5).
The Bible records two incidents when Jesus visits his hometown of Nazareth. The first time, he preached a sermon in the synagogue that got less than rave reviews from those who knew him from childhood. Jesus’ teaching caused the audience to get so mad at him that they tried to kill him by throwing him off a cliff (Luke 4:13-30).
The second time, the locals were so offended by Jesus that he was dumbfounded by their unbelief and refused to do miracles in Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6)
When the disciples got caught in a storm, they awakened Jesus for help, who was sound asleep. After calming the wind and waves with his voice, the disciples asked, “Who is this?” (Mark 4:41).
The Jewish religious leaders
The Pharisees (the Bible scholars of the day), some of whom traveled all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to check Him out, didn’t know what to think of Jesus’ power, so they came to the conclusion, “He is possessed by the devil” (Mark 3:22).
And when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, these theologians became so upset that they began to plan how to kill Jesus (Mark 3:6). Imagine that!
Thousands encountered Jesus, but few understood who he really was. Ironically, for most of his 3-year ministry, only the forces of evil understood who he was. Repeatedly in the New Testament, demons clearly proclaim their knowledge of the identity of Jesus:
“I know who you are – the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24)
“You are the Son of God.” (Mark 3:11)
“What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7)
Do you see the significance of these encounters in light of Mark 1:1, which contains the concise declaration of the identity of Jesus as both the long-awaited Christ (Messiah) and the Son of God. Mark tells us who Jesus is; then proceeds to show us how so many people didn’t understand the true identity of the God-Man. Most just didn’t get it: his family, his neighbors, the religious professionals, even his disciples – they all missed it. Only the demons understood who he was!
Ever been scorned by loved ones, friends, co-workers, neighbors or so-called “experts”? Take heart — Jesus understands exactly how you feel, for no one deserved so much honor who received so much dishonor. Jesus is able to sympathize with you and help you when faced with unfair and/or incorrect criticism. The apostle John sums it up well – “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).
The ultimate irony of this is that God used the rejection of Jesus to bring about the salvation of sinners. Because the religious leaders hated Jesus and demanded his crucifixion on a trumped-up charge of blasphemy, he was killed on the cross. An innocent Jesus died for a guilty world, satisfying the justice of a holy God who demands punishment of our sin.
Only God can turn humanity’s greatest act of injustice into the most incredible display of love, grace and mercy. And for this we are eternally grateful.