Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Anguish of Rejection

Rejection is a powerful experience. It can devastate an individual. Everyone experiences it. It can injure a person so deeply that the person never fully recovers. Some people are changed by the experience for the rest of their lives, being influenced by the experience in all of their future relationships.

Reaction to rejection can produce resentment and anger, even rage and terrifying wrath. This can be internalized and directed against onself by the injured person. It also can be directed outward toward others.

Rejection also results in lost opportunities for both the rejected and for the rejecting party. Sometimes these lost opportunities can never be recovered. Other times, they can.

During this season of Holy Week, rejection is a major theme. While we tend to presume mistakenly that we are being rejected, the reverse is actually true. It is the Lord Jesus who faces rejection.

I often wonder how it was possible for Him to live the life that He came to live. From the day of His birth He knew what was awaiting Him at the conclusion of this week. Every day of His childhood, throughout every day of His young manhood, with each step of His journey throughout His ministry, He knew exactly what awaited Him.

He knew that the very reason for His birth would be rejected by everyone. Even Simon Peter rejected it and had to be chastised as Satanic in his thinking. Even His mother, Mary, did not really understand or accept who Jesus was. She demonstrated this when He was twelve, and at various times throughout His ministry as well.

Jesus knew that He would take the sin of world to save the world and that He would be rejected and even hated by the world, including those who falsely imagined themselves to be truly godly. Yet His reaction was never one of rage or spite or hatred. His anger was only displayed concerning the evil that was done. He never responded to the rejection as we would and do.

The ultimate display of this is when He cries out from the cross that the Father should forgive those who rejected Him and murdered Him. But it is also powerfully displayed during Holy Week as He preaches and says:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matthew 23:37-39)

Amazingly, He makes this statement after the events of Palm Sunday. The people cried out with the very words of which He speaks. But did they receive Him for what these words really mean? Did they truly receive Him as the One coming in the name of the Lord? No. Even as they cried out, they rejected Him. For He was not at all who they were seeking. They proved this on Friday.

Jesus came to town exactly as the Scriptures foretold. He came lowly and riding on an ass. Lowly means more than of low estate. It means that He came in gentleness and compassion. He came with the purpose of facing rejection from those whom He came to save.

Even knowing their falseness and treachery, knowing fully how they were rejecting Him and that which He came to accomplish, still He came in meekness and filled with compassion. This was His people, His city, His temple. He loved them. He called to them for centuries, through the prophets. He begged them to come to Him to receive the goodness that He came to bring. But they rejected Him. Time and time again they rejected Him for their own ideas concerning the kingdom of God. And now that He came to them in the flesh, still they rejected Him. His response? He lamented over them. He wept concerning them. He cried out with yet another compassionate warning.

Luke’s account seems to indicate that He made nearly this same lament earlier, even before Palm Sunday. Only in the earlier statement, He did not make the henceforth statement that indicates the blessed event of Pentecost and the few who would then believe and those few who would hear and believe throughout the centuries until the Last Day.

Amazingly, He did not demonstrate anger, only compassion. His compassion led Him to the garden that Thursday evening, where He would be betrayed by Judas and arrested by the soldiers of the temple guard. His compassion led Him to take our blame in silence and to suffer our punishment even unto the death of the cross. His compassion moved Him to take the sin of the entire world, knowing that most would reject His grace and die apart from His communion. Nevertheless, from the cross, He cried out with that great merciful cry, “It is finished!”

The redemption is complete. The declaration of righteousness and freedom from sin has sounded forth. No sin-guilt remains for anyone. And yet billions continue to reject this marvelous declaration. The Lord decreed it in Genesis 3. He has been sending His prophets to proclaim it ever since. He sent His Spirit at Pentecost to confirm it. He established His Church wherein the communion created by this declaration is made to belong to all who are baptized and continue in the faith that the Holy Spirit bestows.

Today the Lord Jesus still cries out: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” Only today His Jerusalem is not contained within walls nor is it limited to a specific location. With His death, resurrection, and ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the walls were extended to the very ends of the earth. Now Jerusalem is wherever His saints are gathered to His means of grace. Jerusalem is now every city where the Church is gathered by the Holy Spirit.

And yet Jesus still laments over the rejection of who He really is. He still calls out to those who imagine themselves to be Christians, begging them to receive Him for who He really is rather than defining Him according to their own thoughts and their own terms. And His compassion is as great today as it was during Holy Week as He prepared to give Himself into death for the sin of the world. He is no less willing and no less desirous to have all come to Him through the ordained means to receive Him as the One coming in the name of the Lord.

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, the night in which the Lord Jesus instituted His Church of the New Testament in His blood. Surely this is a time when we will want to reflect upon His words and to hear His call to be gathered by Him as He says. Surely we will desire to hear again the means by which He says that forgiveness and life are made to be ours. Surely we will want to hear again how He says the Church is gathered to be His Holy Communion of Saints. Surely we will want to hear again how He says that He comes to us and is truly received as the One coming in the name of the Lord.

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1 comment:

bodylift said...

You are right Paul. Rejection is given so much pain. It is unforgettable experience for lifetime. But a person who get rejection should learn a new lesson of life. I understand how painful condition that is, but from there we should not underestimate our strength.