Easter 4) The Rejected King

The Rejected King

 

Introduction

Our theme for this Easter is the Kingship of Christ. In our first sermon in this series we looked at how Jesus steps out of the shadows and makes a very conscious and deliberate decision to enter into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9. But Jesus doesn’t just leave people to conclude who he is by some obscure re-enactment of an equally obscure Old Testament prophecy. Instead Jesus comes right out and says it. When Jesus is dragged before the High-priest he asks him straight out, ‘63 …Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God. (Mt 26:63c)’ to which Jesus replies, ‘64 Yes, it is as you say… (Mt 26:64a)’ According to Mark the high priest asked, ‘61 …Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? (Mk 14:61b)’ to which Jesus replied ‘62 I am… (Mk 14:62a)’ According to Luke the religious leaders tell the Roman Governor Pilate that Jesus ‘2 …claims to be Christ, a king. (Lk 23:2b)’ And when Pilate asks if he is the king of the Jews, Jesus replies, ‘3 …Yes, it is as you say… (Lk 23:3b)’ Jesus comes out and proclaims to the most powerful people he could possibly find that he is indeed the Christ, or the Messiah, God’s Promised King.

But if Jesus is the king then he is a king like no other. Firstly we saw him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and we looked at how Jesus’ kingship is defined by gentleness, and how as followers of the king we are called to be gentle people. Secondly, we looked at how Jesus identified himself with the Passover Lamb, how he was a king who had come to sacrifice his life, so that God would pass over our sin. Last week Jeremy showed us how as our King Jesus submitted himself to the will of his Heavenly Father, and how we are to submit ourselves to Christ as our King. Today I want to look at how our King faced rejection. Jesus is the rejected king.

 

1) Jesus knew he would be rejected

And first, I think it’s important to establish that Jesus knew he would be rejected. He wasn’t surprised by this development in his ministry.

a) Prophesied in the OT

Jesus knew he would be rejected because God had made it crystal clear in the Old Testament that the Messiah, or the Christ, would be rejected. In Psalm 118 it says, ‘22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. (Ps 118:22)’ Originally, the ‘stone’ in this Psalm probably referred to the rebuilding of the Temple, and how God took what was once rubble to rebuild his magnificent temple. But over time it came to refer more and more to God’s promised King, the Messiah, or the Christ. We saw a few weeks back the crowds shouting ‘9 Hosanna to the Son of David! (Mt 21:9b)’ and ‘9 …Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Mt 21:9c)’ both of which come from this Psalm. By the time of Jesus there was no doubt that it was the Messiah who would save God’s people, and that it was the Messiah who was the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord. But what many of them didn’t understand was that the Messiah was also the stone that would be rejected. Jesus however understood that connection. After his triumphant entry into Jerusalem Jesus goes into the Temple and he tells the people a parable about some tenants who kill the son of the landowner, and he says, ‘42 …Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone...’ (Mt 21:42a cf. Mk 12:10’ Lk 20:17)’ The parable is about Jesus. Jesus is the stone who will be rejected, he is the son who will be killed. Another Old Testament example is Isaiah 53, where we read that God’s servant is, ‘3 …despised and rejected by men… (Is 53:3a)’ Jesus even knew that his own disciples would desert him, and he quotes Zechariah, ‘31 …I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. (Mt 26:31; Zech 13:7)’ Jesus knew that God’s Anointed One would be rejected. In fact in Mark’s gospel Jesus talks about how in the Old Testament, ‘12 …[it is] written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected. (Mk 9:12b)’

b) Foretold by Jesus

In fact, Jesus foretells it himself. Earlier in Mark’s gospel we read, ‘31 [Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law… (Mk 8:31a)’ And it’s interesting to note the context there. Peter had just confessed that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus immediately makes it clear that the Christ will be rejected, that he will be rejected. Matthew, Mark and Luke, all record Jesus telling this truth twice to his disciples (Mt 17:22; 20:18; Mk 8:31; 9:12; Lk 9:22; 17:25). And Luke includes Jesus after his resurrection proving it from the Old Testament to his disciples, not just once, but on two occasions (Lk 24:26-27; 45-46). Jesus wanted his disciples to know that he would be rejected, that it was God’s plan that the Christ would be rejected.

 

2) By whom was Jesus rejected?

But who did the rejecting? Who was it that rejected Jesus as the King? Well the simple answer is everyone. Just about everyone rejects Jesus in his final week leading up to his crucifixion. But as we look at who specifically rejected Jesus, I want to start with those furthest from him and work inwards to those closest to him. And at the same time as we work inwards I want you to see how the pain of that rejection became more and more significant. 

a) Jesus was rejected by the world

Firstly, Jesus was rejected by the world. The Apostle John talks about this in a very general way. John talks about how Jesus came into the world and he says, ‘10 …though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (Jn 1:10b-11)’ What John is saying is that the world rejected Jesus. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, even though he was God in the flesh, even though he was the One who made the world, the world didn’t recognize him, they didn’t receive him as their King, as the Christ. Paul puts it like this, ‘4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4)’ Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the King, God’s Anointed One, but the world just can’t see it, the world rejected him then and still rejects him today.

But we also see the world rejecting Christ, not in some general sense, but specifically through the secular powers of the day. Pilate, the Roman Governor, gave into the demands of the people and handed Jesus over to be crucified (Mt 27:24). Herod, the Roman appointed King of Judea, ridiculed and mocked Jesus (Lk 23:11). And the Roman guards did the same (Mt 27:27-31). And we see the same today as our government rejects Jesus and his teachings. The world is blind to the truth that Jesus is God’s Son, the King of kings. The world then and the world today rejects Jesus as their king.

b) Jesus was rejected by God’s people (Acts 14:2; 19:9)

But maybe even more disturbing is the fact that Jesus was rejected by God’s people. Jesus’ own people were blind to who he was. The very crowds who welcomed him as the King when he rode into Jerusalem a week earlier are the ones who cry ‘21 …Crucify him! Crucify him! (Lk 23:21b)’ a few days later. And that didn’t change much after Jesus’ resurrection either. Matthew tells us that even after he rose from the dead, still ‘17 …some doubted. (Mt 28:17b)’ And even in Paul’s ministry Luke tells us about ‘2 …Jews who refused to believe… (Acts 14:2a)’ and not only refused to believe but who ‘9 …publicly maligned the Way. (Act 19:9b)’ In fact, Paul says to God’s people, ‘46 … Since you reject [the gospel] and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. (Act 13:46)’ And even today many of the Jews reject Jesus as the Christ. They are still looking for the Messiah, but they refuse to accept that he has already come in the person of Jesus.

c) Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders (Acts 3:13)

But even more disturbing than being rejected by the world and by his own people, Jesus is rejected by the religious leaders. Jesus foretold that he would be, ‘31 …rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law… (Mk 8:31b)’ and that’s exactly what happened. Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the Promised King of Zechariah 9 and he sits in the Temple and teaches about the coming of God’s Kingdom, and how do the religious leaders react? Matthew says, ‘3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest… 4 and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. (Mt 26:3-4)’ Those who should have recognized Jesus for who he was instead plot to kill him. More than all the others the rejection of the religious leaders cut deep. The leaders of God’s people rejected Jesus as the Christ.

d) Jesus was rejected by his own disciples

But even more painful was the rejection of Jesus’ own disciples. Matthew tells us that when Jesus needed his disciples the most they deserted him (Mt 26:56). And it was one of his own disciples, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him, with a kiss of all things (Mt 26:47-49). And even one of his closest disciples, Peter, denies him, not once but three times. ‘I’m not one of his disciples, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know the man. (Mt 26:69-75)’ Could you imagine how much that must have cut Jesus’ heart. The people who knew him the best rejected him. The very one who only weeks earlier had confessed, ‘16 …You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Mt 16:16)’ now denies even knowing him. And in a moment we’re going to look at how even today so often as Jesus’ followers we too deny him, we too reject him.

e) Jesus was rejected by his Heavenly Father (Mt 27:46)

But before we do that, Jesus faces one more rejection, the biggest and deepest of all. Everyone has deserted him, the world that he made, the people that he had chosen to be his own, the leaders that he had appointed to guide his people, even his own disciples. Everyone has abandoned him as he hangs on the cross, you wouldn’t think it could get any worse. But it does. As Jesus hangs on the cross, he cries, ‘46 …“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46)’ Jesus is even rejected by his own Father. The very one who said, ‘17 …This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Mt 3:17b)’ now turns his face away. And we know that God rejects his Son, not because he doesn’t recognize who he is, but because he now bears the sin of God’s people. God pours out his wrath on Jesus, not because Jesus has done anything wrong, but because Jesus chose to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin. Jesus knows all this, he knew this was the cup that he had to drink. But I don’t think we could ever imagine what it must have felt like for Jesus to be rejected by God. The Bible calls it hell. At that moment Jesus experienced hell. At that moment Jesus felt what it was like to be rejected by God.

Application: Jesus identifies with us in our rejection

I’m going to unpack what Jesus’ rejection means for us in a moment, but first I just want to say that if you’ve ever been rejected Jesus knows how you feel. Jesus identifies with us when we face rejection. Jesus knows what it feels like to be rejected by the world, to be rejected by your own people, by your family, even by your closest friends. And the Bible says, that because Jesus suffered he is able to sympathize with us in our suffering, and what’s more he is able to help us in our suffering (Heb 2:18). Elsewhere the Bible talks about how Jesus comforts us and encourages us through the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:3-5; Phil 2:1). In fact for those who put their faith in Jesus, he promises to always be there for us. Unlike others, Jesus will never reject those who trust in him. I want to encourage you this morning: If you feel rejected by others, then turn to Jesus, because he is faithful, he will never reject you.

 

3) What does Jesus’ rejection mean for us?

So what does Jesus’ rejection mean for us this morning?

a) We can have confidence in God’s plan

Firstly, it doesn’t mean that Jesus failed, or that his ministry was unsuccessful. In fact, it means the very opposite. Jesus’ rejection was part of God’s plan. Jesus had to be rejected by the world, and even by God’s people so that he could become the sacrifice for our sins. As Isaiah writes, not only was ‘3 He was despised and rejected by men… 4 [but] he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…5 …he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities… and by his wounds we are healed. (Isa 53:3a,4-5)’ Jesus was punished for our sin, so that we wouldn’t be. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath so that we don’t have to. Jesus was rejected by God so that through faith in him we wouldn’t be rejected by God. Rather than proving that he wasn’t the Messiah, his rejection proves that he was, that he was the King who had come to rescue his people, not from Roman oppression, but from their sins. He was the King who came, not to set up an earthly kingdom, but to set up God’s kingdom, a spiritual kingdom. In fact, Jesus said to Pilate, ‘36 …My kingdom is not of this world. (Jn 18:36a)’ Despite the fact that Jesus was rejected we can be confident in God’s plan.

b) We can expect to be rejected also

Secondly, just as Jesus was rejected we can expect to be rejected also. Jesus said, ‘22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (Lk 6:22)’ And later he says, ‘20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (Jn 15:20)’ In fact, Paul says, ‘12 …everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim 3:12)’ The truth is: if the world rejects Jesus they will reject us as well. So don’t be surprised if people don’t understand where you’re coming from, or if they don’t share your values. As a follower of Christ the King, be prepared to face rejection.

c) We are called to warn others about rejecting Jesus

Thirdly, we are called to warn people about the cost of rejecting Jesus. Firstly, there’s two ways we can reject Jesus.

i) We reject Jesus when we deny that he is the Christ

The first way people reject Jesus is by denying that he is the Christ. The Apostle John talks about ‘22 …the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist… (1 Jn 2:22)’ And Jude talks about those who ‘4 …deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jd 4)’ In rejecting Jesus as the Christ, we reject Jesus. Rejecting the truth about Jesus is the same as rejecting him. And that’s what so many people still do today in our world. They refuse to believe that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, that he is the second person of the Trinity. The world still rejects Jesus.

ii) We reject Jesus by our lifestyle

But the second way we reject Jesus is by our lifestyle. Paul writes about certain people who ‘16 …claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. (Tit 1:16a)’ If we say Jesus is our King then we ought to show it by our behaviour. One of my favourite quotes is ‘What an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.’ How we live matters. When we call ourselves Christians our behaviour reflects on Christ. Thankfully, we aren’t saved by how Christ-like we are, but we need to be careful that we don’t deny Jesus by our lifestyle. Even as Christians we can reject Jesus! Just two quick examples.

Firstly, when we treat the Church as an optional extra, we are in a sense rejecting Jesus. The Bible says the Church is Jesus’ body and that Jesus loved the church so much he died for it (Eph 5:22-27). And yet we don’t love the church, we don’t lay down our lives for the church. We don’t care about it like Jesus does. We reject Jesus when we give up on his body.

Secondly, we reject Jesus when we sin. Paul says, ‘3 It is God’s will that you should be holy… and avoid sexual immorality. (1 Thess 4:3)’ And then he says, ‘8 he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God. (1 Thess 4:8)’ We reject Jesus by choosing to follow our own desires instead of following Jesus. We need to repent of rejecting Jesus in our attitudes and behaviours.

iii) The rejection of Jesus leads to hell

Because the danger in denying Jesus is that in doing so we reject his salvation. The scary truth about rejecting Jesus is the reality of being rejected by God, what the Bible describes as hell. Jesus says, ‘16 …he who rejects me rejects him who sent me. (Lk 10:16b)’ In rejecting Jesus we reject God. And again Jesus says ‘36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. (Jn 3:36)’ That’s the danger in rejecting Jesus, because Jesus is the only way to be reconciled with God. Jesus is the only way to deal with our sin. Jesus is the only way to appease God’s wrath. Jesus is the only way to be rescued from hell. In rejecting Jesus we reject God’s redeeming grace, we reject God’s plan to save us from our sin. That’s the message that we need to share with the world. Jesus was rejected so that we would be accepted by God, so whatever you do, don’t reject Jesus, don’t reject him as the Christ, don’t reject him by your lifestyle.

 

As we get closer to Easter we can’t escape the fact that Jesus was rejected, that he was rejected by the world, by his own people and their leaders, even by his own disciples, even by his heavenly Father, but he was rejected according to God’s plan, and he was rejected in order that we may be saved. This morning I want to ask you if you are willing to be rejected for his sake? Are you willing to be rejected by the world because in Christ’s rejection you now belong to God? And are you willing to warn others about the cost of rejecting Jesus Christ? Are you willing to share the Good News with others that through faith in Christ’s rejection they can be saved from their sins and receive eternal life? This Easter we remember that Jesus is a king like no other, that he was rejected in order that we might be reconciled with God. Amen.

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