Have you ever been involved in something – maybe something you count as of great importance – only to have your involvement ignored or rejected? If you’re the type of person who is concerned enough about others to move beyond meeting your own needs and fulfilling your own desires, than chances are you’ve experienced such rejection in one form or another.
We know Jesus came to bring salvation to Israel and to the world. We know his love for his people was intense. We also know that “his own did not receive him.” That’s an understatement, isn’t it? They not only didn’t receive him, they killed him. You can’t get much more rejected than that.
What do you do when you feel rejected? Well, what did Jesus do?
When things don’t go our way we commonly think there are two options. First, we go on the offensive. If they are going to reject us, then we’ll just reject them! We’ll give them what they deserve. This is a variety of the kind of reasoning we see in “an eye for an eye.”
A second common response is withdrawal. If they don’t want me, if they don’t want my contribution, then I’ll just quit. I’ll just go home. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If we hear people saying, “We don’t want you,” we find it natural to oblige them.
Which of these two strategies did Jesus use? When he was arrested, did he put up a stout defense – either verbally or physically? When they started to scourge him or later crucify him, did he respond in kind? Not at all. How about withdrawal? When people rejected his teaching, argued with him, and accused him of doing the work of the devil, did he withdraw? Did he just give up on them and go away. No, he didn’t do that either. So what did he do?
Jesus’ starting point was that he knew who he was. His identity was not based on what he did – or how people responded to what he did – but on who he was. He lived continually in a love relationship with the Father. He knew that no matter what happened, the Father loved him and he loved the Father.
At the same time, Jesus did what he did not primarily to produce a response form the people to whom he was sent, but out of love to the Father. Whether his audience responded favorably or not, his calling was to love the Father. This eternal love relationship with the Father formed the context of Jesus’ actions. This relationship relativized everything else. “The people reject me? Yep. But the Father accepts me!”
Because of Jesus’ security in the Father, he was able to “sit back and take it” when his own people rejected him. It was this security that enabled him to say – from his heart – “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” After his death and resurrection, some of the very people who were actively involved in crucifying Jesus came to faith in him. God worked through their rejection to bring about something greater – something unimaginable beforehand.
Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and follow him. His invitation is the voice of love. He loves us, so he invites us to be involved in what he is doing. We can have security in his acceptance of us regardless of what anyone else may say or do. And if the New Testament is correct, we will face rejection, discomfort, frustration and pain. As followers of Jesus, he gifts us with the Holy Spirit to enable us to respond to all this the same way he himself responded to rejection, desertion, arrest and crucifixion.
So why bother? Because we are followers of Jesus, what is important to him is important to us. What breaks his heart, breaks our hearts. It’s that dangerous thing called love. Though painful, love is always the right thing to do.