By O.C. Birdwell
This study of The Rejected Christ shall be limited to the following: (1) The fact of the rejection of Christ by the Jews, (2) Reasons for such rejection, (3) Reasons for His rejection today by both Jew and Gentile, and (4) What it means to accept Jesus Christ. Either one of these sub-topics could be discussed at length and, on just one, more than our available space be used. Consequently, we shall deal with all just briefly, but as pointedly as possible.
Christ Rejected by the Jews
This rejection came as no surprise to those acquainted with prophecy. Isaiah had said, “He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we esteemed him not” (Isa. 53:3). The eunuch was reading from this chapter of Isaiah when Philip began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus (Acts 8:35). In view of this usage, one must conclude that the rejection statement in the same context refers also to Jesus. One might also go back to Isaiah 6:9-10 and find a prophecy that points to Christ’s rejection. The prophet speaks of some people who would have a “fat” heart, “heavy” ears, and “shut” eyes. If one were careless, it might be reasoned that such rejection was forced and impossible to avoid. Especially is this so in view of the statement of fulfilment of the prophecy in John 12:39. There we read, “He hath blinded their eyes, and he hardened their hearts; Lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and should turn, and I should heal them.” One must remember, however, that often a thing is spoken of as being done by the Lord when he permits it to be done. Matthew records Jesus saying, “Their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed . . .” (Matt. 13:15). Notice that Jesus said “they” closed their eyes. Here are people who received not the love of the truth and were sent a “working of error” (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
The reality of the clear-cut rejection by the Jews is set forth in John 1:11 where it is stated, “He came unto his own and they that were his own received him not.” The footnote in the ASV for the first “his own” in this passage says, “Gr. his own things.” The verse means that he came unto his own creation and even they of his own people rejected him. This brings us to an obvious question that demands an answer.
Why Did the Jews Reject Jesus?
Was there a good reason? Was he just another false Christ? Was he an imposter? If so, they were right. If not, they made the most serious and far reaching mistake that could ever be made. Let it here be clearly shown that when we discuss the rejection by the Jews we do not infer that all Jews rejected him. We are discussing the Jewish nation, the rulers, the people as a whole or body. Many individuals did accept him. The apostles were Jews. All the earliest disciples were Jews. About three thousand Jews were baptized in one day (Acts 2:41). The number multiplied among the Jews (Acts 6:1). But the masses did reject him, along with their rulers. Yet, this rejection could not have been because of a lack of evidence. Even from his birth there was evidence of prophetic fulfilment. At his baptism a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17). He, being manifest in the fulness of God’s power, performed mighty signs and miracles among the people. His miracles were not a farce. The blind were made to see, the lame were made to walk, and the dead were raised. In the presence of this and other evidence of deity, why the rejection?
(1) The rulers had a tradition of resisting the Holy Spirit. Stephen said “ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). He goes on to show that their fathers had killed the prophets who had showed the coming of the “Righteous One” and they were now His betrayers and murderers. They were following in the footsteps of their ungodly forefathers. (2) Jesus was rejected because of the Jew’s desire for an earthly king who would lead people in carnal battle as had David. Jesus did not qualify. He claimed no army. He used no force. He made no plans for a carnal kingdom. He wanted the gospel preached to all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). All people could be in his kingdom. This type kingdom the Jews did not want and would not accept. (3) His lowly birth and humble life caused proud Jews to reject him. He was born in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, and grew up in lowly Nazareth. To many, he was just “the carpenter’s son.” (4) His unorthodox ways caused consternation to the Jewish rulers. He associated with and ate with publicans and sinners (Luke 15). The self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees would have nothing to do with such action. Yet, Christ’s mission was to seek the lost and get the sinner to repent-an action which was the last interest of the Jewish leaders. (5) He was also rejected because of Jewish envy. They were angered at his teaching and jealous of his following. It is said of Pilate, “For he knew that for envy they had delivered him up (Matt. 27:18). (6) He was rejected because of his crucifixion. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23,24). The cross was too lowly a death for their king. They would not see him as the risen Lord and ascended king. They did not see him as the “lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Of the rejection of Jesus by Jerusalem, one writer has said, “His humility was an offence to their worldliness and pride; His holy character was a rebuke to their sin; His spiritual teaching was a rebuke to their formality; and His life of benevolence was a rebuke to their selfishness and haughtiness” (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 17, p. 56).
Christ’s Rejection Today
The apostle John tells us that Jesus discussed the “bread of life,” and records that he said “he that eateth this bread shall live forever” (Jo. 6:58). The response by many was “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” (v. 60). They murmured, causing Jesus to ask, “Doth this cause you to stumble?” (v. 61). A few verses later, John says, “upon this many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him” (v. 66). These disciples rejected Jesus because of alleged hard sayings. Yet, actually, the sayings were not hard at all. They were viewed as difficult and caused stumbling because of a prejudiced hearing. That these people heard him with no intention of understanding and obeying is clearly shown (see v. 64).
This Biblical account, along with several others that might be cited, shows why some people have rejected Christ. It is quite obvious from these accounts that there are few completely new reasons for his rejection today. Most all may be heaped together under one heading called “unbelief.” While unbelief may come in different forms, any form of it will keep one out of heaven. Even Christians are warned, “lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). Disciples today can turn back and walk no more with him. Believers may become unbelievers. People may be hindered in developing faith. Consider a few of the many such hindrances. (1) Much current educational influence is atheistic and leads to a rejection of Christ. A constant flow of opposition to Christ and His New Testament standard comes through public educational institutions, television programs, social movements, and, yes, even many religious seminaries. The government occasionally gets into the act. (2) Unreasonable interest in material things causes a rejection of Christ. Someone once said that Henry Ford caused more atheists than Ingersoll, Paine, and all other such infidels together. The point was that Ford, by making the automobile available to the ordinary man, motivated practical atheism. Some sort of profession of faith in Christ might be made by such people but actually and practically Jesus is replaced with pleasure and material things. Many “Christians” will readily replace the Sunday evening assembly with a trip to the lake. (3) Christ is rejected because too many see, not the religion of Christ, but a substitute that in no sense resembles the true thing. The New Testament is rejected and the truth of the gospel is not preached by many. Preachers often preach church creeds, human judgment, and the social gospel in general. Such preachers have already rejected Christ and, therefore, cannot lead others to accept Him. (4) As was the case in Jesus’ day, some reject Him because of a determined will not to believe. They are carnally minded and will not change. No evidence is good enough.
What It Means To Accept Christ
When many went back and walked no more with Jesus, he turned to the twelve and asked, “Would ye also go away? (Jo. 6:67). Peter answered, “Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (v. 68). The apostle answered well and his statement still stands true today. Some, however, turn from His words to their own feeling or unto a supposed outward manifestation, or some sort of alleged revelation apart from the New Testament. For years our religious friends have talked about accepting Christ as one’s personal savior. Some brethren now talk about having a personal relationship with the Lord. Such terminology may easily be interpreted to mean that one may have a direct relationship with Jesus apart from, or in addition to, hearing and obeying His teaching. If such a relationship can exist it is unknown to this writer. Accepting Christ does not involve this kind of relationship. It is personal only in that each person must believe and obey. John said, “And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him; . . . (1 Jo. 2:3,4). Evidence of knowing him and accepting him is not a unique feeling or a direct manifestation, but it is keeping his commandments. Fellowship with him comes by walking in the light (1 Jo. 1:7). What is involved in accepting Christ cannot be put in any plainer language than this.
Truth Magazine, XX:21, pp. 11-13
May 20, 1976