“The Pain of Rejection”
Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning
Calvary Baptist Church
March 17, 2019
This is one of the saddest scriptures in the New Testament. In the final months of Jesus’ ministry, he realized he was not going to accomplish all he wanted to do for the people he dearly loved. Resistance to his words, work and very presence was growing stronger and broader every week.
Many of the religious leaders who should have welcomed Jesus with open arms rejected him. They refused to accept what he taught. They found fault with the way Jesus healed people and openly criticized him for disregarding their sacred rules and rituals. They set traps for him in public with gotcha questions designed to embarrass and humiliate him. They spread rumors about him to discredit him and undermine his ministry.
Jesus had no choice but to accept the fact he could not win over the scribes and Pharisees and help them to become the leaders God called them to be and the people desperately needed. Their hearts had grown hard, their ears deaf, their eyes blind and their minds closed to the ways God was working through Jesus to teach them and heal a broken world.
As if this were not bad enough, our text reveals Jesus was presented with another challenge. Herod, the ruler of this part of the Roman Empire, placed Jesus on his Most Wanted List, not merely to have him arrested but killed.
To say Jesus’ life was in danger would be an understatement. The people he came to help not only rejected him but wanted to bury him.
As a result, Jesus was not just traveling with his disciples on the road from Galilee to Jerusalem to observe Passover. He was walking down the road from hope to disappointment.
Why did Jesus face such strong opposition during his public ministry? Why were the most influential secular and religious leaders upset with him?
Jesus assumed the role of a prophet during his ministry and spoke truth to power. He laid the blame for many of the world’s problems at the feet of the religious and secular leaders. He held them responsible and accountable and called on them to repent.
He was not timid or shy, especially when it came to pointing out the faults of the religious leaders. He exposed their addiction to power, prestige, attention, money and their lavish lifestyles.
He criticized them for using their power and influence for personal gain. He denounced them for making life harder for those struggling to survive. He called them out for being selfish, greedy, rude, arrogant, insensitive and cruel.
He challenged them to embrace kingdom values and to denounce the world’s priorities by pursuing love over hate, serving over being served, sacrifice over self-indulgence, truth over deception, justice over injustice, inclusion over exclusion, generosity over greed, humility over arrogance, forgiveness over revenge, healing over hurting and peace over violence.
There is no doubt Jesus’ words and work created conflict between him and those who chose to control people rather than serve them. His actions did, too.
He loved the people they shunned, accepted the people they excluded, talked to the people they ignored, healed the people they would not touch, forgave the people they held grudges against, criticized the people they coddled and gave all he had to help the poor instead of taking what little they possessed.
I think you see why the religious leaders and Herod turned on Jesus. His voice had to be silenced and his ministry ended. He was too big a threat to them and the power structure that worked to their benefit.
What was Jesus’ reaction and response to the religious leaders’ rebellion and news of Herod’s threat? He was neither surprised nor intimidated. He called Herod a sly, conniving, deceitful, destructive and self-absorbed fox. Furthermore, he renewed his commitment to the work God sent him to do and continued on his journey to Jerusalem.
He had another response, though. He expressed the longings of his broken heart.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Look, your house is left you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.” (Luke 13:14-15)
Later, upon arriving in Jerusalem and topping the Mount of Olives on Palm Sunday, Jesus would repeat these words, this time with tears in his eyes. The sight of Jerusalem, the pain of rejection and the missed opportunity by his own people to avoid a coming calamity caused Jesus to sob uncontrollably.
How does this story intersect our lives today? There is a variety of ways. Let me offer some for you to consider.
Nothing of great value comes easily. Every dreamer will encounter a variety of struggles in his or her efforts to make their dreams come true. This was true for Jesus, the disciples and the first generations of Christians. It will be no different for us.
All the honorable motives and good intentions dreamers bring to the table don’t take the challenges out of what they are trying to accomplish. There will be no shortage of mountains to scale, valleys to go through or unpaved roads to navigate on the path that leads to a new and better life for all people.
Only the highest level of commitment to a noble cause will keep you and me in the game. If you are unwilling to take risks or to pay a high price for making dreams come true, stay on the sidelines. You won’t make it through the first quarter.
Choose faith over fear when you meet with a resistance that is grounded in selfishness and flows from a deceitful heart. Never give up when someone tries to sabotage your good work. Be as bold, determined, committed and courageous as Jesus was the day he was told Herod wanted to kill him.
“If God is for us, who can be against us,” Paul wrote to the Romans. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
Keep your eyes on God and your mind focused upon your mission. Don’t let your adversaries distract you. They are using fear to manipulate and control you. Rely upon God daily for wisdom, strength, courage, confidence, compassion, determination, will power, patience, stamina, focus, guidance and direction.
Never lose sight of those who are depending upon you to choose faith over fear and remain in the battle. Keep looking at their faces and listening to their stories. Ask God to provide what you need to make their lives better.
No one is closer to God than when he or she is doing what Jesus would do if he were in your shoes. When you choose to be the presence of Christ in a broken and hurting world, you make it possible for God to use you in ways you have never experienced. Be prepared to have some of your closest and most meaningful encounters with God.
Not everyone you love will let you help them. Sometimes the resistance comes from those we know the best and love the most.
Tragically, it can be family members or friends who do not want what you have to offer, even if it is in their best interest. They will not appreciate what you are trying to do on their behalf to keep them from going down a path that leads to death and destruction, which will break your heart as it did Jesus’.
Is there anything more painful than watching someone you love self-destruct? I don’t think so, and I wonder if Jesus might agree. The hardest Jesus cried was while looking at Jerusalem knowing the citizens of this proud city were going to die a cruel death at the hands of the Romans and all these beautiful buildings were going to lie in rubble.
This may be how this story connects with you today. Someone near and dear to you is heading down the wrong road because they are making unwise decisions, and yet, they refuse your efforts to help them make better choices.
How many tears have you shed? How many times have you tried to reach them? How many ways have you tried to reason with them? How many opportunities for a new and better life have you provided someone that have been squandered? How often have your attempts to help them been ignored?
What could I say today that would encourage you? Perhaps it is this.
I think there is a special place in God’s heart for those who weep over others, make sacrifices on their behalf and don’t give up when others walk away. God knows what it is like to be discouraged and heartbroken. He is aware that sorrow is an expression of steadfast and unconditional love.
The same God who helped Jesus remain faithful all the way to the cross will help you persevere. The one portrayed as a hen protecting her chicks or a shepherd willing to search for every lost sheep will empower you to be a good role model and to keep searching for a way to reach the person you are so worried about today.
God knows how hard it is to travel down the road from hope to disappointment. This is why God will take each step with you on this difficult journey, and I encourage you to let God walk with you.
On the other hand, if you are the one who is breaking someone’s heart by heading down the wrong road, God will help you to make tough changes in your life. God loves you unconditionally and will help you turn from your self-destructive ways. God’s forgiveness is real and transformational.
Think twice before you walk away from someone who is honest with you and is trying to help you live a better life. Ask yourself what they know you don’t and what they see you are overlooking.
This morning, will you put down your defenses and lay aside your pride? Will you listen to the people who love you unconditionally and reconsider some of the decisions you are making? Will you turn from the road of disappointment and destruction toward the way of hope and healing?
I pray you will and am confident many others do, too.