I think as Christians we often look back at the rejection of Jesus by the religious rulers and people of the time and shake our heads in disbelief. How could they have done that? Were they crazy? They had the Son of God right there in front of them and they not only rejected him, they had him killed.
But if he had come today, with our present “Christian system” would we be any different? Would we embrace him…or cast him out?
Sure, if he showed up, we would be all excited at first; but once Jesus began to speak, disrupting our very notions of God, tradition, culture, and morality, I rather suspect we would reject him in much the same way as our brothers and sisters did 2000 years ago.
So here are 5 reasons Jesus was rejected…and would probably be rejected again!
1) Jesus didn’t always side with the Bible
Jesus valued the scriptures, quoted them often, and even began his ministry by publicly reading from the Book of Isaiah…
he was not a Bible literalist.
Jesus would often would give an interpretation quite at odds with the religious understanding of the day, and that didn’t go over so well. Whether it was on issues of the Sabbath, ceremonial cleansing, sacrifice, or morality Jesus would often say, “The Bible says this but I am telling you that…
Jesus arriving today would find the “way” we often use the Bible at odds with his Way. As he did 2000 years ago he would teach us his “Way” to correct our “way” and many would, in turn, reject the Living Word for the written word.
2) Jesus embraced the “outcast”
Jesus was constantly raising eyebrows by the company he tended to keep. The poor, the disenfranchised, the ones who were not benefitting from “the system” were the ones Christ was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was made for. The religious establishment were aggravated with his constant siding with the people they themselves wanted to have nothing to do with.
Systems, whether religious, economic, or cultural, sustain themselves by having a clear delineation line between “us” and “them”. Jesus was regularly going to “them” (Gentiles, Samaritans, and ”law” breakers) and saying they were now part of “us”.
And are we any different in the modern church? What if Jesus had encounters today that mirrored the encounters that infuriated religious folk 2000 years ago
How would we feel about Jesus:
* having dinner with politicians (right wing or left wing) that we despise? (Luke 19)
* happily receiving a homemade cake from a gay baker (Luke 7:36-40)
* seeking out and affirming a man who had been kicked out of a church (John 9: 34-37)
Although we like to assume we would react differently, I rather think we would largely remain judgemental and convinced Jesus was hanging out with the “wrong” sort.
3) Jesus wasn’t what they were hoping for
Everyone is a little guilty of creating God in their own image. We want him to behave in a certain way; affirming what we affirm and rejecting what we reject.
We all do it to greater or lesser degrees and I stand guilty of it as well.
The people of Israel in Christ’s time were no different. They wanted the promised Messiah…but they wanted him on their terms. In their minds the Messiah was going to champion the Jewish religion, crush Israel’s enemies, and usher in a lasting rule under Jewish nationalism.
But Jesus, it turned out, was not a good fit for that job description. He instead came championing the Kingdom of Heaven, embracing Israel’s enemies, and promising a lasting rule under Himself and his “Way”.
That didn’t go over so well…
If Christ were to come today we would welcome him with open arms…
…but once he began affirming his “Way” rather than ours I rather suspect we would give him the “left foot of fellowship” just like he received so many years ago.
4) Instead of answering plainly, Jesus told stories.
Jesus was asked a lot of questions…and he gave a lot of cryptic answers. Sometimes it was just because it was a “bad” question. Sometimes it was the malicious intent of the inquisitor, but often it was simply because the Kingdom of God is best explained as a story.
People love stories. Difficult concepts can be better understood with a well told story. So Jesus told stories.
In fact, Jesus avoided getting bogged down in religious arguments and clarifying faith statements by answering theological questions with, “A man had two sons, and he said to the first son…”
This really irritated the religious folk who wanted to know where he stood on certain moral and faith based issues. Presently there is a lot of argument going on within the church on the acceptance of “gay” Christians and whether a person can be “gay” and “Christian”. People on both sides of this issue are certain how Jesus would respond. But if Christ was around today and we asked him to weigh in on this controversial topic asking him to plainly say yes or no I think he would say something like,
“Ok, a business owner had two sons, and he said to the first son…”
And many of us wouldn’t be any more happy today with that response than the folk were 2000 years ago.
5) Jesus was a threat to the temple system
By the time Jesus arrived, the religious system was running like clockwork. There were priests, offerings, worship, and sacrifices and many people had a vested interest and identity rooted in that system.
Then Jesus showed up.
* He disrupted and denounced the commercial elements (Matthew 12:12-13),
* He proclaimed himself to be the temple God would utilize to connect with humankind (John 2:19)
* He abolished the priesthood being the gatekeepers to God by effectively making everyone a priest (1 Peter 2:9)
Today’s church system bears a striking resemblance to the temple system of old. We have temples (church buildings), priests (pastors), a temple tax (tithes), and regular sacrifices (time, money etc.)
Not that all these things are “bad” in and of themselves. I participate in many aspects of this “system” myself. But if Jesus came today, I ask myself often, “how much of this “system” would he disrupt and how many of our vested interests would he overturn?” We’re kidding ourselves if we think he would just remain quiet and endorse our “temple”.
And when he called into question the things we had been taught were essential to our faith would we embrace him…or reject him?
Now thats a good question? And the answer is, “The owner of car dealership had two sons, and he said to the first son…”