Despised and Rejected of Men
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. —Isaiah 53:1-3
Isaiah says that Jesus was despised. Jesus wasn’t merely ignored or disliked. Jesus wasn’t regarded as just a minor irritant—he was hated and despised—strong language—powerful emotions!
When someone is despised they are regarded with contempt and scorn, they are loathed, and regarded as unworthy of interest or concern. When someone is rejected, others refuse to accept or recognize them. They are effectively discarded as useless.
Why was Jesus despised? The answer lies in the determination as to who, specifically, despised him? What specific segment of his culture absolutely despised and rejected him?
• Did his fellow carpenters go ballistic when they heard him preach?
• Did the fisherman all threaten to stop fishing and picket against Jesus?
• What about the prostitutes, were they so alarmed by what they expected—another indignant, “moral majority” preacher and what his teachings might do to their business—that they paid someone to kill him?
• What about soldiers, lepers, farmers, shopkeepers and merchants—what about elderly people—did they despise him?
No, the Bible does not single out any of those groups within society as despising and hating Jesus. Who then? Who absolutely hated and despised Jesus so that they eventually had him killed?
The religious hierarchy hated and despised Jesus! The proud and arrogant religious leaders—who were so impressed by their own obedience and righteousness, so devout in their observances of their holy days and rituals—were scandalized by Jesus.
In John 1:11 we read that he came to his own—he came to the Jewish people—and his own did not receive him. He was the Creator of all humanity, of the universe, and his own created beings rejected and despised him. In John 8:41 the religious leaders called him a bastard—with reference to the fact that Mary was not married when she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
One of the claims to religious fame of the Pharisees was their physical and spiritual origins. They took great pride in who they were, racially and religiously. They believed that their own birth was spiritually pure, and then along came this “illegitimate” Jesus who questioned their religion, their traditions and their ways of doing things. Here’s the background of this nasty accusation, and Jesus’ response:
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” —John 8:41-44
The religious establishment continually attempted to demonize and diminish Jesus by name-calling. The religious authorities called Jesus a hopeless drunkard, and they tried to convince others that Jesus was unable to be a legitimate religious teacher: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'”….—Matthew 11:19
Jesus said that the religious hierarchy of his day called him a devil (Matthew 10:25). When they determined that Jesus profaned their holy Sabbath, and also equated himself with God by calling himself the Son of God, the religious leaders determined that he must be put to death (John 5:18).
When their religion was blasphemed, the leaders of that religious establishment tortured and beat Jesus to such an extreme that his mutilated body was shocking. Here’s what we read about the appearance of Jesus after his religious interrogators brutalized him:
Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness …—Isaiah 52:14.
Following his brutal beating and torture, Jesus was crucified, all caused by the religious rejection of God in the flesh. As it turned out, he was crucified for, among others, those who despised him. What an incredible statement of his love! When Jesus said, from his cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
I think it’s safe to conclude that he was not simply talking to those present at his crucifixion.
He was forgiving people down through time who would despise and reject him. He was forgiving people who, even though they would think that they were doing all of the right religious things, actually despised and rejected his grace.
When God came to us, in the person of Jesus, he came to be one of us—in humility.
That truth alone—that God humbled himself—seems to be blasphemous to many within religion. How could God become humble?
God determined that he would enter into the womb of Mary, a teenage girl who was betrothed, but not yet married. Yes, she was married to Joseph when Jesus was born, but she was pregnant with Jesus when she and Joseph married. The circumstances of his birth caused tongues to wag. Why did God do it that way? Why didn’t God the Holy Spirit just wait to impregnate Jesus after Mary and Joseph were married? Of course, God orchestrated things the way he did so that the birth of Jesus was absolutely miraculous—as we call it, the virgin birth.
Jesus, the God-man, chose to be born into a poor, humble family, beginning his mortal life not like Adam and Eve, who were created as full-grown adults—but rather, Jesus started his human life in the weakness and dependence of infancy. He was born in a manger, not in a palace—in a barnyard—not in a sanitized, hygienic, germ-free hospital birthing room. Why did he begin his earthly life as an infant? Why waste all that time as an infant and as a child? Why not come to us as an adult—and then he would have been able to minister for 30 years, instead of just three and one half years? It seems logical to us that he should have “started” his earthly life as an adult, because he could have done more, healed more people, preached more sermons, and maybe, just maybe, been far more effective than he was.
Of course those questions, and others like them, are examples of our humanity speaking—that’s our imperfection—that’s all we know, which of course, apart from God, isn’t much.
The fact is that Jesus lived in this world in poverty and in need for 30 years—he spent 30 years as an unknown, insignificant nobody.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.—Isaiah 53:2
This verse doesn’t suggest that Jesus was ugly, but it does say that Jesus was ordinary looking. He didn’t turn heads. He was just another Jew. He had no wealth or physical looks that attracted people to him.
This verse says that he was a tender shoot out of dry ground. He came into a spiritual wilderness. Religious legalism had sucked all of the spiritual vitality out of that time, that place and that culture. People were, spiritually speaking, zombies. By and large they had no relationship with God—institutionalized religid had seen to that.
• If Jesus had come as a health-and wealth-preacher, then people would have followed him, hoping to improve their physical status in life. He wouldn’t have been despised and rejected—he would have been celebrated.
• If Jesus had come predicting the end time, holding huge prophecy crusades, writing a string of best-selling “left behind” novels, then he would have sold out amphitheaters and stadiums. He wouldn’t have been despised and rejected—he would have been a best-selling author and speaker.
• If Jesus had come with a healing crusade, thewn he would have attracted far more of those desperately in need of physical healing. He wouldn’t have been despised and rejected—he would have been worshipped and revered as a healer.
• If Jesus had come as royalty, then people would have followed Jesus because of his power, his military and his political influence. He wouldn’t have been despised and rejected—he would have been treated like the king he actually was and is.
• If Jesus had been of striking physical appearance, he would have been followed simply because of his appearance. He wouldn’t have been despised and rejected—he would have been treated like a human god of Hollywood— like the Creator God he actually was and is.
• If Jesus had been physically rich, he would have been followed because people would have wanted to get some of his wealth. He wouldn’t have been despised and rejected if he made people wealthy, but Jesus chose to make us spiritually rich, and for that, he was despised and rejected (see 2 Corinthians 8:9).
Imagine that you were invited to a dinner, a high school reunion, a banquet or a wedding, and you knew ahead of time that when you arrived you would be treated rudely. You knew ahead of time that the hosts and the guests would make fun of you, then after that they would physically beat you up, and then torture you and finally execute you. You wouldn’t attend the party if you knew, ahead of time, that you would receive that kind of treatment, would you?
God knew exactly how he would be treated—he knew that he would be despised and rejected—but he came anyway. He knew ahead of time that he would be despised and rejected, because one of the prophecies he came to fulfill was the one he inspired Isaiah to write—He was despised and rejected by mankind… (Isaiah 53:3). He came into our world and into our lives fully aware of the hatred, rejection, and ultimately torture and crucifixion to which he would be subjected.
God knew that Christ-less religion is unforgiving. God knew that life on earth would not be easy for a child born into a society saturated and permeated with religious legalism. God knew that life on earth would not be easy for a child whose “illegitimacy” would offend established religious values. This is the greatest love story of all time. There is no greater love, no greater romance, no greater sacrifice.
He came anyway. He came so that we might be given a new birth, a new life—he willingly accepted being despised and rejected so that we might be rescued from the slavery of religious oppression. He brought the kingdom of heaven to a place of scorn and corruption so that we might rise out of the swamp of religious captivity, rising with him from death to eternal life in his kingdom. He came so that we could be spiritually transformed and reborn.
As that majestic hymn “Amazing Grace” tells us, God comes to you and me with unconditional, no-matter-what love. He comes to you and me with his in-spite-of love, with his amazing grace for a wretch like you and me. We were once lost and blind, but we are now found and we now see.