Not What Religion Expects – Greg Albrecht
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 53:3
Jesus was not just ignored nor was he merely disliked. He wasn’t simply a minor irritant—he was despised and rejected. Strong language—powerful emotions!
When someone is despised they are regarded with contempt and scorn, they are hated and loathed, and regarded as unworthy of interest or concern.
When someone is rejected, others refuse to accept or recognize them. A person who is rejected is effectively discarded as useless.
Who, specifically, despised and rejected Jesus?
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 his teaching 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 detested Jesus so much that they eventually had him killed?
The religious hierarchy and authorities hated and despised Jesus! The proud and arrogant religious leaders— so impressed by their obedience and righteousness, so devout in their holy days and ritual observances—were scandalized by Jesus.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. —John 1:10-11
ILLEGITIMATE SON & DRUNKEN HERETIC
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 fame of the religious establishment of Jesus’ day was their origins. They took great pride in who they thought they were, racially and religiously. They believed their own press releases. They believed that their own birth was spiritually pure. Then along came this “illegitimate” Jesus who questioned their religion, their traditions and their ways of doing things.
Jesus told the religious authorities they claimed Abraham, the patriarch of faith, as their spiritual father, but they were looking for a way to kill Jesus, something Abraham would not do. They responded by calling attention to Jesus’ questionable birth, calling him a bastard.
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” —John 8:41
On another occasion the religious authorities called Jesus a hopeless drunkard, for if they could convince others that he was perpetually intoxicated, he would be unable to be a legitimate religious teacher (Matthew 11:19).
When Jesus profaned their holy sabbath and equated himself with God the Father by calling himself the Son of God, they determined Jesus must be put to death (John 5:18).
Big business religion in Jesus’ day seems to have exhausted every hateful emotion and run out of every vicious, repulsive accusation it could direct at him.
BEATEN BEYOND RECOGNITION
When their religion was blasphemed, the leaders of that religious establishment tortured and beat Jesus to such an extreme that his disfigurement was shocking.
… his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness. —Isaiah 52:14
His crucifixion followed a brutal beating and torture—all caused by the religious rejection of God in the flesh. As it turned out, he was crucified for, among others, those who despised and rejected him. That’s an incredible commentary on the love of God!
When Jesus said, from his cross, “Father, forgive them, for they have no idea about what they are really doing” (Luke 23:34), it’s fair to conclude that he was not only 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.
Jesus of course has not changed. The gospel of our risen Lord is the same, 2000 years later. He has not adapted or modified the love, mercy and grace of God.
But the question we must ask is this: Has big business religion changed over the past 2000 years? Is institutionalized Christendom in complete harmony with Jesus today? Does anyone today, while claiming to love and obey God, actually despise and reject Jesus?
WHY? WHY? WHY?
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. Why would God become humble? By and large, religion rejects humility in its god(s).
When the Lamb was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8), God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—determined that God the Son would enter into the womb of Mary, a teenage girl who was betrothed, but not yet married. Mary was told that God the Holy Spirit would impregnate her (overshadow—Luke 1:35) her. She was married to Joseph when Jesus was born, but she was pregnant with Jesus when she and Joseph married.
The nature of his birth caused tongues to wag. Why did God do it that way?