Facing Rejection

Mark 6:1-6

Would you agree with me that it’s not fun to be rejected? Maybe we were rejected as teenagers by our peers for not being cool enough. Maybe we’ve been rejected by romantic interests. She said no to giving you her number or no to that second date. Maybe we’ve been rejected by potential employers. You thought you did well in the interview, but then you get that email that says, we regret to inform you that we have decided to go with another candidate, but we encourage you to apply again in the future. So when we were rejected, how do we handle it? Do we take it in stride? Do we get angry or sad? Rejection happens a lot. And the longer that you’ve been living on this earth, the more rejection stories you will probably have. Sometimes we’re rejected by random people, sometimes by people we know. And I would argue that it hurts more to be rejected by people that we know, right? Friends and family. Well, that’s exactly what happened in our appointed reading for today from Mark chapter six. Please stand. We read, Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue and many who heard him were amazed. Where did this man get these things? They asked, what’s this wisdom that has been given him? And what are these remarkable miracles he was performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, a prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives, and in his own home. He cannot do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village, the gospel of the Lord. (audience responds) Maybe seated. (audience responds) This account happened relatively early in Jesus’ ministry when rumors of his ministry started circulating around and the people of Nazareth had heard about some of the things that he was doing, but they didn’t quite understand what it all meant. So then Jesus finally returns to his hometown and the people are surprised, to say the least. Not only is Jesus a great teacher and a great speaker, but he has power. He’s able to do things that only God should be able to do. So they ask, where did he get all these things? Their basic thought is, we know this guy. He comes from a blue-collar family just like us. In the parallel account of Luke, we are told that the crowd initially spoke well of him, but it didn’t last because they became offended. And they weren’t so much offended by what he was doing, but more so by what he was saying to them. What he was saying to them was, I’m the Messiah, the promised savior that everyone has been waiting for. (audience member sneezes) And it’s not so much that they didn’t want a savior, but they just didn’t want Jesus to be their savior. And if that had been you or me, I don’t know that we would have acted any differently. Just imagine if that one neighbor kid who lived down the street from you, the one who would play Little League Baseball with your kids, the one who would come over to play Nintendo sometimes, just imagine if he came back to the neighborhood and was like, all right, guys, I’m the savior, I’m God. I think we would be at least a little bit wary, wouldn’t we? But what if he could prove that he said that he was who he said he was? Will we still doubt? See, not only was Jesus fulfilling all the scriptures of the Old Testament, but he was proving that God had sent him by healing the sick, the demon-possessed, and even raising the dead. Now, the Nazarenes had heard about some of these things and they even saw some of them, but they still doubted. Now, how could he be the Messiah? You see, what they thought the Messiah should be, Jesus didn’t fit that picture. And so Jesus doesn’t perform many miracles in their presence, not because performing them was contingent on them believing him, but because he knew that it wouldn’t be beneficial for their spiritual wellbeing. Again, it’s not that they didn’t want a savior, it’s just that they didn’t want Jesus to be their savior. From their perspective, there was nothing special, there seemed to be nothing special about him growing up. And so Jesus is amazed. He was also preaching a very exclusive message. Salvation is only through me. And that’s good news, but that would mean that the people would have to hear the bad news too. The news that you’re a sinner in need of forgiveness. And by nature, we don’t like to hear that. We don’t like to hear that we’re sinners. What we do like to hear is that we’re good people, that we can please God if we try. And so it is a humbling thing to hear that, no, you can’t please God and you can’t get to heaven by what you do. And you wanna know what also is humbling to hear? It’s the fact that we too reject Jesus from time to time. We reject him whenever we choose sin over godly living, whenever we choose to make ourselves God, accountable to no one. When we do those things, we reject Jesus. But we sometimes also reject Jesus in public ways too, just like Peter the night that Jesus was arrested. Sometimes it’s just not convenient to admit that we’re Christians. Sometimes it’s just easier to go with the flow because we could get ostracized, right? We may be discriminated against, we may be censored, we could be labeled as intolerant bigots. And depending on where you live in the world, you might even be thrown into jail or killed. And so following Jesus isn’t particularly enticing, is it? And we can understand why the world looks down upon us. As it says in 1 Corinthians 1.18, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. This is why each one of us is a walking miracle. The fact that you believe in Jesus is God’s power on display. You see, He brought you from spiritual death to spiritual life through the waters of baptism or through the preaching of the word. And now you believe that through Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death on the cross, that your sins are forgiven, that you are at one with God. You see, we humans, we rejected God in the Garden of Eden and plunged the world into sin. But God did not abandon us. He promised to fix the problem of sin and death. And Jesus fulfilled that promise. You believe that Jesus, the Son of God, willingly submitted Himself to rejection from God the Father at the cross. This is why Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And so because God the Father turned away from His Son at the cross, God is now able to turn back to us with His favor toward us. That is what it means that God’s face is toward us. His favor is upon us. And now because of Jesus, God calls us His sons and daughters. This is what motivates us to stay connected to Jesus. This is what motivates us to not reject Him, whether privately or publicly. We know that we will be rejected on account of Jesus. That’s a promise. But when we are, praise God for it. Because it reminds us that we are not of this world. You see, the people of this world, they cling to it because that’s all they have. But we have something better. When this world is destroyed, they will have nothing left except for eternal destruction. But not so with you. When God creates the new heavens and the new earth, you will be happy that you did not reject Jesus. While those who rejected Him will regret it and weep. No, it’s not fun to be rejected. But it is a blessing. It’s true that we are the world’s rejects. But you are not rejected by God. In fact, He embraces you because of Jesus and He loves you. Believe and receive this truth. Amen.