We now start to review a new aspect to Jesus’ ministry. Up to this point, the majority of the people have been interested in the healings, the changing of water into wine, feeding of the people, calming the storm and walking on water. As He teaches this new message, people recognise that following Jesus has a real price to pay.
Followers reject Jesus
This was a shocking message – to eat flesh and drink blood seemed cannibalistic. The religious leaders could not tolerate Jesus’ statement because the law forbade drinking blood (Leviticus 17:10-11). Jesus was saying that His life had to become their own. They had to abide in Him daily in order to walk with Him, but they could not accept this concept. Many of Jesus’ followers were offended and decided to leave. Why did His words cause so many to desert Him?
- They may have realised that He wasn’t going to be the conquering Messiah-king they expected.
- He refused to give in to their self-centred requests.
- He emphasised faith, not works.
- His teachings were difficult to understand and some of His words were very offensive.
There is no middle ground with Jesus. When He asked the disciples if they would also leave, He was showing that they could choose to either accept or reject Him. Jesus was not trying to repel people with His teachings. He was simply telling the truth. Peter responded, “Where else can we go?” In his straightforward way, Peter answered for all of us – there is no other way. Jesus alone gives Life.
The more the people heard Jesus’ real message, the more they divided into two camps: the honest seekers who wanted to understand more and those who rejected Jesus because they didn’t like what they heard or get what they wanted.
Today, people look everywhere for eternal life and miss Jesus the only source. We must stay with Him, especially when we are confused or feel alone. As we grow in our faith, we may be tempted to turn away because Jesus’ lessons are hard, or we don’t like Christians. Our response must not be to give up, ignore certain teachings, or reject Christ. We need to ask God to show us what His teachings mean and how they apply to our lives. Then we must have the courage to act upon God’s truth and expect the Holy Spirit to help us.
The religious people reject Jesus
In response to Jesus’ message, some people left; others stayed and truly believed. Some, like Judas, stayed but tried to use Jesus for personal gain. Many today turn away from Christ. Others pretend to follow, going to church for social reasons, physical help or acceptance. But there are only two real responses to Jesus: you either accept Him or reject Him. Decide today why you are following Jesus and choose to be whole-hearted. Like Peter, say: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of Eternal Life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68,69.
His family reject Jesus
Yet again we see Jesus doing the will of His Father as quietly as possible; being discreet, trying hard not to stir up trouble; yet He is being rejected. This time it was His family members who were rejecting Him and giving Him advice about how to run His ministry, even though they did not believe who He was or what He was doing (John 7:5). The Jews did not want to excommunicate Jesus because they were afraid of the people – although they did reject His family and people who chose to follow Him. There was also a small group of people who were looking for the right opportunity to kill Jesus.
Jesus was not put off His job by all this rejection. He did not change His message, neither did He compromise His speech nor modify His behaviour in any way.
Dealing with rejection
FIRSTLY let’s deal with the question: “Could God reject us?”
“Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39.
He never chooses to reject us, (Hebrews 13:5) but rather we choose, while we are on this earth, to reject Him. He has very clearly laid out for us the way of salvation. It is purposely so simple that not one person could possibly miss it. The only way of missing it is by choosing to ignore it (Luke 13:22-30, and Matthew 25:1-13).
If you decide to ignore God’s provision for you (the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross as full payment for your sin), then God has no choice but to reject you when you come before His judgement seat, Matthew 5:22,30; 10:28. You are not covered in the Blood of Jesus Christ and you must remain outside God’s presence for eternity. This is hell: not just that you will die, but that you, an eternally living spirit, will remain separated from God for ever. Imagine being in torment and having the ability to remember over and over again all the opportunities you had to choose salvation. You will be forever out of God’s presence, thinking of reasons why you ignored those opportunities.
As Jesus has already taken every sin, sickness and disease on Himself on the cross, it is sheer lunacy not to accept the free gift of new life. Only then can we walk in the love, peace and joy that God provides for this life. It is vital that this is a “real” decision and not just a religious exercise – a decision of the heart. Then we allow God to take out our hearts of stone and give us hearts of love and obedience (Ezekiel 36:26) and so walk as Jesus did – by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only through Jesus can we have a relationship with Almighty God and, through that intimacy, LIFE.
Rejection comes to us in many different ways
- Parents – through their circumstances or getting caught in the middle.
- Partners – a wrong relationship from the start, another person, failing the test of time.
- Children – deciding they want their freedom and that they know better!
- Jobs – interviewers choosing someone above us; younger people being given promotion ahead of us.
- Church friends – condemning, judging, gossiping, or becoming distant after being very close.
- People – going through changed circumstances; new people coming into their lives and replacing us.
To be rejected by any person is difficult to handle, but God has laid down very specific guidelines for handling it. We tend to see a person who comes against us as our enemy, but this can be a temporary situation if we obey the Word and hold onto the promises of God.
“When a man is trying to please God, God makes even his worst enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7. As Christians, we are commanded to love our enemies, Matthew 5:43-48. This is one of the greatest marks of a transformed life. God has this instruction in both the Old and New Testament (Leviticus 19:18 and John 13:34-35).
God gives us many different ways to put this love into action
- We can help our enemies in a practical way, where the world would react in revenge. We have to give through actions of kindness which are contrary to our natural reactions. However, when we are walking in the Spirit, He will show us what to do and give us the grace to do it, as we respond in obedience, Exodus 23:1-9.
- We must love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). This usually has to be practical before it becomes emotional. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the Cross, but He was obedient out of love, even when we were His enemies (Romans 5:10).
- We must feed our enemies (Romans 12:20; Proverbs 25:21-22). This too needs to be practical through simply helping to provide for our enemies’ daily needs. Our natural reaction tends to be: “But you just don’t know what they have done to me”. Jesus knows exactly the hurt you feel and all the different emotions, yet still He says: “Bless your enemies, pray for them!” (Matthew 5:43-44).
“Father Forgive These People, For They Don’t Know What They Are Doing” (Luke 23:34)
This has got to be the prayer of our heart, just like Jesus. He promises that, when we have problems, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
So, we can call on the ever-present Holy Spirit to release His love and forgiveness to our enemies and watch them become our friends. In this same way, we see Jesus’ brothers turn from being His enemies, to being His ardent followers. (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19. also Paul in Acts 9:3-5)
Never forget: our real enemy is the devil, not people. He is behind every attack against us (Ephesians 6:12)
But our God has defeated him and has given us full armour with which to defend ourselves against him and to overcome him every time (Ephesians 6:13–17).
Now read these:
Luke 6:27-36 “Love your enemies! Do good to them! And don’t be concerned about the fact that they won’t repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great. Truly be acting as sons of God: for He is kind to the ungrateful and to those who are very wicked.” (v.35)
Romans 12:20 “Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be heaping coals of fire on his head.”
1 John 2:1-11 “But whosoever loves his fellow man is ‘walking in the light’ and can see his way without stumbling around in darkness and sin.”
Romans 8:37 “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who Loved us.”
Revelation 12:11 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
Home challenges for Power Up! – No. 12: Nobody loves me!
1. Read the notes “Nobody Loves me!” and describe how you feel about the rejection that Jesus experienced. How would you feel and what would you do if you experienced all that rejection in such a short time, when you had so much love for each person that was doing you wrong?
2. Do you have a personal testimony about rejection that God turned round for your good? Write about it.
3. Do you have a current situation in which you are experiencing rejection and would like prayer support?
4. Is there a situation where you have rejected someone and you need to have the courage to put that right? Do not waste another day!
Read John 7:32-53
5. What did the authorities do to make things much hotter for Jesus? (John 7:32)
6. Put Jesus’ answer into your own words (John 7:33-34)
7. On the last day of the “Feast of Tabernacles”, Jesus told the people what would happen if they believed in Him. What did He say and what did it mean? (John 7:37,38)
8. What time in the future was He looking forward to? (John 7:39)
9. What had to happen before this great event could take place? (John 7:39)
10. What is happening to the attitude of the religious leaders? (John 7:45-49)
a) Who comes to Jesus’ defence? (John 7:50)
b) Does this challenge you to speak up in company where people are speaking badly?
c) Repent of any time you have not spoken up for Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to give you boldness at the next opportunity.
Read John 8:1-11
12. Where did Jesus spend the night after all this rejection? Who with?
13. Where did He go back to for more the next morning? Why do you think He did that? What would you have done in similar circumstances?
14. What was the woman doing and what did the law say about her?
15. Why did the Pharisees do this? (John 8:6)
16. What did Jesus do?
17. What do you think He wrote in the sand? (John 8:6)
18. What did Jesus say to the authorities and all those who were watching? (John 8:7)
19. What happened to the accusers? (John 8:9,10)
20. How do you think the woman felt? What do you think the woman felt about Jesus? Can you use this word in your own situation where the accuser (the devil) keeps reminding you of past sin.
21. Is there any sin where you need to receive the forgiveness of Jesus and get on with life and sin NO MORE?
22. Choose one verse to learn and remind yourself of all the previous memory verses.