REJECTED OF MEN
He was rejected. He could find no supporters for His cause. No one took His side. Men forsook Him. They left Him alone. They condemned His cause, and left Him alone. The prophet says that He was rejected of men. The emphasis of this word probably falls on men that were outstanding among the people. Men of position and of authority, the leaders of the people, those that were supposed to know what they were about, princes, kings, governors, theologians, scribes and Pharisees, men who were honoured for their wisdom and discretion, their piety and religion – they rejected Him. Nevertheless, although there may be a special reference to men of eminent position and authority in this term, it refers, in general, to
all men. The leaders took the initiative, but the people followed, and all rejected Him. And the prophet even seems to include himself and his own people, for he repeats: “he was despised”, and then adds: “and we esteemed him not”. O, it was not only the rabble of men, those that were of no account, that despised and rejected this Servant of the Lord, but men, mere men as they are found everywhere in this world, men, exactly in their capacity and character as men that filled Him with contempt, and hid their faces from Him.
Let us make no mistake about this: men rejected Him! Let us not read this prophecy of Isaiah as a mere prediction of an event that was realized some eight hundred years later when wicked Jews and ungodly heathens nailed Jesus of Nazareth to the accursed tree, but that does not necessarily concern us, modern men, the church and the world of the twentieth century. For then we miss the point. Then we look upon this prophecy as outsiders, as students of theology, or of ethics. Then we probably make an attempt to solve the problem how, more than nineteen centuries ago, men could ever despise and reject such a wonderful man as Jesus, and from the heights of our conceit we look down on the men that crucified Him, and we feel rather secure in our self-righteous condemnation of them. Then we are quite ready to enjoy an evening of mingled aesthetic and religious emotions aroused by the rendering of Handel’s Messiah, and to be rather pleased with our own, rather pleasant, feeling of deeply pious sympathy stirred in our soul when this “Man of sorrows” that is acquainted with grief is bewailed in music and song. O, what a pleasant experience it is for us to look down upon Golgotha from the heights of our modern self-righteousness and religiousness! What a self-flattering emotion it is to pity this Man of sorrows, and to feel that if Jesus had only walked our streets, and presented His cause to us, we would never have rejected Him, and nailed Him to the accursed tree!
O, do you not discern the tremendous significance of this? Do you not understand that you cannot read this Word of God as an outsider, as a mere spectator, as an interested philosopher or theologian? Do you not see that this prophecy of Isaiah must not be understood as the mere prediction of an event that once took place during the first few decades of our era, and that could never occur again, but rather as the statement of a general truth and of a situation that must needs always arise wherever and whenever men come into contact with this Servant of Jehovah? Men despised Him! Mere men rejected Him! It made absolutely no difference by what other name they were called, whether they were of Israel or of the heathen, of the church or of the world, whether, besides being men, they were kings or priests or common people; religious or
irreligious, decent citizens or criminals, as men they surely rejected
him, and must have nothing of the cause He advocated! Men, as they are found always and everywhere in this world, rejected Him. What happened in the first decades of our era, when Jesus of Nazareth walked among men, is simply an outstanding example of what always happens, and must needs occur, wherever this same Jesus presents Himself and His cause to mere men. You and I, as mere men, reject Him. And however piously our modern world and our modern church may babble about the wonderful Christ, always it rejects the Servant of Jehovah, and crucifies Him afresh! He is ousted from our universities, scourged in our seminaries, robed in mock-purple on our pulpits, railed at by the rabble, cursed in our streets, crucified by the mighty powers of this world!
And why do men reject Him? The answer to this question must be found in the fact that He is the Man of sorrows. Do not misunderstand this. Mere men do not despise and reject their suffering fellows. Even though they are capable of inflicting the most cruel tortures upon one another, under favourable conditions they can also sympathise with one another’s suffering. But Christ was not merely a man who, like others, was acquainted with .suffering: He was the Man of sorrows. Sorrows belong to Him. They are inseparable from Him. They are an essential part of Him. Suffering and death belonged to His calling, to His cause, to the work He had to do. He came into the world with the purpose in His heart to suffer and to die. For He came for sin. The sins of His own He freely took upon Himself. The burden of their guilt He took apon His mighty shoulders. And with the sin of the world upon
Him, the Lamb of God walked the way of the righteousness of God. He represented God’s cause against man’s sin. He took the side of God’s righteousness against the self-righteousness of man. And for the sin of His own, and to satisfy the justice of God, He bore all the divine wrath, freely suffered all the agonies of hell, and thus brought the perfect sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation. And thus He is the Man of sorrows. And as the Man of sorrows He is and claims to be the arm of the Lord unto salvation. He condemns all the
righteousness of man, all his goodness, all his wisdom, all his self-willed religiousness and piety. Always He stands for the
righteousness of God over against the unfruitful works of darkness. He never compromised. Consistently He proclaimed that there is no hope in man’s work, and that there is no way out except through His own death and sacrifice on the cross. All the pride of man He lays low, in order to exalt the righteousness of God as the sole way of .salvation.
That is the reason why men reject Him. For men are enemies of God and His righteousness. They love the darkness rather than the
light. Hating the righteousness of God, they seek their own righteousness. They seek salvation through the might and power, the wisdom and ingenuity of man. Hence, they hate the Man of .sorrows. He has no place in the world of men. The cross is foolishness to them. And so, it is inevitable that wherever and whenever this Servant of the Lord, this Man of sorrows, appears in the world of mere men, He is despised and rejected. To this there is not a single exception. Mere men always reject the Christ.
What then? Must this be the last word? If all men reject Him, must not the very purpose of His coming necessarily be frustrated? God forbid! For we must apply also here that what is impossible with men, is possible with God. The wonder of grace changes mere men, carnal men, into spiritual children of God, who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts that yearn after the living God. With those eyes they behold Him, not as an object of contempt, nor as someone whom it is but proper to pity, but as the Lamb of God that taketh away their sin. With those ears they hear His voice as the voice of the Good Shepherd that laid down His life for the sheep. With those hearts they yearn after Him, hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of God. They turn to the cross of the Man of sorrows, not to weep over Him and feel pious in doing so, but to beat their breasts in shame and humiliation because of their sins;
and to find the way out of sin and death into the fellowship of His righteousness and glorious resurrection. And thus, they that are saved by grace, find in Him that is rejected of men the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and life from the dead!
Yet, He is rejected of men. And they who by the grace of God come to Him, must needs bear His reproach in the midst of this present world. For they confess His name, love His precepts, keep His commandments, walk as children of light, and condemn the world in its unfruitful works of darkness. They represent His cause, the cause of the Son of God, in the world. And this means that they must bear His reproach. As men rejected Him, so they will reject them; as they despised Him, so they will despise them. But in all this they look forward to the final victory. For if we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together! The rejected of men is the Risen word!