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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Rejected for Our Redemption
Text:LD 15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-11-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 118:5,6                                                                                  

Hy 2:1,2,3

Reading – Matthew 27:15-50            

Ps 22:1,3,9

Sermon – Lord’s Day 15

Hy 25:1,2,7

Hy 35:1,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, rejection is a painful thing. Maybe you know this, because you’ve had the feeling before that you were on the outside, looking in. Maybe you’ve been told that you weren’t wanted, and you weren’t included. This can happen in so many ways, no matter our age. It can happen on the playground at primary school, in the classrooms at college, in the lunchroom at work, even in the home, or in the church—rejection. It’s painful. It brings that awful sense of not being loved or cared for. It shakes us, and leaves us insecure.

Now, we don’t ever want to minimize the sufferings of Jesus by glibly comparing them with our own. What Jesus went through here on earth was far worse than the very worst pain that we’ll ever have to suffer. But this must be said: Jesus was rejected too. He knew the agony of being on the outside, looking in. He knew the misery of being forsaken.

This was so much more than school-yard nastiness, or office politics. On every level—even to a degree most unthinkable—Jesus was cast off and abandoned. This is what the prophet Isaiah once foretold about the Messiah’s suffering: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. We hid our faces from him; He was despised, and we did not esteem him” (53:3). It’s an ugly picture of total rejection.

But there’s good news in his pain, and something redemptive in his suffering. For Jesus endured it all, for our sake. He was rejected, “so that we might be accepted by God and nevermore forsaken by him” (Form for the Lord’s Supper). I preach the gospel to you as it is summarized in Lord’s Day 15,

Jesus Christ was rejected for our redemption. He was rejected:

  1. by the world
  2. by his own people
  3. by God his Father

 

1. rejected by the world: When it first happened, it would’ve been hard not to think of the death of Jesus as a very small event. Sure, the cross now has an importance that is universal—the cross is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. But back on that day described in Matthew 27, it would’ve taken a lot of imagination to consider it as being significant in any way.

It took place in Judea, after all: just a tiny region in the vast Roman empire. It involved the Jews: a people of no great influence or power. And it was a crucifixion: crosses on those rocky hills outside Jerusalem were a fairly common sight—it was how lots of people were executed. On the face of it, we would expect this event to have exactly no effect on our lives today—not any more effect than, for example, a petty criminal being put to death by hanging in a small town up north, back in 1883. What would an old, far-off and small event like that have to do with us? Nothing.

But there was more going on in those last days of Jesus. Consider, for instance, the presence of Pontius Pilate. We read in Matthew 27:2 that when the religious leaders had interrogated Christ, beaten and bound him, they “delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” They did so, because this wasn’t something the Jews could handle themselves. Their land was under the rule of Roman law, which meant that they lacked the authority to carry out executions. The Jews had to get the approval of the Romans in any capital case.

As far as Roman governors go, the history books tell us that Pontius Pilate wasn’t exactly a picture of benevolence and justice. This was a tough posting, being governor of Judea, and for years he’d ruled the Jews with cruelty and contempt. But now the leaders need a favour from him. Just a simple nod of his head, and they could rid themselves of Jesus.

So the fate of Jesus comes to rest in the hands of this Roman bureaucrat named Pontius Pilate. What would he do with Jesus? In one respect, it didn’t take long to recognize that Jesus was innocent; Pilate even said as much. But Pilate knows the case before him isn’t going to be about trivial things like innocence and guilt. For what about these angry chief priests and elders, ready to raise havoc? They smelled blood, and they weren’t about to give up the chase. And what about all those crowds in the city for Passover? Things could get dicey here, in a hurry!

Seeing his dilemma, Pilate takes the easy way out: he doesn’t decide. While Jesus hasn’t even been convicted of a crime, Pilate turns him over to the crowd. It was time for the annual “Get Out of Jail Free” contest. Should it be Barabbas, “a notorious prisoner?” Or should it be Jesus? And we know what the people decided.

In these events, notice how crooked the human heart can be. Pilate’s only concern was selfish, that there be peace in Judea. So Pilate washes his hands of Christ’s blood, and hands him over. There is no real evidence, no real trial, no justice. There’s only one frightened man, worried about his political future. He rejected Christ, not because he didn’t like Christ, but because it was easier. It was easier to walk away from him, than to stand on principle.

And this too, was part of the suffering of Jesus. In most societies, the average person thinks that when the crunch comes, he can count on the authorities to help him. When we’re in a tight spot, like falsely accused of some crime and arrested, we tend to assume that truth and justice will prevail. The police will investigate, the courts will do their work, and before long, all will be well and we’ll be free. That’s not how it went for Christ. In his hour of greatest need, there was no justice. The one man with enough power to help Jesus discarded him, and gave him over to the will of the mob.

We’re shocked by Pilate’s politics—even so, it was God who put him in place. It was God who wanted Pilate as governor of Judea at this very moment, for this turning point. And why? Because God will use Pontius Pilate to put into effect his own divine judgment; he is a servant in the hand of God. “Though innocent, Christ was condemned by an earthly judge, and so He freed us from the severe judgment of God that was to fall on us” (Q&A 38). It is Pilate who will carry out the LORD’s sentence on Christ.

After Pilate, the next people to have a go at him are the Roman soldiers. Matthew describes in detail the torment they inflict: they strip him, mock him, put a crown of thorns on his head, spit at him, and beat him. As soldiers from the Roman legions, these were rough men. To them, life was short, brutal, and cheap. So who was this Jesus to them? Just another Jew, another pretender. So they’d torture him, mock everything He stood for, and then finish him off.

Later, these soldiers think nothing of casting lots for his clothing. Can you imagine? Jesus is still there, hanging above them on the cross, crying out with the pain of an approaching death. But for the soldiers, this is just another day at the office. They can’t care less about his naked shame or his anguished cries—they just want his simple robes. This is sometimes the worst rejection: when people don’t even notice you, when you don’t even merit their attention. So it was for Christ—treated by these men like He wasn’t even there. The Son of God and Saviour, given no more than a passing glance, treated like an animal!

John writes about this in his gospel. Talking about the Son of God, he writes, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (1:10). People like Pontius Pilate and King Herod and the Roman soldiers never got past his outward appearance: He was just a Jewish peasant. They didn’t listen to him, so they didn’t even realize who He was. They didn’t recognize him.

Do you think that Jesus really cared if He was rejected by the world? Did it matter if an obscure Roman governor didn’t honour him, or if some tough soldiers ignore him? You wouldn’t think so. But this was the world Jesus was sent to save: not just the Jews, but the Greeks and the Romans and the barbarians and everyone else. Later Jesus tells his disciples to go and bring the good news to all nations, so they might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

So even on the cross, you can be sure that the heart of Christ went out to these people. He suffers deeply when sinners didn’t care. Think of how He even prayed that striking prayer for those who were crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” He longs for faith, and the forgiveness of all men.

Still today, there’s so many in the world who reject Jesus as Lord. In one way or another, they might know about that cross and what it stands for. Yet they say Christ is not for them. And why? It often comes down to who He is: He’s a sorry sight, hung there on a cross, dying a death of the lowest low. “This is the answer? I don’t even need saving, and you’re telling me that a death is the way to life?” It sounds crazy. But this is the only gospel we have, and it’s the gospel that every sinner needs. So we have to believe it and we have to share it, in all its folly and scandal! As Paul insists about the cross of Jesus, “I am not ashamed of the gospel… for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).

 

2. rejected by his own people: When we think about Christ’s sufferings, we often focus on those last few days of his life. Indeed, it was “especially at the end,” that Christ bore the weight of God’s wrath (Q&A 37). But don’t neglect what came before: “During all the time that He lived on earth,” He suffered (Q&A 37).

Again, one of the things He had to suffer, not just at the end but throughout, was rejection. For instance, there was what happened in the Nazareth synagogue. In his sermon in Luke 4, Jesus dropped a huge hint that He was the promised Messiah. The crowd understood what He was claiming, and their reaction was immediate, and severe: they drove him out of the building, right to the edge of a cliff, so they might throw him over.

That wasn’t an isolated incident. It set the tone for Christ’s ministry, and anticipated how so many of the people of Israel simply would not—could not—accept him as Messiah. During all the time He carried out his ministry, Christ had to fend off their accusations, and had to deal with rejection from his own people.

For some only wanted healing for their illnesses. Others wanted a free lunch. Others expected him to be something He wasn’t, like an earthly king. And others called him “Lord, Lord,” but they didn’t do the things He said.

John mentions this in chapter 1 of his gospel too, how the covenant people of God snubbed the Saviour: “He came to his own, and his own did not receive him” (v 11). How tragic this is! Of all the people who should’ve known better, it was Israel. Of all the people who should’ve welcomed him with open arms, it was sons of Abraham. They had the promises. They had the covenants. They had so many prophecies speaking of the coming Messiah.

Then He arrived, and He fulfilled a constant line of promises and prophecies—but they didn’t accept the Lord Jesus. They gave him the cold shoulder. They turned from him. He was not wanted. He was not loved. He was not seen for who He really was: “He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.”

Think of how their rejection of the Saviour gets shown in such an ugly way in Matthew 27. There Pilate sets before them those two men, Barabbas and Jesus. One, a threat to society—a terrorist who was infamous for his crimes, with nothing good to offer. The other, a teacher of righteousness—even the Messiah, if they were willing to accept his message. But it’s Christ they exclude! Barabbas they welcome with open arms, and Christ they reject!

The same thing happens at the cross. Think of the criminal who hangs there, throwing his insults. He might’ve been in agony, but this didn’t humble his spirit. He wanted nothing to do with his countryman Jesus. He echoes what others are saying too. There are the bystanders who blaspheme, and the chief priests and scribes and elders: “If He is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (v 42).

Here is Jesus, in the very act of atoning for sin, yet they’re all saying they don’t want what He’s giving. Once more Jesus sees how black the hearts of sinners can be, how blind their eyes, how proud their thoughts. Think of how that multiplied his suffering in these last few hours! For these were his own people—and they were choosing death instead of life.

We haven’t even mentioned how Jesus’ own followers treated him. In the garden he kept asking them to pray, but they slept. Then they scattered like sheep when He was arrested. These friends and companions wouldn’t remain with their Lord, so He would have to stand all alone.

Then there was Judas Iscariot, who had been with Christ for three long years, who had his feet washed by him and shared in the first Lord’s Supper. But Judas didn’t believe. He loved money more than the Lord. He went to the leaders, and betrayed his Master, and then sealed the betrayal with a kiss.

And Peter, the great spokesmen and leader? After Jesus’ arrest, Peter dares to stand in the courtyard of the high priest, warming himself by the fire. But Peter can’t take the heat. He is challenged by those standing there, and instead of staying true, Peter surrenders. He didn’t know the man. He wasn’t with him.

Rejected by his own nation, everyone from the leaders to the losers. Betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and abandoned by the rest. All this unbelief and rejection is shocking. But isn’t there something we need to consider? Beloved, would we have done any differently? If we were in that same position, what would we have done?

If we were the people of Israel, would we have studied our Bibles more closely so that we could recognize the One who was promised? If we were Peter, would we have stood up for Christ when we were put on the spot and tested? If we were his disciples, would we have kept praying, or would we have fallen asleep? And then would we have remained at Christ’s side when the swords came out? Would we have stood fast, or run away? Ducked and denied?

We’re not in that situation exactly. But the human heart is an unbelieving heart. Without the transforming of God’s Spirit, we too will reject the One who can save us. Even knowing the promises, and being in the covenant, and sitting under the Word every Sunday, this is the natural response—that we want to look the other way. We prefer to remain in unbelief, and prefer to embrace sin. Isaiah spoke about how the Saviour would be treated, not just in Jerusalem in AD 33, but in so many times and places, even here in ____________: “We hid our faces from him; He was despised, and we did not esteem him” (53:2-3).

Despite all the hate, Christ stayed on the cross, being “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” That’s the gospel of Christ’s rejection. For in all this suffering, “Christ bore in body and soul the wrath of God against the whole human race” (Q&A 37). He took it all, for us.

So let’s examine our hearts, whether we believe the sure promise of God. Do you believe that all your sins are forgiven, only for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ? Do you cling to the steadfast promises of the LORD? Have you truly humbled yourself in your sins, and have you accepted this life-giving gospel?

 

3. rejected by God his Father: Beloved, there’s something more, something far worse. For on the cross, Jesus was utterly alone, and in complete solitude. He had nobody to call on, nobody to turn to. Such was the pain—not just of being without friends, but being without God. This is why after three hours on the cross, Jesus cries out that awful question, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).

The words are from Psalm 22. It’s a dark Psalm, from a time when David felt cut off from God. Now Christ takes those words on his lips. And He says those words with even greater effect. For it was true—truer than it ever was for David: Jesus was forsaken.

You’d be right to wonder about that: Had God actually abandoned his Son? Wouldn’t such a thing be impossible, and make the Trinity collapse on itself? Was Jesus really and truly left in his misery by God? Let’s consider this carefully. Was God gone?

First, look at the cross. For our Saviour, this wasn’t a meaningless way to die. We know that after the people of Israel stoned a person for a capital crimes, the body was usually buried with respect. But when it was an especially terrible offender, his broken body was then hung on a tree. For this person had lived like God didn’t exist. This was the sinner’s shame, and no earthly punishment was severe enough. So he was hung on a tree, delivered up to God, so that the guilty one would receive the full punishment.

And the full punishment was God’s curse. That’s a scary word in Scriptures. To be cursed is to be condemned. To be cursed is to crushed by the full wrath of God. No one survives the curse! Christ, the crucified one, was the cursed one. Neither on earth nor in heaven, He hung there all alone.

Was God gone? Look at the darkness. Matthew says, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land” (v 45). Three hours of gloom and deep shadows: this wasn’t a coincidental eclipse, nor a really cloudy day in Palestine. This was the darkness of God’s absence. In the Bible, light signifies the presence of God. Light is life. Light tells us that God is near. But for Jesus, it was dark. Around that cross, it was dark. He was shut out from the light of God’s face!

Was God gone? Listen to that cry of absolute pain. Understand this was about so much more than just physical suffering. Crucifixion was an awful way to go. Yet for Christ, the blood and pain and slow suffocation of being on a cross was one thing. But the rejection from his own Father was quite another. So Jesus cried those words: God had forsaken him! In that hour, Christ prayed and received no answer. Jesus lifted his eyes to the heavens, but finally had to bow his head—for there came no reply.

What would that be like, if God took away his presence? What would it be like, not to have God’s blessing, God’s Spirit, God’s listening ear, God’s promise to save? Those who love the Lord can’t fathom it. Even a fraction of this suffering would’ve destroyed us in an instant—yet Jesus held on.

He held on in devotion to his Father, who sent him to earth to do this. He knew that his mission would take him to the depths. So He’d go there. Because this same God is moved by love for a helpless people. God looks on us, and sees a people who can do nothing for themselves. We’re only worthy of his wrath. But Christ was forsaken by God, so that those who believe in him might never be forsaken.

No, even if we feel like it at times, we’re not forsaken by God. Because of guilt, because of depression, because of a painful sorrow or a pressing anxiety, we can be in a place where God seems completely gone. It can be a time when none of our prayers seem answered, when we might think that God has good reason to forget us. Perhaps even now, God seems far off: distant and silent, for reasons you don’t really know, or for reasons you don’t want to admit.

In such times, think about this: Is your sin greater than God’s love? Is your trouble heavier than God can lift? Is your darkness too dark for God’s light? If we believe in Christ, then our position is so secure, from beginning to end, from top to bottom. Believe God’s sure promise in Christ: God is your God. Believe it, and now flee from your sins! Your sins are paid for, so it’s time to leave them behind.

Today we can ask, “My God, why have you accepted me? How can you love me? Why do always stay with me, and why are you always near me, to guide and to bless?” We ask, and in Christ Jesus we find our answer. He was rejected—rejected, so that we might be accepted by God, and nevermore forsaken!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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