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Reisterstown United Methodist Church

Rejected

Rejected. Over the last 2 weeks, our focus was mostly on how we are called and how we are challenged. Today, though, we will consider how Jesus was rejected.

From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus was rejected. In today’s passage from Mark, Jesus is preaching to his hometown crowd, and he offends the very people who should have welcomed him with open arms – his lifelong neighbors and friends who watched him grow up. In this particular passage, the end of the story is fairly tame, unlike two other similar stories. In Luke 4, in a very similar situation, Jesus finishes preaching and the townspeople try to throw him off a cliff. Then again in Mark 3, Jesus is ministering and teaching in a home, and his own family came to get him, saying he had lost his mind.

It’s not just the hometown crowd. Jesus is rejected all along the way, often because his message challenges and prods and pricks. And then Jesus the Realist teaches over and over about what will meet him in Jerusalem.

Our author says:

The reasons for rejection vary, as we… see in the encounters this chapter explores. Some say no because Jesus does not fit into a mold fashioned by how things used to be. One turns away because Jesus asks too much. Others reject a way considered threatening to their position. Two others reject Jesus because he does not serve their self-interest of religious dabbling and political opportunism. (Indermark, page 51)

A serious faith question for each of us to ponder is how we may have rejected Jesus along our own journey. The story of Peter in the courtyard denying Jesus 3 times before the rooster crows is one that makes us shake our heads, doesn’t it. How could he? we might ask. Would I have done the same? With perhaps our inner voice assuring us – surely not!

A better question is, when have I done the same? Make no mistake, we do reject Jesus – it just isn’t likely to take place in a courtyard with a maid and a rooster.

The stories in this week’s readings are so much more provocative because they are so much more likely. They touch on regular, perhaps daily ways that we might, in our God-given freedom, choose to reject instead of to follow.

How about that hometown crowd in Mark 6? Jesus was challenging the traditions and teachings of his people. No, kid, you’ve got it all wrong. We are Nazarenes, and we do things this way – and this way only. No upstart kid who is just a carpenter is going to tell us that we need to change our ways – that we have to change our views. No sir!

We’ve never done it that way before – the seven last words of the church. She doesn’t know enough yet to lead something like that. He’s just not ready. Embracing change or new ways of viewing ourselves and community – maybe the absolutely most difficult thing for an established church to consider. When have you rejected Jesus by insisting on maintain the tried and true (for you) and resisting the new that may speak to someone who may not be like you and your social circle?

The second story for the week is of the Rich Young Man from Matthew 19. You know the story. A young man approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to have eternal life. From our author:

What is intriguing here are the commandments Jesus names – and those he omits. He singles out those that govern relationship with others. He omits ones that deal with relationship with God. Conventional wisdom might have made first if not exclusive appeal to one’s relationship to God. Jesus, however, teaches that the roots of eternal life are grounded in the soil of this life. We cannot ignore other people with the excuse of devoting attention to God in the quest for the eternal….The story suggests ultimate values are revealed not so much in what we seek but more clearly in what we will not give up. (Indermark, pgs. 55-56)

Whoa! That stops me in my tracks on both counts! First – Love your neighbor. And live in such a way that puts neighbors’ needs first. Devotion to God is grown out of commitment to loving neighbor – in very real terms, not lip service. Not just being nice or giving away my cast-offs or writing a check every now and then so I feel good. But giving up my need to be first, my need to accumulate, my desire to look gooooood – giving up for the benefit of others. When have you rejected Jesus?

Then he pushes it further – Indermark puts it this way:

The story challenges us to ask ourselves if there is anything we could not set aside for the sake of relationship with God…Life with God is not a bargain to be argued down to the lowest common denominator. It is an all-consuming goal. (page 56-57)

The three remaining stories are about leaders – people in authority.  However, these stories are as much about us as they are about people like elected officials.  

First, Jesus meddles again with rule-keeping. Healing on the Sabbath, specifically, and in this case both civic and faith leaders standing watch, conspiring to catch Jesus in some kind of infraction so they can discredit him.

In Mark 3, verse 4, Jesus says to those surrounding him, "’What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?’ No one said a word.”

Now he’s disrupting the established order – undermining tradition that has served the whole community well. The Pharisees don’t want that to change – and neither do the Herodians who are the movers and shakers of the political and social world. And perhaps worse, this wasn’t just the Jesus that was caring for those who were sick. He got mad. In verse 5, the passage says, “He looked them in the eye, one after another, angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion.” He stared them down and then healed somebody anyway.

When have you rejected Jesus with silence –

  • Refusing to speak up when children are dying from hunger or lack or medical care?
  • Refusing to challenge the notion that brown and black children of God are less than?
  • Refusing to even acknowledge the vulnerability of those trapped in oppressive conditions?

The last 2 stories are those of Herod and Pilate. Jesus is taken to Herod, in Luke 23, and Herod is glad to see him. He’s been hoping to see one of those “God tricks.” Herod wants nothing to do with discipleship – just with something cool. Indermark says he’s a dabbler and “dabbling is all about keeping things on the surface. Discipleship goes deep into our world and into us…Discipleship intends to change us to the core. (Indermark, page 63)

And Pilate. Well, we all know Pilate. He does everything he can to wiggle out of the responsibility of condemning Jesus. He wants to look good. He wants to retain the favor of the people he governs. The Gospel says that he wants to “satisfy the crowd.”

So, I have to ask again. When have you rejected Jesus by dabbling or by finding a way to be politically opportunistic?

Beloved, this week is full of questions – both personal discipleship questions and questions about how we engage in assessing the issues of our day and time. Discipleship is certainly a choice made possible by the freedom to reject the call and reject the challenge -- to reject Jesus himself. And of course, when we seriously take up the call and the challenge, we may be rejected right along with Jesus.

All references are for John Indermark, Gospeled Lives: Encounters with Jesus, Copyright (c) 2008 by John Indermark.  Published by Upper Room Books.  

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