Wednesday, December 19, 2012

the first rejection

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)

In my reading recently I pondered this passage in 1 Peter...

"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and 
whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.' So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.'  (1 Peter 2:4-8a ESV)

Being born in a stable was just the first of many rejections.  Jesus was born in a barn, and born into poverty.  This is part of the humiliation that the Son freely accepted as he left his Father's side and emptied himself of glory to enter our world. 

Now I'm not saying that the inn keeper knowingly rejected this holy family and the long-awaited Child.  Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary were just one of the many displaced families looking for lodging during the hectic census.  But this humble beginning was the first of many rejections of the Messiah, whereby God's Son, who deserves first place, took last place.

The rejection and humiliation of Christ did not just take place at the cross, but by all that preceded it, as well.  Jonathan Edwards noted that Jesus' private life before his ministry was one of humiliation, given that he was the Son of God working as a common laborer...

“Christ's humiliation in some respects was greater in his private life than in the time of his public ministry. For in his public ministry there was many manifestations of his glory in the word he preached, and the great miracles he wrought. But the first thirty years of his life he spent among mean, ordinary men, as it were, in silence, without those manifestations of his glory or anything to make him to be taken notice of more than any ordinary mechanic, but only the spotless purity and eminent holiness of his life, and that was in a great measure hid in obscurity so that he was little taken notice till after his baptism.”   (--Jonathan Edwards, "History of the Work of Redemption, Sermon 16," Yale online)

Then he was rejected by his own people (John 1:11), by his siblings (John 7:5), by his home town neighbors (Lu 4:29), by the religious professionals (Lu 5:21), by disciples who found his teaching too hard (John 6:66), and by the political leaders of the nation (John 11:50).  All of this culminated in the ultimate rejection, the despised cross of public execution (Phil 2:8).

The humiliation of our Lord Jesus is a core part of the gospel that we embrace: the Cradle, the Cross, the Crown.  His incarnation is inextricably linked to his atoning death and to his resurrection and reign. We believe it, and we willingly go to him who is still outside the favor of this world, and we openly identify with him who was, and is, rejected...

"So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured."  (Hebrews 13:12-13 ESV) 

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