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He is despised and rejected by men,
a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Isa. 53:3

Isaiah’s statement conveys a tragic and profoundly sad thought: even before His birth it is predicted that the Christ will be “despised and rejected by men.” From the human perspective this does not establish much hope or purpose in living; to be born and to grow up in order to be despised and rejected by those who know you. But this is the prophecy of Christ.

To be rejected is to be forsaken (“forsaken” is the transl. in the NASB); “rejected” or “forsaken,” it makes no difference. Both convey an abandonment and an isolation that invades the inconceivable, especially when considered in terms of the loving and lowly Christ who went about doing good. How could such a One be loathed and disallowed by those who were acquainted with Him? It is unthinkable.

Christ understood the sentiments of the people toward Him; through prophecy in the Old Testament words are attributed to Him before He lived:

I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him” (Ps. 22:6-8).

Note the words and their cumulative impact: “worm,” “no man,” “reproach,” and “despised.” He affirmed that all who saw Him made fun of Him because they had contempt for Him; they would shoot out the lip and shake the head. In the words of Isa. 53:3 the life of Christ was a life of “grief,” a life of pain; He was “a Man of sorrows”.

Jesus acknowledged His rejection by the people, and, in fact, stated that it must be; He said of Himself that “He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (Lu. 17:25). “Must” speaks of determination, Theistic determinism (see: Theistic Determinism); the sufferings and death of Christ were not unexpected nor did the actions surprise God. On the contrary, these very actions were ordained by Him (see: Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27-28). And that which the Father ordains, with that He is satisfied when it comes to pass: “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isa. 53:10). The actions of Herod and Pilate, along with the nation of Israel and the Gentiles who were gathered together, were done to the One God anointed in order to fulfill His determined purpose (Acts 4:27-28).

The nation of Israel rejected Him, that is, the average person in the nation; the people lost fascination with Him and turned from Him. Isaiah wrote that the Redeemer of Israel is the One “whom man despises,” the One “whom the nation abhors” (49:7). The Redeemer of the nation was rejected by the nation:

For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. and though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death (Acts 13:27-28).

To reject Christ was to reject the words of Christ. By rejecting Him the people were rejecting His words; they were not receiving the words He spoke, words that would ultimately condemn them:

He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day (Jo. 12:48; “reject” is atheteō, which means “to put away” or “to put aside”).

Also to reject Christ was to reject the Prophets, which the Jewish people heard every Sabbath; it was to reject their own Sacred Scriptures that they did not hear, meaning they did not understand or accept, and, therefore, they did not “know” Him.

Additionally, not only did they reject His words and the word of the Prophets, they rejected the God of the Prophets; Jesus stated that “he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Lu. 10:16). For the nation it simply did not compute to be told that their rejection of Christ was synonymous with rejection of God Himself.

It was a total rejection: the people rejected Him; the religious leaders of the nation rejected Him; and the political entity, the nation of Rome, rejected Him. From the human perspective the Lord was a lonely man; at the end the Scriptures affirm that all “forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56).

This complete rejection resulted in elevation; Christ was rejected by men but God placed Him as the chief cornerstone. Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes’” (Matt. 21:42; “rejected” is apodokimazō, meaning “to disapprove of”; from Ps. 118:22-23). Peter words it at follows: “rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God” (I Pet. 2:4; he adds that Christ is “the chief cornerstone,” and that He is “elect” and “precious,” precious “to you who believe.”

Being forsaken was a temporary phenomenon, whereas being lifted up is an eternal placement. The Scriptures attest that this is God’s doing, informing us that God is greater than man, and that the deeds of men do not deny the purposes of God. Such knowledge is “marvelous in our eyes.”

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