On Fridays during this season of Lent, I'm posting readings from The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus and its companion devotional. Today's post is an excerpt from The Way: 40 Days of Reflection.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.... They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. (Luke 4:16, 29 NRSV)
Jesus had just returned home after a two- to three- month journey that included his baptism by John and forty days of fasting in the wilderness. On the Sabbath, he entered the small synagogue in Nazareth to preach what may have been his first sermon in his hometown. Jesus’ family was present, along with those who had grown up with him and those who had watched him grow up. Jesus all but announced that he was the Messiah, come to bring good news to the poor. He went on to make clear that he would minister not only to Jews but also to Gentiles.
It was Jesus’ willingness to minister with Gentiles that most upset those in the synagogue. Pondering this, I could not help but think of politics in America. In some churches, a pastor who admitted voting Democrat would be run out of the congregation, while in others, a pastor who admitted voting Republican would suffer the same fate. Our convictions about who is in and who is out, about who is loved by God and who isn’t, often run deep.
Jesus’ reference to Gentiles’ receiving the grace of God infuriated many in the synagogue. By the time he was finished, the men of the synagogue were so angry that they dragged him outside and planned to throw him off a cliff! Had that been my first experience preaching in my own hometown, I think it also would have been my last experience preaching. I might have given up.
This would not be the last time Jesus was rejected. The religious leaders would reject him again and again. Even many of his followers would turn away. At times people would beg him to leave town. One of his disciples would betray him. The others would deny knowing him. Ultimately he would be crucified.
Rejection is a part of life. We all know it from time to time. After experiencing rejection, there comes the temptation to give up. It hurts, and we don’t like being hurt, so we choose never again to say or do the things that caused us to be rejected.
There are times when our rejection comes because we missed the mark. In those cases we have to learn from rejection, allowing it to be a springboard for getting it right the next time.
But there are other times when what we said or did was right, yet it led to our rejection. Every great leader in the Bible and throughout history knew this type of rejection. What made these leaders great was that they refused to give up.
When you have been criticized, persecuted, or rejected for saying and doing what is right, you must follow the example of Jesus who, when he was rejected, refused to give up.
Lord, thank you for persevering in the face of rejection. Help me to learn from rejection and to grow through it. When rejection comes because I’ve said or done the right thing, give me the strength and courage to not give up. Amen.