The Stone the Builders Rejected
Ever had FOMO? FOMO is the “fear of missing out.” You’re on social media, sitting at home at night on the couch with your phone in one hand and your bag of Cheetos in another … feeling sorry for yourself because you are missing out on the good life everybody else is having without you.
But that’s just part of a larger sociological pattern today within what is called “cancel culture.” You are rejected if you don’t agree with someone’s agenda or opinion. The spirit of rejection is alive and well in our relationships, and it can be psychologically crippling.
Everyone has a rejection story. You may have been rejected by your parents through constant criticism, or a spouse who was cheated on you. You may have been treated rudely in public just because of your ethnicity. Perhaps you’ve been rejected by your boyfriend or girlfriend or have been fired at work because of a misunderstanding. Maybe you reject yourself.
These stories can easily become narratives that you live by. Sometimes, you don’t even know where that feeling comes from but it’s rooted in internalized rejection experiences. On the surface you might look ok, but down below you feel it. Some live their entire lives feeling like a reject.
The good news that Jesus accepted people who have felt and faced rejection. Jesus knew what it was like to be rejected. His own rejection is illustration well in Matthew 21:33-46, when Jesus told a parable (The parable of the Vineyard) about his own rejection by the religious leaders. It’s worth a read.
Better than any being who ever lived, God knows what it’s like to be rejected. Have you ever thought about that? God is the owner of the Vineyard in the parable in Matthew 21. And the parable of a Vineyard is not the first time it appears in scripture. In fact, Isaiah 5:1-6 is a parable of God planting a Vineyard (his people), going to painstakingly detailed efforts to produce good grapes but … the Vineyard only ends up bearing bad fruit. So he tears it down. I’ve wondered how it impacts God emotionally to be rejected by those he created and loves. We know that God feels sorrow when people reject him because Jesus did. It’s not a feel sorry for himself, but a mourning that comes from a place of love, knowing the devastating consequences of rejecting him.
In Luke’s version of the triumphal entry in Luke 19, As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it because of the coming destruction and the fact that God’s people did not recognize the time of God’s coming to them.
In the Matthew 21 parable, the servants the landowner sends to collect the harvest represent the past prophets of Israel who were mistreated by God’s people throughout history. They were beaten, killed, and stoned outright rejected.
Then story takes a twist for the listeners. The expected response of the landowner would be to immediately bring destruction, but he doesn’t do that – he sends his son. And the fact that the son is sent to the Vineyard unarmed is an important detail that they would be noticed immediately.
The son is being put in a vulnerable position – and purposefully so in the hopes that within a shame-based culture – his vulnerability would awaken the tenants’ a sense of honor. But that’s not what happened.
The renters came to believe that because they had physical possession they could secure ownership of the property. They forgot that they were just renters. This underscores and important point. We don’t own our lives God does. It’s just on loan for a short time.
We see in this passage both extravagant grace and the reality of God’s judgment. God gives people as many opportunities as he can to repent, but if they ultimately reject him they will face His judgment. This story was told as a judgement against the scribes and chief priests and they knew it. The others who would be given the inheritance, (which represents the kingdom of God), would be the followers of Jesus, born out of the pain of suffering and rejection that happened to Jesus during holy week.
So What happened during Holy Week? Jesus was rejected by the religious authorities, abandoned by his friends, was flogged up to the point of death, ridiculed and spat on by Roman soldiers while he was bleeding and in pain. Then after all of that he was tortured mercilessly and publicly shamed by being hung naked on a cross. To make things worse, he felt abandoned by God… asking, God, my God why have you forsaken me?
But it was this horrific experience that brought about the redemption of humanity, so that those who believe in Jesus would take on his righteousness and be accepted by him and life with him and his family forever. “We were once foreigners and aliens, but now we are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of his household” (Eph 2)
The great mystery of Holy week was that Jesus was rejected by men so we could be accepted by God.
Ok, you might be thinking…. but what about all the pain I’m going through? The temptation when you are dealing with rejection is to do the same to others or to try to deal with the pain in our own strength. We can’t let the pain of our rejection be an excuse for sin.
If you want to know if you carry a spirit of rejection, ask yourself – do you reject others in your heart, including those who you feel hurt by? If you carry a spirit of rejection you will be easily offended even if someone has done nothing wrong to you.
Most people don’t know how to deal with their rejection issues. They think, my life is so hard so I need to get drunk or high to make myself feel better. Or …I’ve not getting fulfilled physically so I need to escape to my pornographic fantasy land. Or…. what happened to me gives me an excuse to put myself first and be a jerk to my spouse. Or … my life is so painful that I need to shut everyone else out and reject them.
People who have felt rejected often let their feelings turn into unforgiveness, bitterness, and condemnation of others. They let their feelings turn them into judgmental people… and essentially they end up becoming the kind of people they were hurt by – the kind who reject.
Don’t be deceived: God expects us to be fruitful. To bear good fruit! Condemnation, bitterness, unforgiveness are bad fruits. The nature of the good fruit God is looking for can be found in the Isaiah 5 passage. In verse 5:7, they are justice and righteousness. … the foundation of his throne as Psalm 97:2 says. In other words, how God expresses his leadership.
Righteousness is right relationship with God and with others. And it’s a righteousness that comes from our hearts, the inner life. You can’t love God if you harbor hatred toward people. God’s word is clear about this.
Biblical justice is believing that God is the judge and will sort things out according to his judgments, not ours. So we don’t take vengeance and act in violence or bitterness towards people, even if we feel like it. Instead, we adopt a humble pro-active posture of kindness, remembering the poor with compassion as God has done for us. Including those who are our enemies who we mistakenly think are our enemies. (People are not our enemies by the way)
God knows this is difficult for us. That is why Jesus did not leave his disciples alone. He gives us the gift of his presence through the Holy Spirit. He sends his servants to help us. He also reminds us in his word of what our response to rejections should be. Rejection can drive us deeper into our own bitter selves or it can be the inspiration that lead us to the feet of Jesus, which is where true joy is found.
Hebrews 12:3 says: Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I’d encourage you to take some time this week to rest in the reality of God’s acceptance of you because of what Jesus did on the cross. Give him a chance to heal the wounds caused by rejection.
Confessing your struggles to a trusted friend who can lovingly listen and pray for you is a big step in the healing process.
Jesus was rejected by people so we could live accepted by God. This is an invitation that you can accept today, simply invite him in. He stands at the door your heart and knocks.