At the beginning of this series of sermons, I read a quotation from Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
“Since God intends to make you more Christlike, He will take you through some of the experiences Jesus had while on earth Ð loneliness, temptation, stress, physical suffering, and rejection.”
Today we center our thoughts on a real heartbreaker Ð namely, rejection. From the cradle to the grave we can experience rejection. It is rough. Even grown men cry when certain people reject them. I thought I sensed a bit of the feeling of rejection when Governor John Dean, on “Meet the Press,” told Tim Russert that he would love to have been the presidential candidate, but the voters chose John Kerry.
Jesus understands the suffering humans experience when they are rejected. He understands, because he died not only with a scared body that had been severely beaten, but also with a broken heart because of rejection. Listen to the prophet describe Jesus: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).
John writes, “He came to his own, but his own received him not.”
Luke writes, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How I would love to have gathered you under my arms like a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not.” He was crushed.
If we could have a face to face conversation with Jesus today, he would say something like this: I am crushed when people reject me as their Savior and Lord. The reason is that I can make a difference in their life. To see people wasting these years living without me is painful, and to see them enter eternity without me is heartbreaking.
Jesus expresses His sorrow by telling us a story about being rejected. Remember, it is only hours before He will be crucified. He is teaching in the temple court, and the tension is growing. A high priest asks, “By what authority are you doing these things?” They had heard that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, but he was not the kind of messiah they wanted. In the midst of this turmoil Jesus tells this story:
A rich man had prepared a wedding feast for his son. The servants were out delivering the invitation for people to come. It was going to be a great party Ð the best of food, entertainment, and fellowship. However, to the father’s surprise, the invitations were being turned down. Some simply refused to come. Others said they were too busy and went off to their businesses and farms. Others were so angry that they mistreated the servants and even killed some.
When the host received this report from the servants, he said, “Go to the street corners and invited anyone you can find.” This they did, and when it was time for dinner, the hall was full.
This story, spoken first to the Jewish people, was telling them that if they did not receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, he would move on to others. Paul said it this way: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
Jesus extends the invitation to us, and it is good until our last breath is drawn. However, if we do not receive it, He moves on to someone else. Heaven will be full.
The message of the parable is for all people, including those of us who live in the twenty-first century. All is ready. Christ died for our sins, and He has been raised to be our living Lord. The invitation is out, and it is for everyone, including the Jews who first rejected it. It is for all races and nationalities. It is for people of all social and financial groups. Yes, it is even for the highly educated humanist who is often unable to swallow his pride and kneel beneath the cross of Jesus.
Notice that Jesus is inviting us to a banquet, a place of joy where we will first learn what the abundant life is all about. However, human nature has not changed much. The rejection slips keep coming to the Heavenly Father. “I do not want your Gospel. I do not need a Savior. I will make my own banquet. Leave me alone. Your lack of intelligence to accept this unproven message is an offense to my intelligence.”
Jesus’ heart continues to be broken because of the rejection.
However, many did receive the invitation. Remember that the banquet hall was full. Jesus says to these people, You are my servants in your hometown, in your house. Bring the message to those around you. Tell them the joy of being in a personal relationship with me. Tell them how good it feels not to carry around a ton of guilt.
We obediently follow our Lord’s command, but what happens? People reject the invitation brought to them in the name of the Lord Jesus. We, too, begin to experience rejection. Actually, the unbeliever is not rejecting us, but Christ, whom we serve. However, we are hurt. Rejection spells loneliness, defeat, and a bundle of questions all summarized in these words: How can people be so dumb as to reject the One who loves them so much?
A parent punishes himself or herself by asking, Where did I go wrong? My children turned their backs on Christ. We took them to Sunday school and church. We read the Bible in our home and taught them to pray. We sent them to Christian colleges, but they still say no to Jesus. To that father and mother, Jesus says, I understand.
The committed Christian hears the words of Jesus, “Be my witnesses.” They take it seriously. They enroll in courses at the church learning better how to share their faith. They talk to others, but still get a cold response. Leave me alone. Religion is my business. It is none of your affair.
You watch marriages go down the drain when Christ could save all of them if these two people leaving the divorce court would only have turned to Him.
They see people with no hope leave the casket of those they love. Those loved ones have now entered eternity without Christ. What peace do they have except to enjoy the memories of the loved ones left behind? Christ could have given them the assurance that all was well; they would now live in the presence of the Almighty forever.
Do we quit handing out invitations to come to Christ? No. Remember, the invitation to come to the banquet is good until the last breath is drawn. Only then is it withdrawn.
If you for many years have rejected Christ’s invitation to receive Him Ð He is still seeking you. This is true for Jews and Gentiles alike.
Listen again: All is ready. This week we will relive the horrors of Good Friday showing from whence our salvation comes. Next Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection. Christ is risen! He lives! And the Risen Lord once again tells us to come.