“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3 (ESV)
Growing up was not easy for me. I didn’t make friends easily- I still don’t. I have been rejected by many people over the years. But there were two people who despised me. Being rejected is hard. It hurts. It is not fun. But being despised is life changing.
Rejection often involves being ignored. The times I have been rejected, the other person didn’t want anything to do with me. They didn’t say things to me that were positive, but they didn’t necessarily say things that were negative. They might have said something mean once or twice, but typically they didn’t continue to say them.
But, with those who despised me, the hatred continued for years. Painful words were spoken to me, against me, about me. Lies were spread. I was called every hurtful name in the book. Relationships were destroyed. The pain was suffocating.
It is one thing to be rejected, it is completely another thing to be despised. To be hated so deeply that the only purpose of the other person is to hurt and to destroy. My name was drug through the mud. My feelings were completely unimportant. My heart was hurt.
As much as the name calling, the rumors, and the lies hurt, it was so much more painful the way it caused me to evaluate every decision I made, every word I spoke, every action I took. How would the person respond to this? Would they twist it to hurt me? Would they spread more lies? What were they telling people? What did people think about me? How could I recover? What did I do to deserve this much hate?
The sad thing is I didn’t do anything. There was nothing that I had done to deserve this kind of treatment. I was just the target that these two people had chosen. Neither of them really had a reason. But, that didn’t stop the hate.
Jesus knew the feeling of being rejected. Over and over people who had followed him changed their minds and left. Only a handful of people, mostly women, were even standing near the cross as he was crucified. The man who had performed more miracles than could even be contained in all the books the world could hold, was rejected by almost everyone.
He also knew the pain of being despised. “And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take…And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also reviled him” (Mark 15:24, 29-32).
The soldiers cast lots for his clothing. The people who days before had praised him, now walked past him wagging their heads and throwing his words back in his face. The chief priests and scribes mocked him. Even the criminals he was crucified with reviled him. Jesus knew the pain of rejection. Jesus knew how it felt to be despised.
Personal Reflection: On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Can you pray that same forgiveness over those who have hurt, despised, and rejected you?