Have you ever been rejected by someone? Maybe a friend or family member no longer wanted you to be a part of their life. Or maybe the company that you always wanted to work for didn't hire you. Perhaps some church or other organization that you were part of didn't listen to your input. All of us either have experienced or will experience some type of rejection and the emotional pain associated with it. Sometimes it is just a little disappointment and we get over it within a few hours or days, such as when we don't get our dream job. Sometimes it is devastating, cutting to the core of who we are, and we never fully get over it, such as when a son or daughter rejects everything you've taught them.
Earlier this year I went through a period of time where it felt like several very close friends were rejecting me. As I was processing through the emotions associated with that experience I was confronted by the thought that the pain we experience when someone we love rejects us is similar to the pain that we cause God when we reject him. He created us and lovingly gave us a perfect place to live that included everything necessary for life. But we turned our backs on him, rejecting him, starting with Adam and Eve and continuing on with every single person up to this very day. The amazing thing is that instead of simply turning his back on us, God loves us enough to give us the chance to come back to him. In fact he welcomes us back with open arms. Yet many of us never turn to him seeking restoration, instead choosing to reject him to their dying day.
However, that chance is only possible because of the one rejection that God experienced whose pain eclipsed that of all our rejections combined. That was the rejection that we commemorate this week on Friday, when God the Father turned his back on his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is God, enjoyed a close, intimate relationship with God the Father, even during his life here on earth. It was so close, in fact, that Jesus could say, as recorded in John 14, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father". The best human example of that kind of relationship is that of siblings, especially twins, or husband and wife, or even best friends, where you know the other person well enough to anticipate what they will say or are thinking in any given situation. Now imagine if in a relationship like that, one person rejects the other person, chooses to turn their back on them. The pain experienced by that person begins to approach what Jesus experienced on that day.
We can bear all kinds of physical, and even emotional pain when we have an anchor, someone whom we know cares for us. But when that person is the one who rejects us, it is devastating. That day, when he was crucified by his fellow countrymen, rejected by them, Jesus was also bearing the punishment for our sins. The cross itself, as ugly and brutal as it was, was not the ultimate punishment; it was merely the means which God used to effect the physical death of Jesus. The ultimate punishment that Jesus went through that day was separation from, and rejection by, his Father. The pain of that rejection was so great, that Jesus cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Throughout his arrest and trial, he spoke only a few words, and never anything expressing emotion. Yet when his relationship with his Father was broken and he was bearing the guilt of our sins alone, he was so overcome that he cried out.
The most amazing thing about this whole event is that Jesus did it for us who were rejecting him. He loves each one of us, who rejected him, so much that he subjected himself to this great pain in order that we could return to him and not have to experience the pain of final rejection by God. If you are currently rejecting God, will you choose to respond to the love that he has shown you and turn to him?