He is despised and rejected by men,
a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Today we will look at the final week of Jesus as we step each day towards His death, burial and resurrection. If there’s one thing of many to be caught in Jesus as He looks to the coming cross, I think it’s partially the sorrow He feels over how affected by sin people are: not just that people are lost, but even the people who have believed and how much work there is to do. While the grace of God proves greater than the sin of man (Romans 5:20), there is something that time and again moves God, and that is man’s capacity for being thickheaded on a spiritual level. Often in the Gospels you will see some of those closest to Him, who have more than one interaction recorded, taking one step forward only to take a couple backwards. Thankfully, they do progress, but it’s not without great ups and downs.
Jesus is recorded weeping twice within a very short time span, once with the people before the raising of Lazarus in John 10:35, and also as he looked upon the city as he was riding towards Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in Luke 19:41-42: Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. As we remembered Palm Sunday a couple of days ago, the event was highlighted by the coming of the King but not an overthrowing of the government. The things that make for peace are spiritual; a reconciliation to God through faith in His Son is the beginning of what makes for peace. Sometimes well-meaning Christians say, “We need to get back to God. People need to get back in church.” Never confuse going to church with finding God; without salvation, church will not be the redemption of our nation or any nation.
He continues further to speak of the coming Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 in vv. 43-44: “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” If their hope was misplaced, which is it was, it would soon enough be dashed. Eternal preservation cannot be overshadowed by temporal, physical preservation. The word for wept in Luke 19:41 is not the same word as the one used for wept in John 11:35. This word in Luke 19:41 is the crying of a bitter cry, a cry of mourning, rather than the tears of John 11:35 in that He would raise Lazarus up soon after.
There is an analogous response on the part of the Holy Spirit towards the believer that very likely is the same emotion bringing forth the tears of Christ, and that is grief. Consider the passage of Ephesians 4:17-30. It speaks essentially to the lives we were saved from and the darkness that we lived in spiritually and in heart and mind when we were without Christ:
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
The word for “grieve” is lupeo. The BDAG Lexicon defines it this way: to cause severe mental or emotional distress, vex, irritate, offend, insult.” (Bibleworks). That is the usage of the word sometimes; from looking at the times it comes up, more often it speaks just to sadness or distress. The difference is the severity of the distress, and it’s not used in the more severe sense as much in the New Testament (the other primary place it’s used in severity is in 2 Corinthians 2 when Paul speaks of causing sorrow but what this godly sorrow produced among the believers.
Crying, whether it is bursting forth in tears or tears that are more solemn as in mourning, is a physical expression of something deep within. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit (with the Father) being One in essence, it is consistent that they respond in like fashion to the similar occurrence of essentially investing in others only to see them waver, especially in faith and obedience. Where His grace and assistance have gone forth with great concern and love to see fruit in one moment and failure later on, we have grief and tears, anger and distress. Perhaps you could see this too in the Old Testament when we see God moved with anger and jealousy over His people. As Jesus walks among the people and blesses them with truth, only to see them turn on Him or leave Him, we see times of grief. Disciples who at various moments take great strides forward even at the time of His trial and crucifixion split and leave Him. It’s no wonder that Peter would attempt to go back to fishing after the crucifixion (John 21); what is more amazing is that Jesus shows him love, forgiveness, and commands him to feed His sheep, to tend His flock (the church) despite Peter’s failure.
The joy of Christ is knowing that the acceptance or rejection of people as to what He’s done does not negate the power of the cross. He accomplished all that the Father had set forth and reigns victorious. He certainly is marked by great joy as well. The grief, though, is not to be minimized. The key verse of Isaiah 53:3 places His sorrow and grief in the context of being despised and rejected. Sin is far more powerful than we humans often give it credit; we are so given to it even after salvation (and thank God that He loves us too much to leave us the way He finds us). The hope of our salvation is a Savior who does not give up on us, despite our stumbles in sin all along the way. The week of Easter, for Christ, has many isolating moments that would easily cause loneliness and for many of us would have us saying, “What’s the point?” Love and grace consistently met with rejection and hatred. Yet He came to do the Father’s will by dying upon the cross.
Sometimes we ask ourselves, “What’s the point?” with the time we invest in people we love only to have them turn on us, dismiss us, or walk away from church and the faith. Many a Sunday school teacher, youth leader, missionary, and pastor alone over the years have seen their fair share of kids and adults who’ve come and gone. It can disheartening when prayers, study, the gospel, preparation, time, energy, education, sometimes even money are poured into others and not to see things go the way you’d thought. What do we do with that? I want to encourage you that faithfulness is to be to God, being where He wants you to be, loving whom He wants you to love, serving them, teaching them, whatever it may be, but the results are in His hands. God sometimes teaches us in those moments to understand the grief we see both in Jesus in the Gospels and the Holy Spirit in Ephesians. If we hurt over people walking away from God at times, just know that we’re only feeling a tiny bit of what God feels. The week of the cross reveals to us our Savior all the more, and how He handles Himself in His final moments is a message in itself.
Prayer by Pastor Sam:
Lord, as we behold you this week, help us to look closely and to listen carefully. Help us to value deeply the love You showed in the humiliation You underwent to be obedient to the Father and to provide a perfect sacrifice for our sin. Thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit by whom we can bear fruit, grow in knowing you and obeying you, and find comfort and confidence in Christ through faith. Use this time in our world to accomplish your plans and may the people of your Church be ready however you’d have each of us to respond. Thank you for patiently loving us. In Christ’ name I pray, Amen.