Despising Jesus

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him.
-Isaiah 53:3

Do you feel like you are dismissed ('dissed'), considered worthless, unworthy of attention?

The word despised in Isaiah, is the Hebrew word, baza, pronounced "baw-zaw".

Baza means:

To despise, hold in contempt, to be despicable, to be vile, worthless, to cause to despise, to disesteem, contemptible, think to scorn, vile person.

You might ask, "Why would anyone feel this way, respond this way or act this way towards Jesus?"

Gentle, wise, kind, loving, healing, compassionate, honest, godly, and in fact; God.

Why would we despise Jesus?

Two words:

Self righteousness

People who hated Jesus were self-righteous, morally superior.  Self-righteous, morally superior people do not like the message of justification by faith.  That message says we are all bad, only God is good, we can do nothing to save ourselves, and we must wholly put our faith in God, by faith, to be saved, period.

No hamburger helper, nothing good in us that can get us saved or into the salvation box.

Self-righteous, morally superior people hate that.  They do not one bit want to lay down their works, their opinions and their power, and bow to God and be his children.

Jesus may not have looked good to them.  He may have had an accent.  He may have been 'too country'.

He was despised because he was from Galilee (John 1:46) and his followers were despised because they were Galilean (Mark 14:70).

Jesus was also despised because he was poor (Matt. 17:27, 2 Cor. 8:9).  If we despise the poor, we are in danger of despising their savior (Matt. 5:3).

But that is not the core of why they found him to be deplorable, despicable, and a horror show to them.

They hated him and they still hate his message today, because they are self-righteous.

Self-righteousness says I can save myself, help God, or have God help me do it.  And I can judge others, because I am morally superior.

Jesus came as a suffering servant.  And this is part of why people rejected him.  Messiah was supposed to be something different, in their minds.

Jesus said to his followers, who were close to him, "Blessed is the one who does not take offense with me".  Today, we get offended with everyone and with anything.  To not vent offense is a discipline and a blessing for those who control themselves.

Jesus comes in a package they were not expecting.  He comes to call sinners and not the righteous.  And the self-righteous are not righteous but are the greatest sinners!  Because they reject God's grace and do not love God, but idolize themselves and inadvertently serve Satan, who leads the way in narcissism and rebellion against God.

People who get it and follow Jesus are sinners saved by grace through faith.  It's all about the Savior and his faithfulness and grace.  The life of good works comes from that.  After: "Saved unto good works".

They were offended that he was a carpenter's son, who did not even go to seminary (Matt. 13:53-57).  Are you offended or do you despise people who you think are not qualified?

People were so put off by Jesus, that they said he must be demonized (John 10:20).  He was despicable to them.  We play this same "demonized" card against those we don't like or messengers we are not comfortable with.  And in the world, this language is to say, "mentally unstable or ill".

In their despising of him, they kept asking him, in a sense, "Who do you think you are, to say such things?" (John 8:53)

They were highly critical of him, in their contempt; noting that none of the elites followed him (John 7:48).  Elitism is not a good thing!

And they despised Jesus and were prejudiced against him, based on a fake story, unreal and untrue: a misunderstanding a misrepresentation of the facts, that he must have been born in Nazareth (John 7).  He was in fact, as we know today, born in Bethlehem, as prophesied in the OT.  But, not getting their facts right, they despised Jesus, because of where he was from: despising that place and him with it and it's people, when in fact, he was originally from Bethlehem.

The leadership of the day was so corrupt, that they missed Jesus and despised him.  When they could not deny that he was truly casting out demons, setting people free, they said he was doing it by the power of Satan (Matt. 12:24).  That's despising.

The elites and the elitism that rejected Jesus, kicked his followers out of the Synagogues (John 9:22; 12:42), excommunicating them.  That is despising.

Today, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is despised and rejected for similar reasons, as it was in the first century.  Jesus saves completely by grace: the unwashed, uncouth, vulgar, uneducated and 'deplorable' person.  That is offensive to some learned, elite and religious people.

The simplicity of salvation by grace through faith vexes and perplexes humanity that wants to be proud of its achievements and wield power.

See the naked peasant hanging dead, after hours of torture.  Whom God later raised from the dead  And who calls upon us to follow him, as king.  And there is nothing we can bring but ourselves.  We must give up everything to be his followers, including our prejudices, wealth and positions of power.

That is massively offensive to many and they despise that message.  They end up as enemies of the cross, despising Jesus work in the world, of saving sinners through grace and by faith.  Our lives end up being a work of calling people to follow us in our religion after the Bible, by our own interpretation, that opposes the cross (Philippians 3:18).

Being offended is a favorite indoor sport.  We become offended with Jesus when we decide what he should do or what he did was wrong.  We despise him.  But, blessed are we if we are not offended with him (Matt. 11:6).

Let's look at a number of ways that Jesus was despised and consider how we  might despise him or his work in his followers today.

Jesus was despised because he ate meals with 'sinners'.  You could make the case that this is what got him killed, because it was so offensive to the religious leaders.

Jesus continually ate and drank, shared meals, with the social outcasts.  How much do we do what Jesus did and how much do we despise those Christians today who actually spend table fellowship time with people we deem to be sinful?

The temptation of Jesus by Satan was a sort of invitation to Christ to take the easy way: make bread, leap off religious towers and worship Satan to leverage influence.  In a nutshell, avoid suffering, avoid the cross.

Jesus did not take up Satan's offer or follow his suggestions.  Instead of the easy way, Jesus goes the hard way, that turns out to be the redemptive way.

Satan's words were echoed later by the masses of people, who taunted Jesus when he was dieing on the cross:  "If you are the Son of God, come down from there".  Suffering is despised.

The cross, Jesus on the cross, is foolishness to those who reject him and despise him.  The cross and the gospel of Christ says that you need the cross, you need Christ, whether you are rich or poor, educated or ignorant, moral or immoral.  We despise the cross because it lays humanity flat: everyone equally needs the cross and salvation by Christ.

Christians who preach the gospel, that comes from Jesus and goes through his cross, will be loved and hated.  We will make some people glad and some people mad.  That is what the real Jesus does.

When no one ever gets mad at you for your message, we have to question whether you have been sharing the good news.  Jesus lives in the paradox of being love, wisdom, mercy and grace; while making some people furious.  That is the life he will live through you, if you are a Christian.

Today, we also despise weakness and suffering.  We live in the paradox of our loving all-powerful God and suffering.

The ultimate suffering was God himself suffering on the cross to atone for the sins of all humanity.

The cross, Jesus on the cross, is offensive and something to be dissed, dismissed and despised.  The reason it is so offensive is that Jesus on the cross says that there is no good in you and me outside of him.  We are mortally infected and death sentenced by our sins: utterly corrupt.

And the greatest sin is self-righteousness wherein I either make my own religion, where I am the center and I redeem myself; or I think I am worshipping the God of the Bible, yet I am saving myself or meriting my saving through my goodness.

Today, there is a moral superiority movement, that is human centered and based on human wisdom.  The way, the only and one way of  the cross is despised and dismissed or seen as a human belief that works for some.

They despised Jesus for who he was, what he did, and for the company he kept.  Because he did not follow the 'traditions of the elders', they despised him.

He was the author and the source of the very word of God.  Yet, tradition was preferred and assiduously adhered to, rather than following the God of the word (Mark 7, Matt. 17 and 23).

Today, we can either despise Jesus or embrace Jesus.  To embrace Jesus fully, we have to embrace the cross, a life of suffering, a life lived in and under radical grace, and a life of love.

When we leave out the cross, his cross and ours; we are despising him.

When we avoid suffering, try to skip it, cast it out, believe against it, and live a pain-free, pain-avoiding life; we are despising him and not walking with him, miserably going it alone or living in victorious denial.  The authentic Christian life is a life where we share in the sufferings of Christ.

When we add anything to God's grace, for our salvation, we are despising Jesus.  Nothing I do merits favor or makes me better.

The story of God, his story, is the love story.  God loves people.  They despised Jesus because he really loved people.  He sat with people, was always willing to be interrupted by people, always had time for people.

The cross life, suffering embraced in fellowship with Christ, radical, nothing more and nothing less grace; and a life of lived in love, being loved and loving people.  That is the life that does not despise him, but highly values and honors him always; as king.


Robert Newton, Messiah
Charles Spurgeon, The Offense of The Cross
Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
Patrick Henry Reardon, The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ
Herbert Anderson and Edward Foley, Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine
David Baron, The Servant of Jehovah: The Sufferings of the Messiah and The Glory That Should Follow