Friday, April 9, 2010

Passive Rejection of Jesus: A Meditation

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
"I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of the Lord’s coming to you. ~ Luke 19:39-44
In the midst of Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, in the midst of what should be the Inauguration Day of the Kingdom of God, something shocking occurs. It’s so startling, and yet so subtle, you might miss it. It’s the fact that the King shows up, just as God promised He would, and no one noticed. Maybe you don’t think that. Maybe you’ve grown up hearing this story, of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem of King Jesus, and so you picture this glorious scene. But there probably wasn’t much glory. Jesus was dressed like an ordinary Jewish peasant, but with a crowd of other peasants surrounding him. There was some amount of cheering, to be sure, but not much. Since it was nearly Passover, it’s likely that as many as 1 million people would have been in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Yet when Jesus comes, publicly announcing himself as Messiah, the Pharisees say: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” In other words, it’s not a big crowd. Most of the cheering is probably being done by people directly associated with Jesus, probably a big portion of whom are the people that became the 120 disciples who were praying in the Upper Room at Pentecost. But it’s a long way from massive support for Jesus’ Messianic claim. The broad run of people regard Jesus as an interesting prophet, to be sure, but not Messiah. And so, when he came on this day, they ignored it. Their reaction wasn’t so much active rejection as passive indifference. But it is rejection all the same, and culpable sin against God.

And so with great tears in his eyes, Jesus announces the coming judgment on the city. That judgment fell, finally, in 70 AD, when the Romans under Titus came in and did just what Jesus predicted—built and embankment against the city walls, encircled it with troops, tore the walls down, and dashed people and children to the ground. The city was partially burned. The Temple itself was completely leveled. The city walls were torn down. Not one stone was left on another. Why did this happen? According to Jesus it was “because you did not recognize the time of the Lord’s coming to you.” In other words, in the eyes of God, the passive indifference of the nation to the coming of their promised Messiah is just as serious as the active rejection of the Messiah by the nation’s leaders.

When I consider the many people with whom I've tried to share the Gospel over the years, it is with an ache in my heart as I recall the fact that many of them had similar reactions to Jesus. It's not that they are hostile, so much as they simply can't be bothered to care. "King Jesus? Well, maybe your king, but not mine." Will the judgment received by people who passively reject Him now, after the Resurrection, be less severe than those who rejected Jesus in the days of his earthly ministry? Scripture clearly says it will not be, and I weep for them.

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