People are afraid of a lot of things. And by people, I mean me. I am afraid of a lot of things. There are the popular choices, of course, like fear of dying, fear of heights, fear of Mongolian death worms. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) But of all common anxieties, I think the one that tends to weigh heaviest on the human soul is the fear of rejection. The fear that people will leave you, that they won’t like you, that they’ll turn their back on you. I’d like to say it’s just an adolescent thing, something we get over after the perilous trials of high school, but we never quite grow out of it, do we? There’s something about us that wants to be liked or respected or, on an even deeper level, just wants to be loved. And if that doesn’t happen, well, there’s nothing scarier than the idea of being utterly and completely rejected. It certainly sits at the top of my list of worst nightmares.
Now imagine this: that’s exactly what God subjected himself to, all in order to save us. And this was not some last-minute plot twist on God’s part. No, long before Jesus was born, this divine prophecy had been written for all to see:
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 53:3–4
This was the plan for the Messiah of the world. Jesus, who was God — literally the individual most deserving of our admiration — purposefully came into the world knowing that He would be completely rejected, even despised. In fact, he would be destined to bear the title Man of Sorrows. Who would sign up for that? Surely not the God of the universe! Let’s not even factor in the physical pain Jesus would endure. Just consider the emotional toll of having your creation, your children despise and reject you. And yet, God volunteered for this. Why? To save them. To save us. To save the very people who would reject him.
What God demonstrated through Christ was the complete opposite of rejection. He faced their hatred head-on and countered it with grace, mercy and unconditional love. Instead of rejecting the world, he embraced it by embracing the cross. He embraced pain, both physical and emotional. He embraced the totality of rejection. Not just rejection from the people, but also, as he bore our sin, from the Father himself.
And as mind-blowing as that is, it’s great news for anyone who has ever felt or feared being rejected. There will always be one who chose to love us instead of reject us, and he is the author of life itself. And he demonstrated this love in the most epic of ways. He even painted the picture way back in Isaiah 53. That picture is Christ. He embraced the pain of rejection so we could have the joy of fellowship — fellowship with him. It is a gracious gift, and all we have to do is be willing to accept it. Yes, God bore our worst nightmare so that we don’t have to.