Gleanings in the Godhead
by A.W. Pink
Revised: February 14, 2005
Part 2: Excellencies Which
Pertain to God the Son as Christ
33. The Despisement of Christ
"He Is Despised and rejected of men" (Isa. 53:3), forms part one of the Messianic predictions. God made known long beforehand the treatment His Son would receive when He became incarnate. The prophecy of Isaiah was in the hands of the Jews 700 years before Jesus was born at Bethlehem; yet, so exactly did it describe what befell Him that it might well have been written by one of the apostles. Here is one of the incontrovertible proofs of the divine inspiration of Scriptures, for only One who knew the end from the beginning could have written this history beforehand.
It might have been supposed that the coming to earth of the Lord of glory would meet with a warm welcome and reverent reception; and more so in view of His appearing in human form, and His going about doing good. Since He came not to judge, but to save, since His mission was one of grace and mercy, since He ministered to the needy and healed the sick, will not men gladly receive Him? Many would naturally think so, but in so doing they overlook the fact that the Lord Jesus is "the Holy One." None but those who have the principle of holiness in their hearts can appreciate ineffable Purity. Such an assumption as just mentioned ignores the solemn fact of human depravity: the heart of fallen man is "desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). How can the Holy One appear attractive to those who are full of sin!
Nothing so clearly evidences the condition of the human heart, nor so solemnly demonstrates its corruption, as its attitude toward Christ. Much is recorded against man in the Old Testament (see Psalm 14:1-4); yet, dark as its picture is of fallen human nature, it fades into insignificance before what the New Testament sets before us. "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7); never was this so frightfully patent as when He was manifested in flesh. "If I had not come, and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin" (John 15:22). The appearing of Christ fully exposed man, and brings to light as nothing else has the desperate wickedness of his heart. Let us consider three questions: Who was (and still is) "despised and rejected of men"? Why is He so grievously slighted? In what way is He scorned?
Who was so unwelcome here? First, the One who pressed upon men the absolute sovereignty of God. Few things are so distasteful to the proud human heart as the truth that God does as He pleases, without consulting with the creature; that He dispenses His favors entirely according to His imperial will. Fallen man has no claims upon Him, is destitute of any merit, and can do nothing whatever to win God’s esteem. Fallen man is a spiritual pauper, entirely dependent upon divine charity. In bestowing His mercies, God is regulated by nothing but His own "good pleasure." "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" (Matthew 20:15) is His unanswerable challenge; yet, as the context shows, man wickedly murmurs against this.
The Lord Jesus came to glorify His Father, therefore we find Him maintaining His crown-rights and emphasizing His sovereignty. In His First message, in the Capernaum synagogue, He pointed out there were many widows in Israel during the days of Elijah. But when there was great famine throughout the land, the prophet was not sent to any but one at Zarephath; and though there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, none were healed, except by distinguishing mercy shown to Naaman, the Syrian. The sequel was, "All they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong" (Luke 4:28-29). For pressing the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty, Christ was "despised and rejected of men."
Who was so unwelcome here? Second, the One who upheld God’s Law. In it is the divine authority expressed, and complete subjection to it is required from the creature: thus Christ pressed the demands of God’s Law upon man. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17); "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). But fallen men resent restraints, and want to be a law unto themselves. Their language concerning God and His Christ is, "Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us" (Ps. 2:3). Because the Lord Jesus enforced the requirements of the Decalogue He was "despised and rejected of men." A solemn illustration of this occurs when he spoke to the Jews, "Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law. Why go ye about to kill me?" (John 7:19). What was their response? "The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil" (v. 20).
Who was so unwelcome here? Third, the One who denounced human tradition in the religious sphere. Despite the fall, man is essentially a religious creature. The image of God in which he was originally created has not been completely destroyed. The world over, blacks and whites, reds and yellows, pay homage to gods of their own devising; there are few things on which they are more tender than their sacerdotal superstitions. He who condemns, or even criticizes, the devotees of any form or order of worship, will be greatly disliked. Christ drew upon Himself the hatred of Israel’s leaders by His denunciation of their inventions. He charged them with "making the Word of God of none effect through their tradition" (Mark 7:13). When He cleansed the temple, the chief priests and scribes were "sore displeased" (Matthew 21:15).
Who was so unwelcome here? Fourth, the One who repudiated an empty profession. Nothing so infuriated the Jews as Christ’s exposure and denunciation of their vain pretensions. Since He was omniscient, it was impossible to impose upon Him; inflexibly righteous, He could not accept deceptions; absolutely holy, He must insist upon sincerity and reality. When they declared "Abraham is our father," He answered, "If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham." When they added, "we have one Father, even God," He replied, "If God were your Father, ye would love me . . . ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." This so riled them that they exclaimed, "Say we not well that thou are a Samaritan, and hast a devil" (John 8:48).
On another occasion, the Jews asked Him, "How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly" (John 10:24). He at once exposed their hypocrisy by saying, "I told you, and ye believed not . . . But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:25-27). They were so angry they "took stones again to stone him." Men will not tolerate One who pierces their religious disguise, exposes their shams, and repudiates their fair but empty profession. It is the same today.
Who was so unwelcome here? Fifth, the One who exposed and denounced sin. This explains why
Christ was not wanted here. He was a constant thorn in their sides. His holiness condemned their
unholiness. Men wish to go their own way, to please themselves, to gratify their lusts. They want to
be comfortable in their wickedness, therefore they resent that which searches the heart, pierces the
conscience, rebukes their evil. Christ was absolutely uncompromising. He would not wink at
wrongdoing, but unsparingly denounced it, in whomever He found it. He boldly affirmed, "For
judgment I am come into this world" i.e., to discover men’s secret characters, to prove they are blind
in spiritual things, to demonstrate they love darkness rather than light. His person and preaching
tested everything and everyone with whom He came into contact.
Why was (and is) Christ "despised and rejected of men?" First, because He required inward purity. Here is the great difference between all human religions and divine: the former concern themselves with external performances; the latter with the source of all conduct. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). Christ’s exposition and enforcement of this truth made Him unpopular with the leaders.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matthew 23:25-28).
Why was Christ "despised and rejected of men?" Second, because He demanded repentance. "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15), was His demanding call. That order is unchanging, for it is impossible to believe the Gospel till the heart be contrite. Repentance is taking sides with God against ourselves. It is the unsparing judgment of ourselves because of our high-handed rebellion. It is a ceasing to love and tolerate sin, and to excuse ourselves for committing it. It is a mourning before God because of our transgressions of His holy Law. Therefore, Christ taught, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3), for He would not condone evil. He came to save His people from their sins, and not in them.Why was Christ "despised and rejected of men?"
Third, because He insisted on the denial of self. This is on two principal points, namely, indulging and exalting of self. All fleshly lusts are to be unsparingly mortified, and self-righteousness is allowed no place in the gospel scheme. This was unmistakably plain in our Lord’s teaching: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Yet nothing is more contrary to the desires of the natural man, and Christ’s insistence upon these terms of discipleship causes Him to be despised and rejected of men.
How is Christ "despised and rejected of men?" In different ways, and in varying degrees: professedly and practically, in words and in works. It is most important to clearly recognize this, for Satan deceives a great many souls at this point. He deludes them into supposing that because they are not guilty of what pertains to the avowed infidel and blatant atheist, therefore they are innocent of the fearful sin of slighting and defying the Lord Jesus. My reader, the solemn fact remains that there are millions of people in Christendom who, though not atheists and infidels, yet despise and reject the Christ of God. "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:16). That verse clearly enunciates the principle.
Christ’s authority is "despised" by those who disregard His precepts and commandments. Christ’s yoke is "rejected" by those who are determined to be lord over themselves. Christ’s glory is "despised" by those who bear His name yet have no concern whether their walk honors Him or no. Christ’s Gospel is "rejected" by those who on the one hand affirm that sinners may be saved without repenting of and turning away from their sins, and on the other hand by those who teach heaven may be won by our own good works.
There are some who intellectually reject Christ, by repudiating His claims, denying that He is God the Son, assumed a holy and impeccable humanity, and died a vicarious death to save His people from their sins. Others virtually and practically reject Christ. There are those who profess to believe in the existence of God, own His power, and talk about His wondrous handiwork; yet they have not His fear upon them and are not in subjection to Him. So there are many who claim to trust in the finished work of Christ, yet their daily walk is no different from that of thousands of respectable worldlings. They profess to be Christians; yet are covetous, unscrupulous, untruthful, proud, self-willed, uncharitable; in a word, utterly unchristian.