The Humiliation of Jesus
by Jack Wald | December 6th, 2015

John 1:9-13

Samuel left his village and moved to another country where he became a wealthy businessman. As he sat with all his wealth, he thought about his childhood and decided he would go back to his village and help. When he returned he saw some children playing football in the dirt and thought it would be good if he could build them a place to play. So he bought some land, built a football field, erected stands for fans to watch, bought balls and uniforms for the kids, and sat back to watch.

The field attracted other people and soon there was a desire to form a local team to compete with other teams in the country. Samuel bought the equipment needed for them and installed lights so games could be played at night. People were delighted and thanked him. He was a hero in the village of his youth.

Samuel hired a man to manage the stadium for him and then returned to his home in another country. For awhile he received reports from the manager but then the reports became fewer and fewer. He tried to contact the manager but received no response. So he decided to go back to the village and see for himself what had happened.

In his absence, the manager of the stadium had paid the officials to have the legal papers changed so he was now the owner of the stadium. He charged admission to those who came to watch the matches and he demanded money from the players who wanted to play on the team. He had become wealthy and influential in the community.

When Samuel arrived, the manager worked to protect what he had stolen. Samuel saw what he had been doing and tried to remove him, but the manager’s bribes worked and Samuel was told he needed to leave the country or face the consequences. Samuel was even denied permission to sit in the stands he had built and watch a football match. Samuel who had given so much, was humiliated and rejected.

What is the story of Jesus? At Christmas we focus on his birth with angels, shepherds, and wise men. We like reading about his miracles: walking on water, feeding the five thousand, giving sight to the blind, helping the lame to walk, healing lepers, and even raising people from the dead. We celebrate his resurrection at Easter. But a large part of the life of Jesus was his experience of rejection.

Amazingly, this is how it has always been with God as he has interacted with the men and women he created. God revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He revealed himself to Moses and Joshua. He spoke to his chosen people through his prophets. And over and over again he was rejected, reduced to one of many gods, replaced by wooden idols and the worship of Asherah and Baal.

If you read through the Bible, as you make your way through the prophets there are incredibly strong and vivid descriptions of the idolatry of Israel, the rejection of God for other gods. God spoke through Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 2:23–25)
23 “How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
running here and there,
24 a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
sniffing the wind in her craving—
in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
at mating time they will find her.
25 Do not run until your feet are bare
and your throat is dry.
But you said, ‘It’s no use!
I love foreign gods,
and I must go after them.’

As the heavenly creatures looked down on earth I would imagine there was great dismay at the faithlessness of Israel. Despite all God did for these earthly creatures, they continued to be stubborn, obstinate, and rebellious.

But now excitement was building in heaven. Jesus, the Son of God, was going on a rescue mission, to be born as a human baby boy. God was going to take on the flesh of his creation in order to rescue them and bring them into his eternal home. Peter writes in his letter about the coming of the Messiah and his return and then adds at the end, (1 Peter 1:12)
Even angels long to look into these things.

Gabriel, an archangel, was sent to Zechariah to tell him his wife would bear a son in her old age. Gabriel told him to give his son the name of John and that his son would be the one who would prepare people for the coming of the Messiah.

Then Gabriel was sent to Nazareth to a young teenage girl, Mary. (Luke 1:30–33)
the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The work of the angels was not over. When Mary told her fiancee, Joseph, that she was pregnant, like any rational man he didn’t believe her and planned to quietly divorce her so she would not be stoned to death. But then the angel of the Lord, perhaps Gabriel again, appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that what Mary had said was true.

Joseph and Mary set out for Bethlehem and when they arrived, they were welcomed into a home, probably the home of a relative. Because the family’s guest room was already occupied, they shared the family living space with the manger for the animals at one end of the room.

When the time came for Mary to give birth, the angels had their next task. An angel of the Lord (was this also Gabriel?) appeared to the shepherds to give them the good news of great joy that the Messiah had been born. The angels of heaven were looking so intently at what was happening that they burst onto the scene. This was far too exciting to allow just one angel, even an archangel, to bring the news. (Luke 2:13–14)
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Angels celebrated the birth of Jesus. The shepherds went to see the baby the angels had told them about. Simeon and Anna greeted Jesus with great joy when Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple to be dedicated. A year or so later some wise men arrived bearing gifts for this baby whose birth was announced in the stars.

There was excitement in heaven, but not everyone was excited. There was a battle taking place and is still taking place in heaven. The devil is a fallen angel. Why he rebelled against God is not clear but the birth of Jesus was attacked from the very beginning.

When Herod heard about this birth he saw it as a threat to his kingdom and sent soldiers to kill all the baby boys, two years old and younger, that lived in Bethlehem. An angel was sent to warn Joseph and he left that night with Mary and Jesus to go to Egypt.

After a few years, perhaps two to four, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth. We know very little about how Jesus was viewed as a child and teenager, or as a young adult. We know he learned the trade of carpentry from his father. We know he was able to discuss the scriptures with scholars who were impressed with him. But it is only when he is an adult and begins his public ministry that we pick up his story.

This morning we are continuing from the opening verses of John’s gospel. John has talked about Jesus being the light of the world and now he moves to the moment the angels were so excited about, the birth of Jesus.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

There have been great moments in history. Andrew Marr has a program on BBC titled, “History of the World,” and he presents his list of top ten most important moments in history.
1. 70,000 years ago humans began to migrate out of Africa
2. 11,000 years ago farming was discovered
3. 2,000 BC Da Yu, a mythical figure, united the clans living along China’s Yellow River by persuading them to co-operate in a huge network of channels and canals to end its devastating floods. This allowed for larger civilizations.
4. 35 AD Saul’s conversion and the growth of Christian faith
5. 1162 AD Temujin, known as Genghis Khan, was born and he went on to conquer Asia
6. 1532 AD Pizarro, a Spanish conquistador, ambushed the Inca emperor, Atahualpa
7. 1796 AD Edward Jenner discovered vaccinations
8. 1921 AD Margaret Sanger and Katherine Dexter McCormick began to fund research for the pill, a contraceptive for women
9. 1933 AD a policeman at the Nazi’s Munich Beer Hall Revolution, shot and missed killing Hitler
10. 1945 AD the bombing of Hiroshima

These lists are always highly subjective and debatable, but the historical moments on Marr’s list, with the exception of Saul in 35 AD, are only significant to this world which is here for a time and then will disappear. They make a difference to the eighty or so years we live on planet earth. But it is the birth of Jesus that is the most significant turning point for the world because its significance moves past our eighty years on earth and into eternity. There is no event that measures close to this moment in time because this was the moment that God stepped into history and began his plan to rescue people who were lost and bring them into his eternal home. It is at this point in time that death was defeated and eternal life was made possible.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

How was the world going to respond to this incredible moment in history?

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

In this most momentous of historical events, Jesus, who created the world, was unrecognized by the world. He was rejected not only by the world but also by his chosen people, the Jews.

So let me talk about the humiliation and rejection of Jesus. The first humiliation was his birth.

God is omnipresent. He is present everywhere. There is nowhere to go where God is not already present. Psalm 139 tells us, (Psalm 139:7–8)
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

God is omnipotent. He is all powerful. Psalm 46:6 reads:
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

God is omniscient. God knows everything. In Psalm 139, once again, we read (Psalm 139:4)
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.

So this God who is present everywhere, all powerful, and all knowing was born as a baby. Jesus, as a baby, was not present everywhere; he lay in a manger. He was not all powerful; he was a baby; unable to care for himself. He was not all knowing; he came out of the womb and was bewildered as all babies are. Jesus could not walk or talk. He could not understand what was being said by people around him because he didn’t know their language. He could not feed himself and could not even properly digest the food his parents ate. He needed to be changed when he wet his diapers (or nappies as some people call them). God became completely vulnerable and had to be protected by Mary and Joseph from Herod and his soldiers.

In the early church they sang this song which is recorded in Philippians 2:5–8.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

The bulletin cover shows Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus in a manger. Under the picture it reads, “Humiliation and Rejection.” What is humiliating about being born a baby? It is the process of God making himself nothing, humbling himself, being born as a human baby, made from the same earthly dust we are made of.

The writer of Hebrews talks about this humbling of Jesus. (Hebrews 2:9)
9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

In his humbling, Jesus was limited. He did not know when he was a child that he was God in the flesh. He had to mature, just as we all have to mature as we age. Luke writes about Jesus, as a twelve year old boy, speaking with the teachers in the temple and then writes: (Luke 2:52)
52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Jesus grew in wisdom which means he lacked wisdom when he was young. If he had been wiser perhaps he would not have stayed talking with the teachers in the temple and causing his parents so much anxiety. Jesus made mistakes and learned from his mistakes. That is what wisdom is, learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.

As Jesus moved from infancy to his toddler years, then his adolescence, teenage years, and his young adulthood, he grew in his awareness of who he was. At the age of twelve when he asked questions of the teachers in the temple, he knew he had a special relationship with God, his father. (Luke 2:49)
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

At his baptism he understood in a more profound and powerful way who he was when he heard God tell him, (Mark 1:11)
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness after this, thinking through the implications of what he had learned.

At some point before Jesus met with Elijah and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus began to talk about his death and resurrection. (Matthew 16:21)
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

I imagine this was a topic of conversation with Jesus, Elijah, and Moses because after this we read in the gospels that Jesus turned his face to Jerusalem.

As Jesus became more aware of who he was, how did he react to the rejection he received from the Jewish leaders?

This is where I come back to the story at the beginning of the sermon where the man who built the football stadium was rejected by those who now were managing the stadium. Jesus told parables like this. In the Parable of the Tenants Jesus tells of a landowner who planted a vineyard, got it all fixed up, and then moved on to another location. When it was harvest time he sent his servants to collect the fruit and the tenants beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. He sent more servants but they were treated the same way. Finally he sent his son, thinking they would respect him, but the tenants saw the son, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Jesus asked the people listening what the landlord would do when he came to his vineyard and confronted the tenants.  (Matthew 21:33–46)
41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

Jesus is being confrontational, speaking about the injustice he was experiencing from these leaders of the Jews. We know he spoke in love with a desire for the chief priest and the Pharisees to repent, but I think he also spoke out of the pain he experienced in being rejected by these people he loved.
Jesus was rejected by the world. King Herod tried to have Jesus killed when he was a baby boy. Herod’s son, Herod Antipas, mocked Jesus when Pilate sent Jesus to him to be examined.

Jesus was rejected by his own people, the Jews. When he healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute so that he could both talk and see, the Pharisees accused him of healing in the name of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. (Matthew 12:22-32) When he claimed his divinity, they tried to stone him. They plotted against him seeking a way to kill him.

Jesus was rejected by his hometown. He went to Capernaum to announce the beginning of his public ministry and how did the people he grew up with react? (Luke 4:28–30)
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Jesus was rejected by his own family. When they heard that Jesus was surrounded by great crowds, they came to try to take him back home. (Mark 3:21)
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

His brothers mocked him and dared him to go to Jerusalem when they knew the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were looking for him to kill him. (John 7:5)

Jesus was also rejected by his disciples who deserted him when he most needed their support. He pleaded with his disciples on the Mount of Olives to pray with him but they all fell asleep. Judas came with the temple guard and betrayed him with a kiss. The disciples ran away. Peter followed Jesus but then denied knowing Jesus three times.

The guards mocked and beat Jesus. Herod got bored with Jesus when he would not do any miracles to entertain him. Pilate allowed the crowd who shouted for Jesus to be crucified to prevail. They nailed Jesus to the cross where his suffering and pain was exposed to public view. On the cross Jesus experienced one final rejection which is a great mystery. Jesus cried out, (Mark 15:34)
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

How did Jesus respond to the rejection he experienced? How do we respond to rejection? One way to handle rejection is to strike back, to attack the one who rejects us. Another way we react is to retreat, as Moses did. Moses tried to be the savior of his fellow Jews and killed an Egyptian who was beating some Hebrew slaves, but his fellow Hebrews rejected his attempt to help and when Pharaoh heard about it, he wanted Moses to be killed. So Moses ran off to the desert and hid for forty years until God called him to go back. And then Moses offered up objection after objection to what God wanted him to do. Moses was so debilitated by his rejection that it is amazing he accomplished what he did.

Jesus did not strike back. Jesus did not go hide in the desert. Jesus did not cut himself off from those who rejected him, which is what we do. “If you don’t want my help, then go off and suffer.” As the French expression goes, “Ce n’est pas mes oignons.” (It is not my onions.)

But Jesus loves onions, even when they make him cry. How did Jesus respond to rejection? John continues in his gospel.
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

In my life I went to Sunday School and church but neither of those had much affect on my life. When my oldest sister came back from university with the news that she had become a follower of Jesus, I mocked her and she sometimes went to bed in tears because of what I said to her. Even when I had moments when my guard was down and I needed help and found help by praying to Jesus, these did not last and I soon went back to my own self-focused life.

But Jesus did not abandon me when I used him and then rejected him. Jesus did not give up on me. Jesus pursued me until I came to my senses and submitted to him.

Despite all of our indifference, rebellion, insults, and attempts to use Jesus for our own personal gain, Jesus loves us and pursues us. And the moment we turn to him, he is there to welcome us into his kingdom, to make us God’s beloved daughters and God’s beloved sons.

There are three challenges for us from this message. The first is to respond to the patient work of Jesus to bring us into his kingdom. We sing in our worship sometimes “I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross.” This is true and the only rational response is to bow down and worship Jesus who loves us so much. But we will also never know how much it cost for Jesus to leave his eternal heavenly existence and be born as a baby boy. The events we celebrate at Christmas and Easter are amazing demonstrations of God’s love for us.

When such a great price has been paid, do we want to treat the gift of salvation we are offered lightly? How long will we hold on to self and refuse to submit to the love of God in Christ Jesus? Open wide your arms and heart and receive the love that will carry you through this life and into eternity.

The second challenge is to respond to rejection as Jesus did, with love. We avoid pain and so we turn away from rejection. We get angry at the person who rejects us. We are righteously irritated at how a person will use us and then reject us. We say, “Why are we wasting our time with that person?” We pull back. And while we are pulling away, Jesus is pressing forward with his love, seeking the opportunity to encourage that person to open a crack in their heart that is closed.

The challenge for us is to continue to love. We do not lecture, taunt, or harangue. We do not become angry, argumentative, or indifferent. We move forward, secure in the love we experience from Jesus. We hold our head high. We know who we are and where we are headed. We do not need to be defensive. We do not need to fear. We do not shrink away.

The third challenge is to be willing to give up our rights and privileges for the sake of the kingdom of God. The challenge is for us to give up earthly dreams for heavenly rewards.

The world tells us what success looks like and we decide what part of that we want. We set our sights on how high we want to move in our career, how big a house we want, how much influence we want to have in our community.

This is not a call to mediocrity. We are called to excellence in what we do. I am pleased that in the student ministry a call to academic excellence is part of the program. I encourage people to work hard and be successful in their job, in their career. Our excellence in our work gives us a platform from which we can share our faith.

But sometimes we realize that what God is calling us to will mean we don’t go as high in our career as we would like. We may not have as nice a house as we imagined. We may not have the list of achievements we wanted. And that is ok. As Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

None of this is easy for us, but then none of this was easy for Jesus. We look to Jesus and learn from his example.

As we share in the meal of communion this morning, hear the prophecy of Isaiah seven hundred years before his birth and consider your response to what Jesus has done for you.
Isaiah 53:1-6
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.