Today, many people in the world call God who came down to this earth “the Christ”. In contrast, 2,000 years ago, the Jews regarded the One who appeared before their eyes as “a mere man” (John 10:33). If they had realised His divine nature hidden underneath that body of flesh, would they have dared mock, ridicule and even crucify Him?
What caused them to reject the Saviour they had been waiting for? So far we have seen through the words of Jesus that it was because they did not believe the Bible and they did not know God (John 5:46-47, John 15:18-21). Another reason was that, instead of focusing on the Bible’s prophecies, the people turned their attention to the physical aspects of Jesus. However, the Bible tells us clearly that we cannot receive Christ by looking only at His physical way of life.
Isaiah 53:2 … He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Isaiah 8:14 … he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall… he will be a trap and a snare. (also in 1 Peter 2:4-8)
The reason the Bible called Jesus “a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” was because He was to come with an appearance just like one of us, being in the flesh and hiding all His divinity.
Being blinded by what they could see, the Israelites regarded everything that Jesus did as an eyesore.
Luke 11:37-38 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.
The Israelites had a custom of washing their hands before meals. Eating with unwashed hands was regarded as eating with “dirty fingers”. Yet, Jesus did so, and so He did not look good in the people’s sight. As they made judgment against God with their own custom, they rejected Him. However, each country has their own traditions and customs. Suppose Jesus was in India, we can guess that Jesus would be judged too if He were to eat with fork and spoon.
People Around Him
Luke 15:1-2 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
To God, there is no difference between people as all are sinners (Romans 3:10). However, the Jews hated the tax collectors. It was because the taxes they collected were handed over to the Romans. Thus, the Jews regarded tax collectors as informants of Rome.
The Jews despised these “sinners”. What was more shocking was that Jesus said the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of them (Matthew 21:31). Of course, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law took offense at this.
Matter of Eating and Drinking
Matthew 11:18-19 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
At that time, Baptist John ate only locusts and honey (Matthew 3:4) and the people criticized him as having a demon. Jesus ate and drank as a normal person would, and yet, the people criticized Him too. Through this we can understand that, no matter what Jesus did, the Israelites would always have something to say.
Jesus came in our likeness as a man (Hebrews 2:14). He must have felt hungry, thirsty, and pain as we do. Is it wrong to eat and drink?
John 7:14-15 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
At the young age of 30, Jesus began to teach in the synagogue. Since Jesus is, in fact, the author of the Bible, naturally, He would be able to teach even without “learning”. Thus, would it be more “appropriate” if Jesus were to graduate from theological school?
Matthew 13:54-57 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.
The Jews in Jesus’ hometown found it hard to believe that Jesus, who grew up with them in the same town, was the Saviour. They knew His physical family members and could not accept that God had a family. Is it wrong for God to have a physical family? Since God was to come in the flesh, would He appear out of nowhere? As the Bible prophesied that He was to be born as a son (Isaiah 9:6), Jesus would definitely have His physical family.
Unbelief of Family Members
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.”
John 7:5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Here, we can see that Jesus’ physical family members did not believe He was God, saying He was “out of his mind”. This must have made it very hard to recognise Him as God. From the perspective of the Jews, since even people who saw Jesus all His life thought that He was not God, so how could He really be the Christ?
Place of Residence
John 7:41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee?”
Galilee was a poor fishing port at that time, it was also near the border where Gentiles resided. Thus, Galilee was regarded as “unclean” and was despised by the Jews.
In the days of Jesus, which is in the Roman Era, Israel was divided into 3: Judah, Samaria and Galilee. Among them, Galilee which was located in the northern end had always been suffering from the attack of other nations around it. Also, since its location bordered on Gentile nations, it showed more Gentile “flavours” as compared to any other regions. Additionally, since Assyria seized Galilee in the territory of North Israel and took the people captive around 734 B.C., Galilee was under the control of Gentiles for a long time and more Gentiles than Israelites came to live there (2 Kings 15:29). That was why the Jews in Judah despised Galilee as well as Samaria.
Jesus preached at Galilee as prophesied in the Bible (Isaiah 9:1-2), yet the Jews faulted Him for this. From this, we can understand that the Jews expected God to come from a glorious place, and Jesus clearly did not meet their expectations. As they had their prejudice against Galilee, they concluded that Jesus cannot be the Christ.
God Cannot Die
John 12:33-34 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’.”
The Jews questioned Jesus’ divinity because He let them know He was going to die. Of course, God is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8), His spirit never dies. However, due to our transgressions and iniquities, God came down to this earth to suffer in our stead (Isaiah 53). They failed to believe in the prophecies about the Messiah, and instead, judged Jesus based on their own logic. Clearly, they did not know God is omnipotent and omnipresent.
John 10:30-33 … “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
In summary, the Jews rejected Jesus because they would not accept that a man could be God. Moreover, since Jesus came as a testing stone, it was even harder to recognise Him by His physical appearance alone. In the end, the Jews not only rejected Him, but they even committed the grave sin of crucifying God on the cross.
Luke 17:24-25 … But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
According to the above prophecy, the second coming Jesus will be rejected by people again. We must clearly distinguish between physical aspects and the prophecies of the Bible. Which of these two testifies to Christ? By taking a lesson from the past (Romans 15:4), we will not commit the same error as they did, and receive the Saviour in the age of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 11:6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
2 Corinthians 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.