Why people reject Jesus

Scripture Reading

 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

John 6:66

Disciple’s Unbelief

In this Bible study we come across one of the most astonishing verses in scripture where it is noted that many of the disciples of Jesus left him. The apostle John who wrote this gospel account describes it as they walked no more with him. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the number of this verse coincides with the description of the beast in the book of Revelation where his number is six hundred threescore and six, or 666. That aside, this verse is astonishing because if there was anyone who ever existed on earth that could be a credible witness to the gospel of grace it was Jesus Christ himself. Despite all his preaching, teaching and healing of the multitudes there were still many who went back and walked no more with him. But this raises the question for this study though in attempting to answer the question of why people reject Jesus.

The Christ

For some of his disciples like Peter, it was unequivocal that Jesus was who he said he was and Peter’s testimony supported this when he declared, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” or when he said, “Lord to whom shall we go, for thou hast the words of eternal life.” But contrast this now with some of the Jews and religious leaders who clearly heard the same words and preaching of Jesus only to respond by saying, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil?”  For believers in Christ living in the light, these words strike us as incomprehensible and blasphemous to label the Lord Jesus Christ in this context but for others they are indifferent, if not offended towards him. This is indeed a puzzling dilemma amongst humanity in that some will accept Jesus, some will reject Jesus and some will be like common opinion polls and just check off the no comment box.

Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matt. 16:16

Religious Persecution

The scriptures document how the religious leaders were determined to persecute Jesus and were intent on killing him; this was principally driven by envy over his teaching and growing number of followers (John 12:9). Other people in the Bible heard the gospel message preached to them and despite expressing interest and curiosity something inside still hindered them from believing. King Agrippa was one of those people who expressed this comment after listening to the preaching from the apostle Paul, “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” [Acts 26:28] Sadly, almost, does not make one a Christian and this man’s fate was likely sealed for eternity over his refusal to believe the message of saving grace shared by Paul.

Exploring the Reasons

Other people will let the world’s riches and its material trappings get in the way of seeking a life of faith in God. A man of this nature was recorded in the scriptures by the gospel writers as shown in this passage, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:” [Luke 16:19] But this story continued in the scriptures from the parable shared by Jesus and this man died and found himself in the torments of hell. Then there are people filled with a sense of self-righteousness who pride themselves on everything they say and do in comparison to others who are perhaps less fortunate. Scripture again describes someone who was like this, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” [Luke 18:11] A publican was a corrupt tax collector for the Roman empire.

Let us also consider the contrast of people’s reactions who were eyewitnesses of the miraculous act of Jesus in raising Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb. Here it was documented in the scriptures with two opposing reactions from the people, “Then many of the Jews who came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.” [John 11:45-46] To witness someone being raised from the dead would have hardly been a daily occurrence and nothing short of a miracle took place before them. But still, some of the people were more intent on informing the Pharisees who would have been known as the persecutors of Jesus on many previous occasions.

For neither did his brethren believe in him.

John 7:5

Brethren unbelief

This was not the half of it though in the scriptures. Take for example that Judas Iscariot was one of the early disciples of Jesus and yet he let sin and greed fill his heart to obtain a ransom type of payment for disclosing the location of Jesus to his persecutors. But not even the brethren of Jesus believed in him despite hearing his preaching, teaching and miracles performed, “For neither did his brethren believe in him.” [John 7:5] Even certain towns and communities steeped in their own sin and darkness rejected Jesus during his travels as noted in the scriptures, “And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.”  [Matt. 8:34]

Despite his clear preaching on declaring himself as the bread of life, or more succinctly, as the giver of eternal life, this was still met with criticism since many of the people viewed Jesus merely as one of their own within the community, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.” [Mark 6:3] This also occurred within the synagogue as people listened to his words of preaching and his claims to be the Son of God, “And 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] But as the scriptures declared early on in the New Testament, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” [John 1:11]

Reasons for rejection

Therefore in summary, some common reasons come to the forefront on why people reject Jesus. First there is the love of sin  as described in the scriptures, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” [John 3:19] Second there is a complete lack of repentance also described in the scriptures, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:5] Third there is a desire to be with the in-crowd so as not to suffer human persecution, again described in the scriptures, For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” [John 12:43] Then there are people who trust in themselves as shown in the scriptures, “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:” [ Luke 18:9]

Further to these reasons on why people reject Jesus there are those who have their own sense of self righteousness, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” [Rom. 10:3-4] Then there are those whose persistence in sin and obstinance towards God’s grace has caused even more retribution upon themselves, “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” [John 12:40]

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

John 1:11

There are also countless people in the world intent on a form of self salvation whereby their good works and deeds will earn them a place in heaven but this is denying the sacrificial atoning work of Christ dying on the cross for their sins. Take careful note of how Paul describes this in one of his letters, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” [Gal. 2:16] This premise was deemed so important and foundational to the Christian faith that Paul repeated it in his other letters to the early church, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” [Eph. 2:8-9] The works of the law gave the false perception that one became worthy the more he practiced and kept the law but the law was only intended to lead people to Christ as saviour (Gal. 3:24).

Origins of rejection

The refusal of God’s saving grace and salvation through him is something that has persisted since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden. Evidence of this dilemma is contained in Solomon’s writings from the Old Testament, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” [Prov. 30:12]  This is further noted by Solomon in his book of Proverbs with his notable comment on man’s prideful condition, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” [Prov. 21:2] This is indeed a common situation in the world on why people reject Jesus when a common phrase is expressed, “I’m a good person” but that is a bit like saying I can meet God’s approval with my own good deeds. But what about his Son and the cross? Was his sacrifice all for nought?

Jesus however knew from the beginning of time the fact that not all people would believe in him through faith, “But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” [John 6:64] Despite being witness to the many miracles he performed on people and nature this still did not convince them to believe on him, “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:” [John 12:37] Therefore, it should come as no surprise that this issue even prevailed among the people who heard the first hand preaching from apostles like Paul and Peter, “And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.” [Acts 28:24]

Here is the reality of the matter on why people reject Jesus. People refuse to believe the truth because their sin is the more treasured commodity in their life as noted in this scripture, “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” [2 Thes. 2:12] This is why the apostle John urged people to put this world into proper perspective in contrast to the Lord Jesus Christ, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” [1 John 2:15-17] This passage of scripture clearly articulates the luring and often sensual appeal of the world but this often comes at the cost and demise of one’s desire to seek a life of faith in Christ.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Time for repentance

To close off this Bible study on why people reject Jesus, the length of this commentary merely touches the surface on this subject. Scriptural references are provided to support and substantiate that the rejection of Jesus is not new, nor does it show the ultimate decline of civilization. The heart of man is filled with sin whether people admit if or not. Further to this, we are born in sin through Adam’s sin as the first man; all have inherited this flaw that draws condemnation from God (John 3:19). Coming to Jesus must start with the realization that sin is holding you back from believing in him by faith. John wrote of this need for confession in one of his letters to the church, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” [1 John 1:9-10] Jesus took your sin upon himself while on the cross at Calvary and in turn he will give you his own righteousness upon you, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” [2 Cor.5:21]

God does not want you to perish in your sin (John 3:16). His desire is for you to come to him by faith, repent of your sins and believe and confess that Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9-10). For as the apostle Peter once wrote in his letters to encourage all seekers of faith for eternal life in Christ, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” [2 Pet. 3:9] Why not make this decision right here and right now for eternity. The world will not save you but Christ will if you come to him in faith and believe in him (John 3:18).

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this study on why people reject Jesus, name at least two of Jesus apostles who believed that he was the Christ.
  2. The religious leaders known as the Pharisees persecuted Jesus because of envy, true or false? Hint Matt. 27:18
  3. Fill in the blanks from this verse, Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a ____________, and hast a ____________? [John 8:48]
  4. Why do you think some of the the brothers of Jesus did not believe in him (John 7:5)?
  5. In Luke 13:5, why does Jesus highlight the importance of repentance during his preaching?
  6. Name at least three reasons why people reject Jesus as noted in this study.
  7. If you came to place of repentance over your sins and believed in Christ, consider sharing this study with a friend.

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