Why People Reject Jesus

Pastor Jeff Struecker

You may not know this, but Shaquille O’Neal, the famous basketball player, was offered a movie role, and the movie role basically invited him to take part in the movie, The Green Mile. Now, the actor who played in The Green Mile was just this ginormous human being, and the reason why Shaq was invited is because Shaq is just freakishly large.

Well, Shaq was invited to play in the movie, The Green Mile. He was given an $18 million movie offer, and Shaq turned that offer down instead of playing John Coffey in the famous movie. He was asked, “Why would you turn this down? This is a no brainer. It seems insane. You would work for a few months. You would do a few minutes in the movie, and you’d come away 18 million richer.” Shaq stood on his convictions, and he said, “I strongly considered it, but I couldn’t bring myself to play a black man in the Deep South, post-slavery.” But the guy who played in that movie, Michael Clarke Duncan, Shaq said, “absolutely nailed it, and it’s a good thing I turned it down, because there’s no way I could do what that guy just did.”

What we’re going to hear from the Bible today is this amazing, unprecedented offer that God makes to people all through the ages, and it’s mind-blowing to consider how many people hear about this offer, but they turn it down.

I’m going to do something a little bit different in this sermon today. Normally I try to find what the Bible says directly to you. I want you to apply it directly to your life. I want your life to look a little bit different at the end of the sermon.

Instead of talking to you today, I want to talk about your neighbor. I want to talk about that classmate that you go to school with. I want to talk about that guy or the gal that’s at the gym with you, and what I want you to hear from the Bible today (this is just going to come very naturally from the Bible in the book of John) is, we’re going to look at why people would reject the greatest offer in human history. We’re going to look at why people would reject Jesus.

In order to do that, we’re going to turn to John 7. Now, early this spring, we set out a goal as a church that every single one of us in the year 2021, would reach one person with the Gospel. We would talk to one friend, one neighbor. We would introduce somebody who’s far from Jesus, to Jesus, and explain to them why Jesus can change their life.

What you’re going to hear very naturally from the Bible today is what’s going through their minds when somebody hears what you have to say, but they just frankly are not interested and they turn around and they reject Jesus. What I want you to do, really, is I want this sermon to sit heavy on your heart, because I really hope that if you haven’t had the chance yet in 2021 to talk to just one person, if you haven’t yet explained to one person how they can become a Christian, this sermon, the Holy Spirit, will put one face, one name in your mind and you will decide this month, “I’m going to go talk to them. What happens next is up to Jesus, but I’m going to go talk to them and explain to them the greatest offer that’s ever been given.”

Why people reject Jesus

There are basically two reasons why people rejected Jesus. I’m going to show you this coin because these reasons are essentially the same coin, just different sides of the coin. 

1. Too close  

The first reason why people reject Jesus is because they get just too close to him. They get close enough to Jesus, that they get a little Jesus vaccine, which protects them from really getting the whole Jesus. “I know enough about the Bible. I’ve gone to church enough that I know a few Christian answers, but in my life, nothing looks different.” 

That’s the people that are too close to Jesus. They’ve seen a little bit about who Jesus is, just enough to barely taste it, and then they got enough and they start to turn around and turn away. There’s a group of people in John 7 exactly like this. In fact, they’ve seen more about Jesus at this point in the Bible than perhaps anybody on the planet, and the Bible tells us today, they don’t really believe in him.

So I want us to pick up where we left off. We ended John 6 last week and today, we roll right into chapter seven. We’re just moving systematically through the book of John in the Bible, and we’re going to be at John 7:5. Here’s what the Bible says is going on in John 7:

John 7:1-5 After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee, since he did not want to travel in Judea because the Jews were trying to kill him. The Jewish Festival of Shelters was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples can see your works that you are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his brothers believed in him.)

Jesus spoke to these huge crowds after he provided lots of food, after they went chasing after him. And Jesus thinned the crowds by telling them, “I’m not going to be your baker. I will be your Savior, but I won’t just do a magic trick for you.” And almost every one of them left him. 

At this point in the Bible, Jesus has made a few people upset. He’s ruffled a few feathers, and we’ve already heard that some people are not happy with him. But John just took this thing to a whole new level because John is now telling us, not only are they not happy with him, but if he shows his face in the capital city, they will capture him, and they will kill him.

If you’re reading the Bible for the first time, you’ve got to take a step back and say, “What did Jesus do that’s so wrong that people want him dead for it?” We’re going to answer that question in just a second. Hold onto it. Tuck it in your back pocket. All I want you to know is, people are so angry that they literally want to kill him for what’s going on up to this point in the Bible.

If you were to go back and read the book of Mark, you will learn that after Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ parents (Well Jesus’ mother and his stepfather), after Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph have more children. Mark lists a couple of brothers by name and at least a sister, maybe two. So now, Jesus’s literal brothers show up, and they’ve started to hear the message. Jesus has started to draw a crowd, and they decide they’re going to help him out a little bit. So they say, “Hey Jesus, you are a big fish in a small pond. If you really want to go make an impact, you got to leave Galilee. You’ve got to go to Judea. You’ve got to go to Jerusalem, because if you really want to draw a big crowd, you’ve got to go to the big city because big cities draw big crowds. And if you want to be a big shot, Jesus, it’s only going to happen in Jerusalem.”

Jesus is listening to his brothers, and they’re telling him, “Hey, the perfect time is coming up, Jesus. We’re about to celebrate the Festival of Shelters.” Now, if you have a different translation of the Bible, it may call it the Feast of Booth. This is one of the most important religious holidays in ancient Israel. It’s still a very important holiday. It’s a day where Israel went and remembered the way that their ancestors lived when God brought them through the desert, when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and he brought them into the Promised Land. But for 40 years, they had to live in temporary shelters, in tents.

So once a year around late September, early October, the Israelites, would move out of their house and would move into a tent. It usually lasted for about two weeks, and it was a two-week long party. I want you to think about it in the United States like Easter or Thanksgiving. It’s not the number one holiday of the year, but it’s not far away from number two. This one is a really big deal. People would sing. They would dance. They would pray for God to bless the harvest, because this is the time of the year that you would bring in the grapes. This is the time of the year that you would bring in olives. This was a huge moment in an agricultural community, and it was also the time that they would live, literally, in a tent or in shelters made out of twigs. They would remind themselves that God was good to our ancestors, and that same God will take care of us today.

Well, Jesus’ brothers are saying, “Jesus, stop what you’re doing. Go to Jerusalem. One of the biggest crowds of the year is going to be in Jerusalem, and if you show up with the big crowd, you can become a big shot.” But the Bible tells us something in parentheses that’s fascinating. “His own brothers who grew up in the same house with him didn’t really believe that he was the Son of God.” They believed that he was the son of Mary, but not the Son of God.

I want to ask, how could these guys who have heard him and seen him, not believe who he really is? Oh, by the way, the Bible tells us that his brothers will start to believe, but it will take his death and resurrection before they actually come to realize he wasn’t just flesh and blood. He was actually the Son of God. Why would they not see what’s standing right in front of them is the God of the universe? The answer is because like many people who get up and go to church, they’re way too close to him. They’re so close that they really can’t see what’s standing in front of their faces.

I was doing a little bit of research to try to figure this one out. I want to show you a couple of pictures. I’m going to put a picture on the screen, a super closeup, magnified, and I want you to just say it out loud, real bold, what you think you’re looking at when you see this picture on the screens. 

[images shown]

Do you know what you’re looking at right here? You’re looking at the eyeballs of a mosquito, when you see this picture. But those eyeballs don’t look anything like a mosquito.

How about this right here. Anybody want to take a guess at what you’re seeing on the screen right here? It is the wings of a butterfly. I love this one right here. What do you think you’re looking at right here in this giant cavern? If you were to zoom way out, it’s actually the grooves of a record.

Check this one out. This one is fun. Look, it’s happy faces, and they’re all smiling to see you. Do you know what you’re looking at right there? You’re actually looking at the cellular level of a blade of grass.

Now this one will freak you out. Do you know what this is? Stick out your tongue because that’s what you’re seeing on the screen right there. That’s what your tongue looks like when you super magnify it. There’s a couple of others that I just want to keep doing, because I think I could do this all day long. I think it’s pretty cool.

You want to take a guess what this is right here? It is the skin of a shark. That’s why they can zip through the water so fast. The last, and maybe my favorite, is this right here. What do you think this is that you’re looking at right here? It is eyelashes. This is what your eyelashes look like when you’re super close, and for some of you ladies, it looks much, much bigger than that.

Listen, what the Bible is describing for us is Jesus’ followers, they get really too close to him and even his own brothers. When they see Jesus, all they can see is somebody that they grew up with, and they totally miss who’s really standing in front of them. I’m convinced that people do this, millions of them. I’m just going to say it. Billions of people around the world get just enough Jesus that they’re inoculated from real life-changing faith, because what they do is, they pray and ask Jesus to do a favor for them. And to them, Jesus is really not much more than just a buddy. He doesn’t really make any impact in the way that they live their life.

For Jesus’ brothers, they say, “Hey Jesus, we want you to stop what you’re doing, and we want you to go to Jerusalem. The big festival is coming up, and you’ll be a big shot if you go to Jerusalem right now.” What they didn’t know is, he’s really the God of the universe who grew up in their house with them and who’s not going to follow their requests. He’s only listening to his Father in Heaven.

I need you to know that that guy that God is putting on your heart right now, that gal that you desperately want to see them become a Christian, maybe what they’ve heard is just enough Jesus to cause them to think, “I believed in that thing, so I’m not going to Hell, but I can live any way that I want.” If that’s the kind of faith that they’re describing, I don’t know what you call that, but you don’t call that the Gospel. You don’t call that saving faith.

The kind of faith that the Bible describes, it changes your life, literally changes your life, right here on planet Earth. John will talk about this in chapter 10 when he describes the abundant life, and that life never ends. It goes on forever. But the little bit of Jesus that just “gets you out of Hell, but I can go back to living anyway that I want after I prayed a few words”, that’s just enough Jesus to vaccinate you from the real thing.

2. Too far  

That’s one side of the coin, but the truth is that sin of unbelief, getting too close to Jesus and becoming vaccinated from the real deal, the other side of the coin is basically the same thing, just from a different angle. It’s people that get too far away from Jesus.

By this point, the crowds have tried to push him to become their king. His brothers are trying to push him to become a big shot, and Jesus won’t have it. In fact, what we read next is, Jesus refuses to listen to men and women because he’s so focused on following the will of his Father. Let’s pick up where we left off in verse six.

John 7: 6-9 Jesus told them, “My time has not yet arrived, but your time is always at hand. The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it—that its works are evil. Go up to the festival yourselves. I’m not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said these things, he stayed in Galilee.

The brothers were trying to push Jesus and give him a little shove. And Jesus said, “I won’t have it.” What you’re seeing from the Bible here is that Jesus is faithfully following God.

Now listen to me, Christian. Because we call ourselves Christian, which means like Christ or little Christ, we are supposed to follow in his footsteps. And what Jesus is saying to his brothers today is, “Listen, I love you guys. We grew up in the same house together. We have the same mother, but I will not listen to you. I’m listening to my Father.”

I just want to say it takes a lot of courage to stand up and to say, “No,” when the crowd is pushing you in one direction. It takes even more courage when the people that you love are pushing you. But Jesus says, “I refuse to get ahead of God. I will not force God’s hand and move to Jerusalem until he’s ready for me to go to Jerusalem. I refuse to get in front of him.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel this pressure every day. “God, please don’t let me make the mistake of running ahead of you and getting ahead of your will. But God, I also don’t want to make the same mistake of running behind you, being obstinate and not following your will. God, what I want to do today is just be step-in-step with you. I want to listen to your Holy Spirit, do what your Holy Spirit tells me to do, not get ahead of him and certainly not get behind him.”

For me, it feels like every moment of every day is a challenge to catch up with where the Holy Spirit wants me to go, or to hold back. Jesus isn’t being rebellious. He’s not being a jerk. He’s just simply saying, “I don’t listen to you. I listen to my Father, and it’s not time for me to go to Jerusalem yet because my Father hasn’t sent me to Jerusalem yet. And so I’m going to stay right here and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

I’m thinking about a conversation that I had this week with a great Christian man who’s struggling right now, because he feels like the Holy Spirit is being slow to show him what’s next and he’s really wrestling with it. As I’m talking to him on the phone, he is hurting, and I’m hurting for him. Or some of you have the tendency to run way ahead of the Holy Spirit and say, “Hey, I’m way up here. It’s time for you to catch up. It’s time for you to bless what I’m doing next, God.” 

Jesus is saying, “I’m not going to be that guy. I will faithfully follow the Holy Spirit, step-by-step, every moment of every day.”He actually sounds a little bit rude in this passage, because he’s saying, “The reason why people want to kill me is because they hate me.” I told you at the beginning that I would come back to this, if you tuck it in your back pocket. The reason they hate him is because at this point, Jesus has made it very clear, “You can’t follow me and keep living the way that you want to live. If I am God in your life, then I call the shots. If you are calling the shots in your life, then don’t you dare call me God. If I’m going to be God, I’m in charge, and I make the decisions for you. If you are in charge of your life, if you are making the decisions, then don’t call me God.”

People started to get upset. In fact, the crowds went away disappointed, perhaps even disgusted. Go back and listen to the last couple of sermons out of chapter six. You’ll hear that Jesus just refuses to be what they want him to be. He will own only be the Savior of the world, but you come to Jesus on his terms, not on your terms.

I was sharing the Gospel with a soldier when I was still in the Army, and I was explaining to him who Jesus is and what Jesus did for him. I was explaining why he should surrender his soul and turn over control of his life to Jesus and this guy got it. I mean, he totally understood every word that I was saying. He’s the first guy to say this to me. He’s not the only guy to say this to me, but I have never heard this so clear in my life.

He looked at me in the eyes and he said, “Jeff, I heard exactly what you say. It makes total sense. I completely understand what you’re saying, but no, I don’t want Jesus.” It shocked me. And I was like, “What do you mean? You understand, but you’re saying no”” He’s like, “Well, here’s the truth, and I’m just not going to lie to you or play games. I like sin. The sin that I’m doing right now, I plan to keep doing, and what you’ve told me is, if I’m turning my life over to Jesus, I can’t keep doing the sin that I know I’m doing. I’m just telling you right now, I like it. I want to keep doing it, and so I’m just not going to play games with you. I’m not going to play games with Jesus. I’m just going to keep on living my life the way that I’ve been living my life.”

I thought to myself, Well, thank God somebody’s finally being honest with themselves about this thing right now. At least he’s saying, “I know exactly what you’re saying. I understand the implications… and I don’t care. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

At that moment, my heart went out for this brother, because at that moment he realized, I would rather live the way that I want right now and spend an eternity in Hell, than live the way that God wants and go spend an eternity with him in Heaven. I’ve been thinking about him all week long, because he’s one of those guys, that’s so far away from Jesus. 

It’s the same sin of unbelief, not believing that this God really does love you. He is a good God and can radically change your life, and you won’t want that sin anymore after you come to him and come all the way to him. It’s just the other side of the exact same coin.

In order to wrap things up, instead of doing some next steps, I told you normally I like to talk to you, about you, at this point in the sermon. But instead of doing that, what I want to do is talk to you about that neighbor, that friend of yours, the person that the Holy Spirit’s placing on your mind right now, that you need to go talk to them about Jesus. I want to tell you, there’s basically five obstacles that will cause somebody who, when they understand it, they decide, “You know what? I’m good. Don’t want it.”

Obstacles to faith:

These are what I consider five of the big reasons. They’re not the only reasons, but they’re probably the top five reasons why somebody would object to Jesus, would reject Jesus. 

1. Not popular

The number one reason is because you are going to have to live different than your friends. You’re going to have to start acting different, talking different. Your affections will become different, and people, when they grasp what’s really going on here, realize, If I were to do that, my friends are not going to want to hang out with me anymore. We’re not going to go to the bar on a Friday night and try to pick up chicks anymore, if I were to go all the way in with Jesus and it’s going to make me wildly unpopular with my friends.

I just want to answer that person. Yes, it very well may, and I don’t want to be ugly with what I say next. I also don’t want to put some gross over simplifications. Yeah, following Jesus may cost you your family. It may cost you some friends, but in the process, you gain a whole ‘nother family. -a family that is deeper and richer than the ones that were hanging out with you at the bar, trying to pick up women. Some people realize, “If I were to do this, Jeff, I know what it’s going to cost me, and it’s going to cost me some friendships. And I’m not going to be the life of the party anymore.”

2. Didn’t get your wish

Here’s the truth. I have met many people who grew up in church, know a little bit about Jesus, and now they have turned around and they’ve walked away, completely, from the Christian faith and it boils down to this.

“God, I asked you to heal my grandmother from cancer, and you didn’t do what I asked you to do, when I asked you to do it, and she died from cancer.” As a result of this, and again, I’m not trying to be ugly. My heart hurts for people like this. I hope yours does, as well. But what they’ve simply said is, “God, I don’t really believe that you’re all powerful and you can heal cancer or you would have. If you are all powerful, God, and you could cure cancer, and you didn’t cure cancer, then I don’t believe you’re a good God.”

The thing that’s really holding them back (and I’m certain you know somebody like this) is, they didn’t get what they were asking for from God. And because they didn’t get what they were asking for, they decided he doesn’t really care. He’s not really good or he doesn’t really have the power to make a difference in my life. Because in their mind, following Jesus means, “I get what I want when I pray from him. And those of us who have been changed, radically changed by the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we know, “Hey, I pray. I pour my heart out to him, but I don’t always get what I want. In fact, I don’t often get what I want from him, but what he gives me is always better than what I’m asking for.”

3. Not for your glory

I think a few people will get to the point where you start to explain, at the moment that you surrender your life to Jesus Christ, he’s in charge and now from this point forward, you don’t live for yourself anymore. You start to live for God. You start to be on mission with God, living for his plans and his purposes, which means, you don’t get the glory anymore. You don’t get the credit for the good stuff that happens. Your life isn’t for your glory. Your life exists, here on this planet, to glorify Jesus your King, and he gets all of the attention.

4. Might be painful

Some people, they just don’t like that trade. Others, and I have specifically shared Jesus with a Jewish woman or a Muslim man, and they have said, “If I do this, it will cost me my family. All of my friends will turn their back on me.” In fact, one of them has said, “This will cost me my life if I surrender to Jesus.” And he’s absolutely right. And they’re starting to realize like, I don’t know if I’m willing to make that kind of sacrifice, because it might be very, very painful if I follow Jesus.

For those of us who live in the comfort of and complacency of this so-called Christian society, most of us don’t understand what people in persecuted parts of the world understand when they’re being offered an opportunity to surrender their life to Jesus and he becomes the center of the world, because they know “This will cost me. It will cost me my family, and it might cost me my life.” For many of them, praise God they’re willing to follow him anyway and lay their life down and say, “Whatever happens next, happens.”

By the way, Jesus says to us, “Hey, anybody who’s not willing to leave family, and brother and sister, and mother, and wife or husband, is not worthy of me.” Some of our brothers and sisters around the world who are coming to faith in Jesus tonight, know this might cost me my life, but it will cost me my family and my friends.

5. Delayed reward

The last reason, and I think this hits home with a few people, is that they want the good stuff now. They want toys and they want paychecks and they want power and they want all of the credit and all of the pat on the back. And what the Bible is offering, what Jesus even said today is, “That stuff doesn’t come here on Earth. It’s waiting for you. It’s waiting for you in ways that your mind can’t even comprehend. But you only get that when you get to Heaven. You might not get any of those rewards here on Earth. It may just be painful and challenging.”