Old Testament prophecies pointed to the coming of the Christ and His kingdom (Luke 24:44-46), and the law of Moses served as a tutor to bring the Jews to the Christ (Galatians 3:24). Surely, out of all the people in the world, the Jews should have been the ones who were best prepared to recognize the Messiah when they saw Him. Sadly, many did not.
Certainly not all Jews rejected Jesus. His apostles were Jews, as were Martha, Lazarus, Mary, Zacchaeus, and others. Each of these received Him. Yet, the reality is, Jesus “came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). That was true of the Jewish nation in general. Many people sincerely wonder why that was the case. If Jesus really was the promised Messiah, then why did so many of His fellow countrymen reject Him?
We do not intend to speculate on what took place in the thinking of each individual Jewish person who did not receive Jesus, yet there are some indicators in the Bible about what caused at least some people to reject our Lord. We will note some of those reasons, realizing there were a number of contributing factors. The matters listed below are in no special order. Why did first-century Jews not receive Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ?
- Hard hearts – Though they witnessed many of His miracles, they had eyes, but could not see; had ears, but could not hear (John 12:37-41).
- Evil hearts: Some Jewish leaders were “wicked men” (Matthew 21:41), filled with envy (Mark 15:10), wanted to steal what belonged to Jesus (Matthew 21:38), tried to catch Jesus making a mistake (Luke 20:20; Matthew 22:15), were hypocrites (Matthew 23:27,28), and sought to destroy Him (Luke 19:47; Mark 3:6).
- They did not have God’s word abiding in them (John 5:37,38).
- They did not have the love of God in them. Jesus said so (John 5:42). Put another way, they hated Jesus because they hated His Father, too (John 15:23).
- Fear amidst pressure – Any Jew who confessed Jesus as the Christ was threatened with banishment from the synagogue (John 9:22).
- Loved the praise of men – Many among the Jewish rulers “believed in Him,” but loving the praise of men more than the praise of God, they refused to confess Him (John 12:42,43).
- Jewish leaders admitted His many miracles, but rather than praise God for such amazing feats, they wondered what they could do about Him and hold on to their power (John 11:47,48).
- He openly exposed the sins of the leaders and rebuked them for such . . . and they did not like it one bit (Matthew 21:45,46; 23:13-33).
- Believed lies – After Jesus rose from the dead, the Jewish leaders paid those who guarded the tomb to spread the lie that His disciples had stolen His body. Some gullibly accepted that falsehood and continued to reject the good news about Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15).
- Pre-conceived ideas – Some wrongly concluded that Jesus was ruled out as the Christ because He was counted as a Galilean (John 7:41,42). Some thought that the Christ must remain forever, and so Jesus could not be the One because He was going to die and leave the earth (John 12:32-34).
- Ignorance – Peter said that those Jews who had ahand in crucifying the Prince of life did so out of ignorance (Acts 3:15-17).
- The high cost of discipleship – Jesus called forHis followers to deny themselves, lay aside their sins, change, and sacrifice for Him (Luke 9:23). That did not appeal to some people then, just as it does not appeal to a lot of folks today.
- No great appeal/attraction – The Holy Spirit’s message through Isaiah was, “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground, He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2). From a merely human point of view, there was a lot in Jesus’ earthly life that did not scream out, “This must be the Messiah.” As a babe, He was placed in a facility where animals were kept (Luke 2:7). He worked as an uncelebrated carpenter (Mark 6:3), He had no secure place to sleep (Luke 9:58), spent time with sinners (Luke 15:1,2), and, among others, chose fishermen and a tax collector to be His special pupils. Some people were not “turned on” by such things in His life and did not receive Him.
May we suggest that it would be in order for each of us to examine our own hearts to see just why we choose to accept or reject Jesus as the Messiah.
— Roger D. Campbell