Have you ever felt rejected? Rejection is known by all.
If you follow Jesus, then you know rejection. In the Book of Acts, you see you’re in good company as many of Jesus’ followers were rejected because of their message.
In Acts 21-22, Paul returned to Jerusalem for one last time before he took the gospel to the city of Rome. In Jerusalem, Paul got arrested and almost killed. His trial resembled the trial of Jesus as the people yelled, “Kill him!” Before the crowd of people Paul spoke and shared his life story (22:3-21). If Paul’s story were a mountain, then the top of the mountain would be verse 8 when Jesus introduces himself to Paul. In just a few words Jesus changed Paul’s life.
Do you notice what Jesus called himself in verse 8? He said, “I am Jesus of Nazareth.” It is interesting that Jesus referred himself a Nazarene. Why is his name so important? To understand why this is important you need to go back into history. Do you know that in the Bible there are more than 700 names for Jesus? Each name describes an aspect of his work and character. For example, he is called lamb of God, son of God, king, lord, Prince of Peace, shepherd, and more. It is a good study to study all the names of Jesus. But what does it mean that Jesus Christ was called “a Nazarene”? Why is this important for you and me today?
1. Jesus chose the name.
Jesus chose to greet Paul for the first time by saying “I am Jesus of Nazareth.” He could have chosen many other names, but he used this one. It is a strange one and often misunderstood.
2. Jesus identified with the rejected and despised.
Jesus grew up in the village of Nazareth. it was the home of his earthly father (Matthew 2:22-23). Jesus worked with Joseph as a carpenter until he was 30 years old.
Nazareth had a bad reputation. It was a no good town outside of the boundary of Jerusalem. Many Jews did not live there and they did not like it. They thought people there were rebellious. It was the town on the other side of the tracks (see John 7:52).
After a few years, when Jesus returned to Nazareth he was rejected by the people (Luke 4:16–30). A prophet is without honor in his own country and among his own people (Matthew 13:57).
3. Jesus died with the name of the rejected.
Luke 9:22 says that Jesus must suffer refection (see Luke 17:25). Before Jesus died Pilate wrote a sign for Jesus and put it above Jesus on the cross. It said, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). Jesus didn’t fight back and say, “I was born in Bethlehem. I am from king David’s city. I am of the family of the king. I am the King of kings.” He was okay with being disposed and rejected. He knew this was his fate.
Isaiah wrote 700 years before Jesus came that Messiah was “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). This was a description of the humiliation and rejection of the Messiah who was Jesus. Jesus would die rejected.
4. Jesus resurrected with the name of the rejected.
When the people came to the tomb of Jesus, an angel said, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth” (Mark 16:6). The angel didn’t change his name or give him a new name. Before and after he resurrected Jesus continued to be called by the name of the rejected.
5. Followers of Jesus are called by the name of the rejected.
The enemies of Jesus called the early Christians “the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). This not a compliment. It was like calling them a curse word.
No matter where you live, no matter how rich or poor you are, no matter how unimportant you may seem in the eyes of other people, Jesus Christ comes to you where you are. He identifies himself with people who have needs—the despised, and the rejected. Jesus lived and met with sinners, lepers and sick people—people who were unwanted, abused, ignored, and rejected. Jesus hasn’t changed. Although he is now exalted on the throne of heaven, he is still “Jesus of Nazareth” and identifies with rejected people.
Isn’t it good to know that Jesus calls himself by the name of the rejected? He died with the name, he rose with the name, he shared the name with his followers because he cares for people who are despised and rejected (see Luke 18:35-43).