Continued from Part 5
53:3: “He was despised, and rejected of men … and as one from whom men hide their face: he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Comparing the description of the servant with that of Jesus.
Rejection of the servant contrasts greatly with the Gospel accounts of the extent of Jesus’ popularity throughout his life generally (Luke 2:52) and during his public ministry in particular. The servant is said to be “despised,” “rejected,” one “from whom men hide their face” and not “esteemed.” In the case of the servant, disappointment at a lack of true loyalty is not the issue. In verse 3, nothing is said about the servant’s adversaries, at one time, being his followers, let alone that they had unworthy motives in initially following him. They never were the servant’s followers to begin with.
What do the Gospels say about Jesus?
The Synoptic Gospels in particular insist that Jesus was greatly admired by large segments from every level of society. It is further claimed that wherever Jesus went, crowds flocked about him. The Gospels claim that it was not only the poor masses that followed him, but even people of means were attracted to him. What is more, they maintain, many were his loyal followers. Even though the Gospels claim that the Jewish rulers condemned Jesus they nevertheless assert that Jesus had many followers even from among the ruling class. They speak of Jesus as one who, while losing, at times, many of his followers, always had, even at the end of his life, a great many faithful adherents from every strata of society. Nevertheless, John says that Jesus felt many followed him for unworthy motives and so he said to them: “You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26). John also claims that “He came to his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11).
However, overall the Gospels allege that Jesus was enthusiastically received and esteemed and that this feeling did not end with his death.
The Gospels’ Jesus is described by average folk with superlatives titles (e.g. the Prophet [like Moses] who is to come into the world—John 6:14, Messiah [Christ]—Luke 23:39, Son of David—Matthew 20:30). These words of praise are the exact opposite of those used to describe one who is despised and rejected. The Gospels claim that when Jesus’ notoriety spread throughout all the districts surrounding Galilee he taught in the synagogues and was “glorified by all” (Luke 4:14-15). “And the news about him went out into all Syria” (Matthew 4:24). As his fame grew, it is maintained: “a great crowd came together with those who went to him from the various cities” (Luke 8:4). “And great crowds followed him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from the other side of the Jordan” (Matthew 4:25). It is reported the press of the crowds was tremendous (Luke 7:11; 8:19, 45). In the city of Nain, a large part of the populace calls Jesus a great prophet and says that God has visited His people (Luke 7:12, 16).
Who do the Gospels say followed Jesus?
Many of those who initially followed him were women who contributed to the needs of Jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:3). While Jesus and his male disciples traveled through the cities and villages of Galilee “proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God” they were accompanied by women: “who had been healed of evil spirits and sickness,” including “Mary, called Magdalene … Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Suzanna, and many others, who were contributing to their support out of their private means” (Luke 8:1-3). At Jesus’ execution “many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him” (Matthew 27:55). Luke also mentions that after his execution “the women who had come with him out of Galilee followed after, and saw the tomb and how his body was laid” (Luke 23:55). Mark maintains that there were “women looking from afar, among who were Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome,” adding that they had followed him in Galilee and “ministered to him.” He adds that there were also: “many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41).
Other followers, wise and otherwise: John states that many of the Jews believed in Jesus (John 12:11). Many of the rulers secretly believed in him (John 12:42). Luke mentions that even some of the Pharisees warned Jesus that Herod was planning to kill him and urged him to escape (Luke 13:31). Mark relates how Jairus, ruler of the synagogue, became a believer (Mark 5:36). When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was to the accompanying shouts of “Hosanna” coming from the crowds (Matthew 21:9) that declared: “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:11). Matthew and Mark respectively inform us that Jesus taught the crowds in the Temple and that his enemies were afraid to arrest him because they feared the multitudes who listened to him enthusiastically (Matthew 21:46; Mark 12:12, 37). When his enemies made their final plans to arrest him, they decided: “Not during the festival, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matthew 26:5, Mark 14:1-2; see also Luke 22:2).
Was Jesus abandoned by everyone in his last hours?
The Synoptic Gospels maintain that at the crucifixion “many women were there looking on from a distance” who were supporters of Jesus (Matthew 27:55; see also Mark 15:40, Luke 23:49). Luke adds that besides the women “all those acquainted with him were standing at a distance” (Luke 23:49). In addition, “all the multitude who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts” (Luke 23:48). John mentions a number of women supporters of Jesus being present at the crucifixion as well as “the disciple whom he loved” (John 19:26). John alleges that after Jesus’ death, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), joined Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, in preparing the body for burial (John 19:39). Joseph was not only a disciple of Jesus (Matthew 27:57, John 19:38), but a counselor (member of the Sanhedrin) who “had not consented to their plan and action” (Luke 23:50-51). Joseph took the bold but dangerous step of asking Pilate for the body.
We should not forget Mary Magdalene and the “other women” who it is said came to the tomb (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:10, John 20:1 [Mary alone]), and the alleged multitude who, throughout it all, continued their loyalty to Jesus despite his sentence and crucifixion. As he went to be crucified, “there were following him a great multitude of the people, and of women who were beating themselves and bewailing him” (Luke 23:27).
The overall Gospel accounts claim that besides this “multitude” Jesus had a large and loyal following throughout Judea, Galilee and the surrounding territories. This group, it is alleged, consisted of people from among every level of society. These were individuals who did not know of events in Jerusalem and who still looked to Jesus as the Messiah.