“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” (John 1:10)
The Gospels of Mark and John each contain little information about the physical birth of Jesus. John begins the book that bears his name by declaring the deity of Jesus and then describes the one who was the witness, the forerunner, of the Messiah – John the Baptist. Just prior to the passage that describes the coming of Jesus as a man (the incarnation), John details a “good news, bad news” event. The bad news was truly sad: “He (Jesus) came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:12). But the good news was great! “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:13). That means you and me! But tucked away just before this “good news, bad news,” John delivers a genuinely sad announcement with three brief phrases: “He (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10).
Jesus was in the world. This was epic news! The King of kings, the Glory of Heaven had come to this planet in an ordinary place, to humble parents, but in an extraordinary way. Born to a virgin in a small, out-of-the-way hamlet to otherwise unexceptional parents, Jesus was the prophetically promised Messiah. The Jewish community had anticipated the arrival of the Messiah for generations. Jewish children grew up hearing their grandparents and parents speak of the One who would come to deliver His people – the Jews. The best way I know to describe this anticipation is to compare it to the way believers today anticipate the rapture. We know Jesus is coming back. And we know that He will come back sooner than expected. In fact, when I am quiet, the promise of His imminent return makes my heart glad and my spirit soar. That’s what those in the Jewish community experienced.
But when Jesus did come to His people – they did not recognize Him. True. They knew Him as the boy Mary birthed. He was the son of the carpenter, Joseph. As an adult, they saw Him perform miracles and His teaching was otherworldly. But they could not accept Him as the Messiah. In their view – the Messiah would deliver the Jews from those who would oppress them. History is littered with people who abused, misused, and otherwise sought to destroy the Jewish people. From the nearly five centuries of slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, to the occupation orchestrated by the Romans in the 1st century, and the Holocaust of the mid-20th century, the Jewish people have known suffering. But being the Creator (“the world was made through Him”), you would think that those who saw Jesus in person would have recognized Him. But they didn’t (“the world did not know Him”). Some Bible translations render that last phrase as “the world did not recognize Him.” Every time I read that, I am stunned. He is the Son of God. He is the Creator. How in the world can they not recognize Him?
How can I?
Think back with me over the last week. How many times did we pray, asking the Lord to do something specific in our life or in the life of someone we love? And in response, we were reminded that God doesn’t work the way we expect. Maybe we needed the same reminder God gave Isaiah: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than our ways, and My thoughts than our thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Let me challenge you the way the Lord has challenged me, especially lately. Throughout your day, look for Jesus. At work, at home, even on the commute to work – look for Him. Wherever we are – whatever we’re doing: look for Jesus. I can promise you...He is there.
Let it not be said that we “did not recognize Him.”
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.