The prophet Amos, a contemporary of Isaiah, reminds us that God does nothing without first making it known, revealing it through His prophets (Amos 3:6). The prophet Malachi closed his writing reminding his people that Elijah would come just prior to the “great and terrible Day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5), a prophecy Jesus said was fulfilled in John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14, 17:10-12).
Today, in our lesson drawn from John 1:6-14, the apostle continues his introduction of Jesus. He has already reminded us that it is Jesus who created all things. He shared that Jesus came to bring us truth, light and life.
As we come to 1:6-14, take a few minutes to read over the passage and ponder the question: How’d we miss Him? You may also want to make it a bit more personal by asking yourself, “Would I have also missed or misunderstood Him?”
Just prior to Jesus beginning His three-year ministry that would find its climax in the cross event, John the Baptist broke into the religious arena of Judea. He came calling people to repent, turn from their sins, and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. The Jews believed that a day would come in which God would send a person who would lead the people to throw off the tyranny of foreign rulers and reestablish the glory that had once been the nation of Israel. This belief was not built on a wistful dream or some long-ago-established religious myth. Rather, hope for Messiah was based on scores of promises God gave His people as He spoke through His prophets over the centuries. The Jews recognized that one would come, anointed by God, to do for them what they could not do for themselves — he would rescue them from their enemies and free them from the prison of sin and its consequences (see Isaiah 61:1-3). The apostle John said that this was the witness that John the Baptist shared.
Sadly, however, John also said that, despite the witness of John the Baptist, Jesus would come into the world and the world would not receive Him (1:10). The implication is that some people did not understand, had no feelings, would not acknowledge or even take notice of Jesus. Of course, that was “the world,” which is a New Testament term describing those who have not real desire or draw toward God. The world not taking notice was really not surprising. Then, John makes a shocking disclosure: Jesus’ own people did not receive Him (1:11). The one they had waited for, for so long, they did not receive. This meant that they did not invite Him near or associate with Him. How could they miss Him?
In his classic on the incarnation of Jesus, “God Came Near,” Max Lucado wrote of the first to person to miss Jesus — an innkeeper in Bethlehem. He noted, “Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.” The innkeeper was not a bad person. No, like many others around him, he was just busy. Perhaps so many in Jesus’ day missed Him because they were too busy wanting a Messiah to be like they thought He should be.
Perhaps it is the same today.
Yet all is not lost. John went on to say that for those who did receive and believe, God gave the right to be called the children of God. He went on to remind them that it was not their doing, not at all. Rather, the new birth was God’s doing (1:12).
Finally, John proclaimed that “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14). What a thrilling proclamation. This One who was with God and was God was the One who came to us. Again, Isaiah foretold that the “virgin would conceive and bring forth a son and will call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The Hebrew name “Immanuel” means “God with us.”
Imagine that — God with us. God with us in our hardships and sorrows. God with us in our celebrations. God with us in our questions, disappoints and fears; in our hopes and dreams.
We do not walk alone. We do not have to face alone those intolerable days, when even those closest to us seem so distant. God with us to provide us with His wisdom for our shaking marriages, to guide us as we guide our children, to cradle us close to His heart when our hearts are full of fear, loneliness, depression and hopelessness (Isaiah 40:11).
God with us. Of all the deeply profound descriptions of the Word made flesh, this may be the most comforting of them all.
For all who have come to recognize the Word that became flesh, we recognize Him for who He is. Jesus is the full expression of God’s glory. Just as God’s glory, seen in a cloud and pillar of fire, led the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land, so the Word frees people from the slavery of sin and brings them to the place that He has prepared for them (John 14:3). And for all who have come to recognize the Word who became flesh, we also recognize that He offers us a place with Him because of His graciousness and not our worthiness. We see that He is indeed the embodiment of truth for which all other “truth” is measured.
Now, go back to the pondering of a few moments ago. Have you missed Jesus? He came into this world; some took Him in and others ignored or rejected Him. These are the only choices. There is no fence to straddle, no center line to walk. The question remains: Have you missed Jesus?
Next week: Who’s really doing the work? (John 1:19-34)