The Hebrew leaders in first Century Jerusalem and many of his contemporaries did not see who Jesus was. Could they have been TOO close? “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:9-11 NIV)
In these verses, John refers to Jesus as the light of the world, and points out that not only was he unrecognized by the world at large, but he was not even received by his own people. How did that happen? The old adage “familiarity breeds contempt” may explain part of it, since Mark 6:3 records his rejection in his own village; but there’s more to it than that.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that there is an obvious reason why men fail to see: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” It is hard to see without light. I think I still have a scar on my shin from the time I hit the corner of a coffee table trying to traverse an unfamiliar hotel room in the dark. When you can’t see, it can be painful. And you can go the wrong way.
So here’s a simple intellectual principle from John 1: LIGHT HELPS YOU SEE. What is in your life that provides light for you? And what is it that shrouds you in darkness? What lifts you up, inspires you, and points your thinking towards discovery and truth? And what does the opposite of that? What points you to the light, and what happens in darkness?
It’s no accident that most violent crimes or despicable deeds are committed between midnight and four AM (although statistically many property crimes happen during the day, so be careful out there). Darkness provides cover for secret things. John 3:19 reminds us that “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Here in his introduction, John says the Word was the light of men, but that it wasn’t recognized by world. That’s not too surprising, considering the Word did not share the world’s values or agenda. The world is a pretty self-absorbed, self-centered place. (Been shopping or driving lately?)
The Bible says that Satan holds sway over the earth, so really we should not be too surprised when we find selfishness or deceit all around us, whether in our politics or in our culture. Heck, we even find those things WITHIN us from time to time. Consider this: being involved in sinful selfishness has never really been a great way to find God… When you are focusing all your attention on worldly things, it’s pretty hard to see the things of the Spirit, so it’s hard to argue with John’s statement about the world not recognizing the light.
Maybe it’s a little more surprising that Jesus’ own people (chosen by God) did not receive him. They were a people who sacrificed for sin, read the prophets and prayed the Shema daily. They were taught to love God with all their heart and to keep the law, but when Jesus arrived they didn’t receive him much more than the world did. Maybe they were caught up in their own agenda, or were closer to the world than they were to their roots. Or maybe they were TOO religious, and saw God as a legal system instead of a person. It’s very easy to worship religion instead of God.
Two quick things: there is lots of stuff in this world that will keep you from seeing Jesus. Don’t miss what he did; don’t miss what he said. Second, we all sometimes assume that proximity or connection to something is enough. “I live in a Christian nation.” “I read about Jesus in vacation Bible school.” “I go to church.” “I know the Golden Rule”. Don’t let familiarity keep you from seeing Jesus. His own people missed him. Just because you know SOME thing about him, don’t assume you know HIM.
There are so many ways that you can miss the Gospel truth:
Assume, ignore, avoid– or chase the foolishness of youth.
Sometimes what you think you know can lead you far astray,
While sometimes you don’t see because there’s something in the way.
Looking at the forest, it’s the tree that no one sees,
Unless, of course you cannot see the forest for the trees…
You may have heard the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt”;
Be careful, then, what you assume, for you are not exempt.
Lies can shackle judgment, but it is the truth that frees us;
So why not take a deeper look at the guy who said that? Jesus.
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