His Own People didn’t See Who Jesus Was. Could they have been TOO close?

It is a remarkable point of fact that the Hebrew leaders in first Century Jerusalem and even many of his contemporaries did not see clearly who Jesus was. He performed miracles, but not in front of everybody; he was foretold by the Hebrew Scriptures, but he wasn’t raised as a Pharisee or a Levite. So why didn’t the religious rock stars in Jerusalem see Jesus as the Son of God? Could they have been TOO close?

Was John Wrong?

“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.

Characteristics of Light

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?)

see-greed

Lack of Recognition

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.

Missing the Tree Because You’re In the Forest

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.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Light that Helps You See. Evidence that Helps You Decide

Light is defined as “the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.” Upon reflection, light may help you see where you are going, but it doesn’t dictate which course you choose to take. John refers to the Word as “the true light that gives light to every man”. (John 1:9, NIV)

It’s What You See

I used to think this statement couldn’t possibly be true, since every man might not have had a chance to see or hear about Jesus (such as all who came before he was born, and everyone who was raised in darkest Africa or China, where Jesus was not a household name…)

But in thinking about him as the Word, as the creative expression of God’s personality, (John 1:3, “without him nothing was made that has been made) it hit me: every man is exposed to some revelation about God through the order and design of the universe, which reflect the creative nature and character of God. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”

disaster creator light

Sometimes It’s What You Don’t See…

We may not see Jesus directly, but because He is the Word who created all things, we see evidence of Him all around us, as well as above and beyond us. By his work, we know who he is. (“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.” Psalms 19:1)

If you look at creation, you can certainly get a sense of the personality of the Creator. But here’s the problem: while you can infer a Design from design, you cannot empirically prove that the Designer exists. So why didn’t the Word make himself undeniably evident?

The thing is, God has given us evidence instead of proof so that we have a choice about faith. If I could PROVE God’s existence to you, then you would HAVE to accept it, and faith would play no part in discovering who God is. The creation tells us much about God, but He has not directly revealed himself for good reason.

People who say to God, “Show me who you are and I’ll accept it” are testing the God of the universe and telling Him to come to them on their own terms… But God doesn’t do that. He comes to us on His terms, and He has already told us how that will happen.

Be Careful What You Wish For

C.S. Lewis points out that people who want God to appear before them may be asking the wrong question. “But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on the stage the play is over… That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not” (p. 65, Mere Christianity).

In our daily exposure to creative design, we encounter the Word of God. (Since He created those things, it makes sense that we would see Him in them, right?) It is interesting to compare the teachings of Christ to the structure of the universe, and to see the intimate details wrought into galaxies and microbes, to realize just how astoundingly right John was. Jesus taught about agriculture, the Kingdom of Heaven, and about seeing the Father. There is beauty in the creator’s handiwork that can only be discovered in the light of the Word.

The Power of Light

There is light coming to us from the vast reaches of space, from stars whose network of gravitational power holds us in exactly the right place in our solar system so that we can exist. Light comes from our own sun, which keeps us from freezing, activates photosynthesis in plants, provides us with vitamins, and which makes it possible for us here on earth to experience life and growth.

There is order in the ways things operate, whether you look as far out into the heavens as you can, or as deeply into the microscope as it is possible to look. Every created thing reflects principles of order and design. God’s handiwork displays infinite scale that is both massive and microscopic; there is relationship, there are consequences, there is harmony and truth.

See if Abraham Lincoln was right. Go out to the country on a clear night and gaze into the stars, past the constellations and out into space. Think about the fact that some of the light your eyes can see has traveled thousands of light-years across space! What twinkles before you originated before the pyramids. See if your soul isn’t stirred a bit, if you don’t find yourself a little bit in awe of the Creator… Compare what you feel to what you know about the Word of God. It just may be that you are receiving more light out there than you ever realized before.

The Evidence of Light

John declared that the Word was light, that somewhere in God’s plan
There is a revelation that has come to every man.
The skeptic calls this false, of course,
And says you cannot prove the source;
He hopes he will not have remorse,
But counts upon a cosmic force…
He says, “The world that we can see is just a case time and chance,
Which points not to a deity, but purely came from happenstance.”

This kind of independent thinking prospers and persists
Since God will not force anyone to know that He exists.
He offers every man–not proof– which would be undeniable;
But evidence, so that man’s faith would not be unreliable.
It may seem right to look around, and ask God for a sign;
But if there’s light when you look up, perhaps there is design…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Light of the World: How Well Can You See Without It?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)
In John’s composition, Jesus said this to the crowd who had just watched him shame the judgmental Scribes and Pharisees who brought him the woman caught in adultery… The event happened in the temple during the week of the Feast of Tabernacles, so there was a large group of religious folks looking on, both rabbis and students alike. Since the Pharisees immediately challenged him on this statement, apparently not all of them had left with the shamed rock throwers.

A Startling Announcement

Why did Jesus make this announcement right here? This “I am” statement might seem unrelated to this event, like John inserted it for emphasis, but it really makes sense if you think about it. The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration to remember God’s provision in the desert during the Exodus. It began on the first night with a festival of lights, in which pilgrims all lit lamps in their tabernacles. That mean hundreds of small tents or booths were illuminated all around the city. (It had to be a beautiful and moving sight.) If that wasn’t enough, there were also four very large candles were placed on the corners of the walls around Jerusalem for all to see.

light

There was probably one within sight of him as he taught. (You might think, how would people see a candle? But these were HUGE candles, and there weren’t any other large sources of light like we have in today’s cities. Any resident of or visitor of Jerusalem would have made an instant connection with his reference. Light versus darkness is one of the oldest archetypes for mankind. Here, Jesus calls it dramatically to everyone’s attention.

I’m sure the average Festival attendee didn’t connect ALL the dots, but surely it was a seminal statement that drew their attention to the polarity that existed in their culture. Jesus was contrasting his Father and himself with the legalistic system of the Pharisees. He offered light; they walked in darkness. They emphasized law and punishment; he was pointing to celebration and life.

Characteristics of Light

Let’s make a couple of quick observations: First, Light dispels darkness. It helps us to see clearly and to act accordingly, in both a physical and a spiritual context. If there is something clouding your outlook, or darkening your attitude, light can brighten things up. This statement about light could have pointed Hebrew teachers back to the Shekinah Glory You remember that, right? It was God’s presence which led the children of Israel through the wilderness. Was Jesus identifying himself with God? Jesus correctly points out that light provides life. Enlightenment saved the life of the woman caught in sin, and it does the same thing for us.

Shining a Spotlight on God

The Psalms says that God’s word is a lamp that lights our path (119:9). Here among the teachers at the temple, Jesus was equating himself alone to the Word of God, which John later expressed so well in the introduction to his gospel. John said of the Word, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Getting to know the Word better is absolutely the same thing as getting to know Jesus better.

Finally, Isaiah 9:2 is talking about the coming Messiah when he says “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” When he proclaims himself to be the light of the world, Jesus is connecting the dots. Are they connected for you? Today, may light warm you, illuminate you, brighten your world, and help you see!

A Festival of Lights

Picture this: a thousand camps, the glow of candlelight, and lamps,
Without the glare of electric lights to minimize the darkest nights.
Within this glow, a statement’s hurled:
“Listen! I am the Light of the world!
Follow me, and leave your fright
of the darkest world on the darkest night…”
Men can follow, if they will, but many walk in darkness still,
Where evils in the shadows hide, with sin and ego full of pride:
Perhaps it’s time to just abide, to stop and listen to this guide,
Who said, when it was hard for us to see:
“I am the Light of the World; come, follow me!”

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Walking in the Light Is Best. So, Why Are You Sneaking Around in Darkness?

Walking in the dark is dangerous. That’s why the Psalmist said he’d rather have a spiritual flashlight: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105 KJV) You’ve heard this verse before, and I’m sure you thought, “Yes, God’s word provides insights that enlighten and give direction.”

Be Careful Out There

But have you stopped and thought about what it really says? Have you ever hiked at night over rocky ground? Imagine doing that for a minute. Walking in the dark is no picnic. It’s spooky out there, what with the animal noises and nocturnal predators. People get lost more easily in the dark, in more ways than one. Have you ever been out walking in a big city after midnight? Ever thought about how much crime takes place between 11:00 pm and 4:00 am? Or just how dangerous it can be, walking around in the “dead of night”?

walking in darkness

Walking the Shadowlands

Even after your eyes adjust to the darkness, you have to be careful about where you step and where you are headed. Sure, there may be a path, but there might be sticks, bushes, uneven terrain, or rocks at your feet that can trip you or make you fall. You might even wander off the path and get lost. Darkness is dangerous. In Psalm 23, David wasn’t concerned about walking in the valley of the bright lights of death, he wanted God’s presence in the valley of the SHADOW of death.

Darkness obscures your path and makes it harder for you to know where to go. It also allows cover for bad things. John 3:19 reminds us that “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil…” When do you think the most crimes are committed? (When it’s DARK.) Is there anything you prefer to do under cover of darkness? Anything you do that you don’t want people to see? (Then of course, as your Mom said, you probably shouldn’t DO it.)

Light Versus Dark

The relationship of darkness to our spiritual journey is fairly clear. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2, NKJV) Satan loves darkness and death, and God by His very nature provides light and life. Jesus compared God’s people to the lights of a city on the hill, shining in the darkness.

But think about this as well: when you are walking in darkness over uncertain terrain, a light shone at your feet gives you just enough illumination to take the next few steps safely, even though it does not enable you to see a great distance down the path. So it is with a spiritual walk: you are given sufficient illumination for today, so that you are not distracted by worries or curiosity about the future.

I never thought of this verse as meaning “be in the moment”, but that’s kinda what it says… Use God’s word to be “in the moment” with Him today, and you’ll stay connected to God’s light, God’s people, and to Him. As 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Dark Steps

Statistics say the dead of night will hide the darkest deeds,
Since darkness gives the criminal the cover that he needs;
Lurking in the shadows there, the evil one is stalking,
So exercise some care at night, and watch where you are walking!
Wandering in darkness, there’s no telling who you’ll meet:
So let God’s word become a spiritual lamp unto your feet.
A lack of guiding light can also make us go astray,
And wander into danger in the dark along the way.
Statistics tell the story; I don’t have to do the math,
So use God’s word and let it be the light upon your path!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread