Sermon series: Hello, My Name Is Jesus
I Said It - John 1:1-2, 6
I Made It - John 1:3
I Show It - John 1:4-5
I'm Here - John 1:9-11
I Am Here - John 1:12
I Give It - John 1:13
I Have Come - John 1:14
The movie October Sky based on the book Rocket Boys is about four West Virginia boys from a coal mining town who develop a rocket. One of the boys, Homer Hickam, whose hero is scientist and rocket developer for NASA Werner Von Braun, is sent by his high school to Indianapolis to the National Science Fair. Homer wins first place at the competition. As people gather around him after the ceremony, admiring his trophy and congratulating him, an older man speaks to him, "Well done, Son. Great work," he says. Homer thinks nothing of it. He is caught up in the moment.
Then, a flurry of reporters descends on Homer. They ask, "What did he say?"
"What did who say," ask Homer.
"Von Braun, Werner Von Braun," they replied. "He just shook your hand."
And, in that moment Homer realizes that his hero in science, Werner Von Braun, had just shook his hand and spoken to him and he didn't realize it.
I have wondered how often I have passed by someone famous and not realized it or brushed by someone world-renowned and missed it.
The people in Jesus' day missed him. He came among them and they ignored him. They were in the presence of God, divine royalty, and they didn't even recognize him. Probably they were not looking for him as he appeared among them as a carpenter's boy. Perhaps they were too busy with the routine of their lives. Maybe, like many of us, they didn't want to see Jesus because he would alter their lifestyle. He would make them change.
In John's introduction of Jesus, several pairs of words are prevalent. The words that are the focus of this study are received and recognized. Throughout John's story one gets a sense that John wanted his readers to see and experience Jesus first hand. We see variations of these words through his gospel. Words like see, look, etc. Today we focus on John 1:9-11. John reveals good news and bad news about Jesus becoming human.
I. The Good News: Jesus is coming
John states the good news that Jesus is coming in verse nine. "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world" (John 1:9 NIV). John asserts, as the previous study revealed, that Jesus is true light. The true light that the darkness cannot overcome was coming in flesh and blood. The true light that would point all mankind to the life as God knows it was appearing in person. The true light that would dispel the darkness of sin and death was visiting this planet.
They did not have marquees or advertisement or direct mail or banners trailing planes to announce the arrival of Jesus. But, they did have ample warning. God had told them over and over again many times in many ways. The great men of the Bible, prophets and the like, had publicized and foretold his coming. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi said, "He's coming." Every book, every chapter, every page of the Old Testament testifies to one great truth-"He's coming." That's the whole theme of the Old Testament-that God would one day send the Messiah to the earth to deliver his people Israel.
Even some pagan astrologers in Persia figured it out when they saw his star in the east (Matthew 2:1-5) that Jesus was coming.
II. The bad news
As good of news as that is, there is bad news, however. John informs us, "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 1:10-11 NIV). Eugene Petersen paraphrase of this verse is, "He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn't even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn't want him" (John 1:10-11 The Message). Two responses that people make when Jesus is introduced are revealed in these verses. Honestly, we would rather not admit to them, but they are present in every generation, every society, every community, and even in every church. The first is-
A. Jesus was ignored
Notice verse ten: "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him" (John 1:10 NIV). The word for world is kosmos, meaning the realm where human beings live. Notice John uses the word world three times in one verse. Sometimes the emphasis of the word world is more on the realm, this planet we live on, as in verse nine and the first two times it is used in verse ten; and sometimes the emphasis of the word world, like in last phrase of verse 10 and John 3:16, is more on the people that inhabit the planet. And notice the pronouns, he and him, each refer to Jesus. From this verse we learn three supreme realities:
1. The supreme fact of history: "He (Christ) was in the world . . ."
Everything starts with this fact-that Christ was in the world. When John writes, "He was in the world," he means more than just a fleeting visit. God walked on this planet for thirty-three years. He was a flesh and blood man, born of a woman, with a human nature just like ours. He was born as we are born, and grew up through all the stages of childhood-infancy, toddler, young child, teenager, and young adult. He wasn't a robot or an angel or some kind of strange alien from a distant galaxy. He was one of us and walked among us.
2. The supreme truth of history: ". . . the world was made through him . . ."
In other words, this world-planet and people-owes its very existence to the Word. Just as in verse three, John repeats and reminds the readers once again that Jesus was the agent of creation.
3. The supreme tragedy of history: ". . . the world did not recognize him"
"Did not recognize" means did not know. It is more than intellectual knowledge. It is more than knowing facts. It means failing to know intimately, like a brother would know a brother. Knowing is a relational idea in this Gospel. John the Baptist would say to his followers, referring to Jesus: ". . . but among you stands one you do not know" (John 1:26 NIV). The planet and its inhabitants missed a profound opportunity when Jesus visited planet Earth. They snubbed the introduction of Jesus.
J. B. Phillips imagines a conversation between a senior angel and a junior angel in his story, "The Visited Planet." In the story the senior angel tries to explain why the earth is such an important place in the universe. The junior angel is frankly bored and comments that the earth seems rather small and dirty to him.
"What's special about that one?"
"That," replied his senior, "is the Visited Planet."
"Visited? You don't mean visited by . . . ?"
"Indeed I do. That ball has been visited by our young Prince of Glory."
"But how?" queried the younger one. "Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendors of his creation, . . . went down in person to this fifth-rate little planet? Why should he do a thing like that?"
"It isn't for us," said his senior angel a little stiffly, "to question his ‘whys,' except that he is not impressed by size and numbers, as you seem to be. As to why he became one of them-how else do you suppose he could visit them?"
The little angel's face wrinkled in disgust.
"Do you mean to tell me," he said, "that he stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures on that floating ball?"
"I do, and I don't think he would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures' in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, he loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like him."
The story goes on to talk about how the people of the Visited Planet responded to the Prince of Glory.
"They failed to recognize him for who he was-or at least only a handful knew him. For the most part they preferred their darkness to his light, and in the end they killed him."
When the junior angel hears this, he blurts out, "The fools, the crazy fools! They don't deserve . . ."
He is cut off by the senior angel who says no one can explain why they were so wicked or why they killed the Prince of Glory.
There has always been a great divide in the human race-and not an even divide either. The majority has never recognized Jesus for who he really is. When he came the first time, Herod hated him, the scribes ignored him, and there was no room for him in the inn. Only the shepherds and the Wise Men-the poor and the foreigners-welcomed him to the earth.
But as much as things seem to change, they still remain the same. In reality, nothing has changed. Jesus came to the world he created, and the world had no idea who he was. The old spiritual says it this way:
Sweet little Jesus boy, born long time ago.
Sweet little holy child, we didn't know who you was.
Didn't know you'd come to save us, Lord, to take our sins away.
Our eyes were blind, we couldn't see
We didn't know who you was.
The world missed its great opportunity. It did not know the Word when the Word was in its very midst. The world did not recognize Jesus. But, the world never does.
It would be different for his people, right? Notice, the second response.
B. Jesus was rejected
The world's ignorance is not the worst of it. The tragedy deepens. Not only was Jesus ignored; Jesus was rejected by his own people. John continues, "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (John 1:11 NIV). Again, Eugene Petersen's paraphrase is, "He came to his own people, but they didn't want him" (John 1:11 The Message). John tells us that "he came to that which was his own." You could easily translate this phrase as "he came home." Notice the movement: John is moving from the general (the Earth) to the specific (the region of the planet known as Palestine) and from the realm of humanity (the world) to a certain people group of humanity (the Jewish race). He came to his own land-Palestine, and to his own people-the Jews, and they did not receive him. He came to a land which was particularly God's land and a people who were peculiarly God's people. He ought, therefore, to have been coming to a nation and a people that would welcome him with open arms; the door should have been wide open for him; he should have been welcomed like a soldier coming from a foreign battlefield, or, even more, like a benevolent king coming to his own kingdom-but he was rejected. They did not receive him.
The phrase did not receive him means not to welcome or not to take one's side. Jesus was rejected by the very people he created. The writers of the New Testament found the rejection of Jesus by the Jews extremely difficult to comprehend.
Perhaps you've heard it said that "home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in." Jesus came "home" to his own people-and they wouldn't take him in.
Jesus came to his own people and to the one place where he might be welcomed-to his "hometown" and to "his own family" and they did not want him. They did not receive him and they did not believe him. Finally, they crucified him.
And that rejection continues in large part to this very day.
III. Our response
However, we do not have to reject Jesus. We can receive him. What can we do to prevent this tragedy from occurring in our lives? What must we do to recognize and receive Jesus?
A. You must have a desire to see Jesus
I think the main reason that the Shepherds and the Wise Men saw Jesus first was because they were curious. For you and me to see Jesus we, too, must be curious. To see Jesus today, you must have a hunger, a longing, a craving, a yearning.
A few months ago Hollywood came to the city where I live with the filming of the movie Leatherheads, starring George Clooney and Renee Zellwiger. One of the scenes was filmed downtown on a Wednesday night. My wife and I had the opportunity to see the filming from a short distance away. Others were standing behind barricades with necks stretched high, straining on tip toes a great distance away. Why would they go to such effort? I suppose they had a desire to see someone famous.
To see Jesus you have to have that same kind of desire. If you don't want to see Jesus you never will. If you don't have a hunger to see Jesus you will never catch a glimpse of him. If you don't long to see Jesus as much as you long air to breathe you will never spot him. It takes willingness, an initiative, and a "want to" to see Jesus. You must be desperate for him.
B. You must open your eyes to see Jesus
Jesus is all around us, if we will but look for him. For example, if you look outward, you will see amazing order in the universe. If there is order, there must a mind, a being, behind it all. If you look upward, you will see stars as numerous as the sands upon the seashore. It has been said that "no astronomer can be an atheist." If you look inward, you will discover the power to think, to reason, to know right from wrong. Emmanuel Kant, the great philosopher, said, "Two things convinced me of the existence of God: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." All around us is the handprint of Jesus. We just need to look for him.
C. You must not rush to see Jesus
When I went to the Grand Canyon the first time, I asked a park ranger at the canyon where was the best place to see it. He said, "It doesn't matter where you sit; it is grand from any angle or location. Just make sure you find one spot, sit your rear down, and watch it from sunup to sundown. See it transform before your eyes. Watch the changing of the colors. See the birds flying below. Hear the wind whistling through the crevices. The way to see the Grand Canyon is not to rush it."
Yet many people come to the Grand Canyon and never get off their tour bus or race from one viewing spot to another or take a couple of snap shots and say they have seen the Grand Canyon. Some people come to the Grand Canyon and all they see is a big ditch. They are in a hurry, they rush, they fight the congestion, they buy a souvenir, but they miss one of the great wonders of God's creation. They look at it, but they don't see it.
People are the same way with Jesus. They come to church once or twice a year, or once or twice a week, for that matter. They rush through the motions. They check it off the "to-do" list. They say they are religious. They look at Jesus, but they don't see him. Or they read a verse of the Bible and say a quick prayer. They think they are spiritual. They look for Jesus, but they don't see him. Others witness miracles and providential care and protection but pass it off as coincidence. Jesus is right in front of them. But, sometimes the hardest things to see are those things right in front of our eyes-golf balls, keys, books, and even Jesus. They look but they don't see.
To see Jesus requires a slow down. Be still before him. Listen for his voice. See his work. Watch his movements.
D. You must experience Jesus to see him
Now, let's look at something we all can relate to-food. Taste buds can be described anatomically, and food can be reduced to a chemical equation. A scientist could provide me a scientific equation of hot Krispy Kreme donuts. I would say, "No, NO, NO. I want to experience this chemical equation." No equation can do justice to fried sugar-you have to experience it. A picture of it or even someone describing the taste is not sufficient. I want, I need, to taste it.
As it is true of Krispy Kreme donuts, so it is true of seeing Jesus, we have to experience him. Over and over again in the Gospel of John we read these words: "Come and see." To the two disciples of John who questioned where Jesus was living, Jesus replied: "Come and you will see" (John 1:39 NIV). To Nathanael who question if anything good could come out of Nazareth, referring to Jesus, Philip said, "Come and see" (John 1:46 NIV). This simple phrase literally means "Come with me and you will see!" This is an invitation for us to examine Jesus for ourselves. We have heard about him from others; now we are invited to see for ourselves, to experience him first hand.
Come and see still suffices today. Come and see the Rock of Ages that has withstood the winds of time. Come and see the impact of Christ-followers and their impact on society. See Wilberforce fighting to free slaves in England. See Washington at prayer in Valley Forge. See Lincoln with a dog-eared Bible. Come and see the changed lives of people who recognized and received Jesus. See the alcoholic now dry, the embittered now joyful, the shamed now forgiven. Come and see what Jesus can do. See him touch the broken hearted to make it whole again. See him wipe the tear of sadness from the wrinkled face. See him forgive the ugliest of sins. Come and see. He avoids no seeker. He ignores no probe. He fears no search. Come and see.
Nathanael came. And Nathanael saw. And Nathanael discovered, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel" (John 1:49 NIV).
Perhaps, someone famous and world-renowned-the Creator of the Universe and the Savior of the world-will pass by you. Today may be the chance of a lifetime to see Jesus. He's coming. And you have the grandest opportunity to not only have a brush with someone famous, but to recognize and receive him. Don't pass him by.