John 1:10-13 He was in the world, and the world had [its] being through him, and the world knew him not. He came to his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he [the] right to be children of God, to those that believe on his name; who have been born, not of blood, nor of flesh’s will, nor of man’s will, but of God.
The arrival of the Messiah, the final fulfilment of God’s plan of salvation for all humanity, had to be – by definition – the greatest news story in the history of the world. Yet, on that Christmas morning, only a group of anonymous shepherds was told. Yes, they repeated the story of all they had heard and verified. But did the people really listen?
The irony in John’s passage quoted above is painful and yet familiar.
In the case of Jesus, it is infinitely painful and shocking: Here is the One through whom Heaven and Earth were created, and no one notices when He steps into His own creation. Here is the One who called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who shielded their children as a pillar of fire by night and of cloud by day, who chose them and led them into their Promised Land, and when He appears as one of them, they cannot recognize Him.
Something like that can happen in our lives, in a much smaller scale but nonetheless painful in its own way. Have you ever done something good in someone’s life without them ever knowing it was you? And then, because we live in a fallen world, because we all are fallible, that relationship gets strained, wounded. So that, in the end, seen through the glass of that circumstance, they cannot recognize the good you did or even imagine you would do such a thing. And then to avoid causing any more pain, maybe you choose to never set the record straight. That is to be misunderstood.
Jesus was immensely misunderstood. We can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be God and be hated by one of the children you made. In our case, when things like that happen, we know we carry part, or even all, of the blame. But with Him… He never ever did anything that was not done in Perfect Love.
And yet, so many couldn’t stand him… The healings and miracles that came from His Love, they instead assigned to the deceitful power of the devil. He brought the Word of God to their synagogues, their community, to shine the light and give their life all the meaning it could have – for, who better than the Word itself to unleash its power? And yet they were offended at Him, and they threatened to throw out of that selfsame community any who would dare even acknowledge him.
Yes, Jesus was immensely misunderstood, and just as immense was the consequence of that misunderstanding. For as John tells us, to miss Him, to fail to receive Him, is to lose the gift of a lifetime, an eternal lifetime; it is to miss out on being born again as children of God.
God knew from the very beginning this is what would happen. And He measured the pain of the rejection of His Perfect Love against the pain of losing His children for all eternity, and there was no debate, there was only one decision to be made. It was made then and there at the beginning of time:
John 1:14a And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…
He still came to us as one of us.