Posted on September 2, 2013
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
– John 1:10-11
Reading through John and discussing it with my wife these days. What struck me about the above passage is that Jesus’s humanity really stood out here. John says that Jesus was neither received by the world he created nor recognized by his own people. Although “since the creation of the world” God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived” (Rom 1:20) by the world, that world of creation “did not see fit to acknowledge God” (Rom 1:28). And so, the coming of God in the flesh was no more acknowledged by the world than was God’s presence since the world’s beginning. The creation simply does not recognize its Creator. Despite this utter rejection, it is this world that is the recipient of God’s love (Jn 3:16), which makes Jesus’s humanity all the more genuine, more personal, since only humans extend love to others.
In verse 11 John makes particular what was already said more generally; namely, that his own people rejected him. Imagine how it would feel to walk into a room of your closest friends or family members and be ignored and rejected. The Jewish nation, God’s chosen people, were repeatedly given God’s gracious revelation in the form of prophets, priests, and kings, yet they repeatedly rejected them. “From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck” (Jer 7:25; cf. also Is 65:2-3). In the Incarnation of Jesus, God offers full self-disclosure and Israel responds with a repeat performance rejecting her Prophet, Priest, and King.
With this side of Jesus, John is showing us that Jesus is not only fully God (Jn 1:1) but fully human. Because he is human Jesus knows rejection and loneliness. Because he is human Jesus knows what it’s like to be ignored in the worst way. He can and does sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). He understands completely our temptations and sufferings. And he comes to us as Immanuel, God with us.