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Rejecting the God-in-Flesh


In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis notes that the same person might both be a fool and have a graduate degree. Being highly educated does not guarantee wisdom and spiritual insight. We see this combination of foolishness and education in the way that the religious leaders interacted with Jesus in today’s reading.

The identity of Jesus was abundantly clear. He had “come here from God” (v. 42), sent by the Father to teach His truth. More than that, Jesus had His life-giving power (v. 51). Jesus intensifies His bold claim about His true identity at the end of the passage when He declared: “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (v. 58). Using the very name of God given to Moses in Exodus 3:14, Jesus identified Himself as the God of Israel now standing before them.

The well-educated religious leaders displayed only foolishness and spiritual blindness in their response. Instead of receiving Christ’s teaching, they were trying to kill Him. Instead of loving and following Christ, they insulted Him and accused Him of being demon possessed. Ultimately Jesus identified the underlying cause of their rejection of His teaching: “The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (v. 47).

These stinging words should have brought humility and repentance. Instead, when Jesus revealed His full identity as the great “I am,” their response deepened from hostility to attempted execution (v. 59). God had come in the flesh to bring light and life to His creation, and He was met with rejection. That rejection would ultimately lead to the cross, confirming the opening words of John’s Gospel: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

Apply the Word

Many people “celebrate” Christmas while rejecting its true meaning. They are content to have a babe in the manger without recognizing Him as the coming of God in the flesh. Spend time in prayer today for your loved ones who need to accept Jesus as the Son of God, and ask the Holy Spirit to open their hearts to God’s love this Christmas.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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