SIGNS TO THE SONS OF MEN
“He came unto His own, and they that were His own received Him not." (John 1:11)
So far as man was concerned there was a marked unpreparedness for the advent of Jesus. Yet He came in the fullness of time. Everything was ready in the purpose and economy of God. But while there was a general spirit of unrest and undefined expectation abroad in the world, neither His own nation nor the Gentile world were prepared for the appearing of the Messiah.
With regard to Israel it was true that “He came unto His own, and they that were His own received Him not." (John 1:11) They did not receive Him, because partial blindness had fallen upon them even in regard to their own prophecies. It is remarkable that these people who possessed, and were supposed to be instructed in, the prophecies concerning the Messiah, had almost altogether lost sight of one side of the prophetic message concerning Him, even to this day.
Isaiah had portrayed, in unmistakable lines, and with detailed definiteness, the picture of the suffering Servant of God. How wonderfully the 53rd chapter of Isaiah was realized in the Person of Jesus Christ. But these people had not begun to understand the fact of the suffering of Messiah; they had no conception of a lowly, despised, and rejected Deliverer. They expected One Who should set up a kingdom of earthly power. And when He came from lowly and despised Nazareth, and took the position of the Son of God, they were incredulous, unbelieving, simply because they had not understood their own Scriptures, even to this day.
The same prophet had announced the fact of the incarnation. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isa 7:14) To the Hebrew that was a descriptive name, and the simple meaning of Immanuel was "God with us." It was the distinct foretelling of the stupendous fact that He should be the God-man, but they had never realized it. The people had largely lost their spiritual sense, and were looking only for the advent of a great prince who should deliver them from the bondage of Roman tyranny, unmindful of the more awful slavery of materialism. They had no conception of the Servant of God as lowly and suffering, neither of that deeper and more inspiring truth that God would be manifest in the flesh; consequently there was no preparation for His coming, no official national recognition of the advent.
Turning from His own people to the Gentile world, what was the condition of affairs? The three great world-forces when He came were the Roman, the Greek, and the Hebrew. The Roman was the nation of government, the Greek of culture, and the Hebrew of religion. The militarism of Rome utterly despised Judea, looking down upon it as one of the small and turbulent provinces, always to be kept in subjection. The Roman was certainly not waiting for a new king to be born in Judea.
And what was the attitude of Greece? The cultured men of Greece held in contempt the religion of the Hebrews. Hellenism and Hebraism were utterly opposed as ideals of life. The Greek would have treated with the most utter scorn the idea that a new teacher could arise out of Hebraism. All this serves to show that there was not, neither could there be, any welcome to the Savior from the world as it was when He came, even to this day. He was neither expected nor desired. The entire known world was in a spirit of unrest, but men had no conception of the character of the deliverance really needed, and therefore Jesus came unrecognized and unknown. There was no welcome for Him, even to this day.
But the time was now ripe in the economy of God for His advent, for man in sin had sunk to deepest depths. The world has never had a more powerful government than the Roman, and in many respects Greek culture has never been surpassed; but in spite of all this, sin was rampant. While there still exists terrible corruption in the world today, there is nothing to compare with the pollution of life when Jesus Christ came. Corruption was everywhere and that in spite of the best that men could do in government, in culture, and in religion.
But though there was no human welcome to Christ, God granted to the men of that day certain signs that were wholly supernatural and remarkable.
These were of two kinds,—DIRECT AND INDIRECT. Of the first there were three,—the star that led the wise men to Christ; the angelic ministry renewed at the time of the advent, and the fulfilling and renewal of the voices of prophecy. All these were definite signs, pointing to Him, directing attention to Him, in a world where men were not prepared to accept Him, and did not welcome Him, as the One sent from God for the fulfillment of the Divine purpose, even to this day.