11 Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?
12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.
13 Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
Jesus came teaching the doctrine of God, and many sought His death because of it.
I am thinking of the first Christmas, and wondering at the celebration that the whole of the United States manages to put on. In spite of all the hoopla about Government needing to take a neutral position for religion, I am surprised pleasantly each year when I catch a bit of the mood that comes over the whole country. This year, while I certainly see that spirit going on, there are some worrying trends. First, I have noticed the phrase “Happy Holidays” out there a lot this year, perhaps because the intrusion of the state to remind us (and compel us) not to be anything but “religious neutral”. I have sought to combat the secularization of Christmas by wishing Jesus happy birthday, but I know that most think little, if any, of the solitary man who came to forever change the world.
Second, and more worrisome to me, is the growing compelling growth of what I call the “secularized country” which appears to be growing wilder and more unruly. This week was marked by a headline about a man randomly shooting passerbys on the highway. Last week was marked over headlines about someone electronically offering people jobs in a remote location so that they could be killed. Random crazy people, just like always, you might think, and I might agree. But what of the multiple riots I have seen erupt as shoppers are fighting for sale items? I fear that the tenor of the U.S. is turning more than a little bitter, an event which seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. I have seen wisps of anti-Semitism coming out of my own country this past year, and as a Christian, I understand the often repeated historicity of these events point to a spiritual battle going on that natural man does not realize. Certainly the middle east is garnering sympathy for their hatred of the nation Israel, and I know Israel’s smarter politicians have to be wondering how much longer can they hang on to their own country.
Many Christians today have to live their entire lives out in secret, and when I compare the lack of freedom in their countries to my own, I am thankful that I live in “the most remarkably free country” for Christians in the world. But still I perceive the dark curtain against Christianity to be near, and ready to slip into place at any given moment. Still, for now, I can look forward to winning more people to Christ, while He yet lingers, and while the age of grace is coming to a close.
Even when Jesus was born, was He not forced to remain secret? Did not Herod seek his death by genocide of an entire generation of babies? In this passage, I find that Jesus had to say one thing to his disciples, and do something else. His very coming and going had to be done with stealth, for fear of the Jewish leaders who sought already to kill him. Evidently they were doing this hunting for Jesus on the quiet, for we have the reply of the people to Jesus: “Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?”, indicating that they themselves did not know of the plot.
What else did “they”, the common people, not know? I find that they did not know nearly enough to save themselves by believing Jesus. They knew not his birthplace, they knew not Him to be born of a virgin, and they recognized not His message to be from God. He was the Light of the world, John tells us, but men loved darkness for their deeds were evil. In this chapter, John says, “many in the crowd” put their faith in Him. But even when I read many, I ask myself just how “many” of the many also believed Christ’s resurrection later? I find it amazing that the temple guards were sent to arrest Jesus, but found themselves unable to lift a hand to do so. When questioned about it, they reply that they had never heard a message like this. But I think it was the Son of God, working to quiet the spirits of men until He was ready to give Himself.
Today on Christmas Eve, we Christians value not so much the baby, though we rejoice in His being sent to the world, but rather we value the One who gave Himself for us, dying so that we might live, and being raised again, so that we might have sureness of hope. Merry Christmas to you all and remember “Happy Birthday Jesus!”
Away in a Manger
1. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head:
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay;
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
2. The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus! look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
3. Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.
Lyrics: Verse 3: John Thomas McFarland