No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
From reading the Old Testament portion of The Story, what kind of Messiah do you think the Jews were expecting? We end Chapter 21 with the Jewish people slowly rebuilding their home in Jerusalem. After years in exile, they were finally free to rebuild their temple and the city walls. But now, hundreds of years later, we find them once again living under the oppression of a foreign empire. Through the prophets, they had been promised that a Messiah was coming to usher in this new kingdom. But here they are, still oppressed, in many ways no better than they were in exile. And so we find these Jewish people waiting in expectation, longing for a new warrior king like David to defeat Rome and establish them freely in their homeland.
But instead, we have a peasant girl birthing the Son of God in a manger, with only Shepherds to rejoice at his arrival. He is not born to royalty. He is not even born to affluent Jews. And yet this is how the God of Israel chooses to arrive on earth, in a dirty stable with nothing to announce his coming but a bright star in the sky.
How do people react to Jesus in this chapter? The humble are glad and rejoice, but the ones in power cower in fear and resort to violence. Mary praises God, and Simeon revels in the Messiah who will be a light to the Gentiles. But Herod kills all the children under the age of two in Bethlehem, causing Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect their son. Afraid to return to Judea, Joseph instead leads his family back to Nazareth. And there this child is raised, in a town of which was said that nothing good ever came.
All of this is God’s process of making known the fullness of who He is. The Old Testament is rich with diverse interpretations of God and experiences of His power and steadfast love. And yet, John declares that no one has seen God fully until now. It is not until the birth of a tiny baby in a dirty stable that we are able to see the fullness of who this God is.
What are you expecting from this Messiah? As you read the upcoming chapters, pay attention to the ways in which Jesus both fulfills the Jewish expectations as well as turns them upside down with the reality of who he is. Let’s pay attention to this Word from the God of Israel, as his fullness is revealed to a people patiently waiting and yet still wholly unprepared for His arrival.