The World knew him Not

Scripture Reading

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

John 1:10-11

Great Implications

This week’s scripture reading presents what could be described as the great implication. When the apostle John wrote his gospel account it was after all other accounts were written. To say that “the world knew him not” is not to imply that the world did not know that he was Jesus, and that his parents were known as Mary and Joseph or that he was a carpenter by trade. In fact, the knowledge of these things contributed to the great implication noted by John. When he said the world knew him not he was implying that the world did not know Jesus as the coming Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. They were confused by the simple fact that for most of Jesus’ life he lived just like the rest of them as an everyday man within the community.

More than a Man

Consider how the people from Jerusalem reacted when Jesus started making profound claims and statements such as when he said he is the bread from heaven. John notes their reaction in this passage, “And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?” [John 6:42] Comments from the people gave evidence of the fact that Jesus was indeed known to them but known as a mere man within the community whom they knew by way of family association. As for being the bread from heaven which Jesus used figuratively as the living bread and giver of eternal life, that was completely foreign to them and hard to understand even for his disciples, some of whom “…walked no more with him.” [John 6:66]

As Jesus began to teach and preach more prominently throughout the towns and communities and within the synagogues, then the question started to circle among the people as to whether he was actually the Christ. Take for example when John noted this point in the following verse, “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.” [John 7:25-27] The fact that the people knew where Jesus was from by family relations conflicted with what they knew, or thought, about where Christ should come from. But why did the world not know him? How did the Jews and religious leaders think the coming Messiah would arrive, or what would he have to do to make himself known to them?

Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

John 4:25b

The Coming Messiah

It is evident from the scriptures that people were waiting for and expecting Christ to come based on their religious writings and records. Even during a conversation with Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well knew that Christ was coming as noted in this passage, “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” [John 4:25] Take careful note how Jesus responded to her comment by affirming that he was indeed the very Christ the people were waiting for based on the scriptures. After this brief encounter, many other Samaritans sought out Jesus and after spending two days with him they responded to the woman by saying, “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” [John 4:42] Clearly, they got their facts straight!

Even the early disciples of Jesus knew that they had found the Messiah, or the Christ, after encountering Jesus and hearing his teaching, preaching and witnessing his miracles. Consider Andrew’s reaction and comment to his brother Simon Peter, “He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” [John 1:41] Or consider how Philip exclaimed to his friend Nathaniel, “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” [John 1:45] Notice how Philip associates Jesus with writings from many notable people of the Old Testament.

Thou art the Christ

As time progressed, the disciples closest to Jesus began to proclaim openly who he was as described in this verse from scripture with Peter declaring that he was indeed the Christ. “And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. [John 6:69] Martha, the sister of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, also declared that he was the Christ. “She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” [John 11:27] Interestingly though, Jesus told his disciples not to share that he is the Christ.” [Matt. 16:20] Jesus also warned his disciples that many will come in his name falsely proclaiming they are the Christ. (Matt. 24:5).

In summary thus far, there is no doubt that the people were waiting for the Messiah to come, which is called Christ. In fact, after it was all said and done and the writers of the New Testament put everything on paper, the word Christ is noted 555 times in the scriptures. It is noted in every single book in the New Testament with the exception of John 3 which is a single chapter letter written to believers. But here is the perplexing thing in the whole matter because the religious leaders of that day, known as the scribes and the Pharisees, either completely missed the point that Jesus was the Christ or they stubbornly persisted in their unbelief of him. They were told by John the Baptist point blank that he was not the Christ (John 1:20, 3:28), but get this, even the devils knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. (Luke 4:41).

We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

John 1:41b

The Religious Skeptics

Despite the fact that many people surrounding the religious leaders believed in Jesus they veered off in the very opposite direction by trying to entrap him in his own words (Matt. 22:15), by persecuting him (John 5:16) and by eventually seeking to kill him (John 5:18). Note how some of these events are described in this passage from the apostle John, “And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.” [John 7:31-32] This event goes on further as recorded by the apostle John because when the officers returned empty handed, they responded to the Pharisees in amazement by saying, “…never man spake like this man!” [John 7:46]

Rather than believe upon Jesus based on his teaching, preaching and miraculous healings of all who came to him, the Pharisees were hung up on seemingly innocuous things like whether Jesus was from Galilee or Nazareth or if he was from the genealogy of David (John 7:41-42). This was indeed put to rest by Matthew as he opened his gospel account by declaring that Jesus Christ came from the genealogical line of the Son of David right back to Abraham (Matt. 1:1). Indeed, the world knew him not but ironically it was the religious leaders who clearly knew him not! Further to this, it was out of threat and envy (Matt. 27:18) over his influence upon the multitudes. The religious leaders of the Jews had threatened people that they would be excommunicated from the synagogue if they confessed that Jesus was the Christ (John 9:22). Despite their requests to Jesus to tell them plainly if he was the Christ this was met with a rebuttal over their complete unbelief of Jesus as described in the following passage.

“Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”

John 10:25-33

The Eternal I Am

Now surely the religious leaders must have known that Jesus was no mere man for making such bold claims as being the giver of eternal life and to call the heavenly Father, my Father. This was of course evidenced by their desire to stone him over his apparent blasphemy. But Jesus merely drove the point of his divinity home even further with them by claiming that even before Abraham existed centuries before him, he existed as the great I am from the holy scriptures (John 12:34, Ex. 3:14). No man on earth could make such a claim unless he were truly the eternal I am of the scriptures or completely delusional of his own existence.

Even during the mock trials of Jesus he acknowledged his identity before Caiaphas in this captivating declaration he makes before him,  “And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” [Matt. 26:63] Is this also not the premise of John’s gospel account that was explicitly written to prove that Jesus is the Christ. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” [John 20:31] According to the scriptures, Jesus is indeed Christ, the Son of God and most important eternal life comes to all who believe in his name!

I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

John 11:27

Time for Contemplation

Let us close off this Bible study called the world knew him not. As presented in the scriptures, to make a blanket statement that the world did not know Jesus could become quite misconstrued. The world did know Jesus but for the most part they knew him as a mere man within the community much like they knew his parents and half siblings. But to know him from the claims he made throughout his earthly ministry was another story. It was bad enough that the religious leaders did not believe him and outright rejected his claims. But consider that not even his brethren believed in him (John 7:5) and as previously mentioned that many of his disciples abandoned him (John 6:66). On the surface, one may think that his ministry was an abject failure but history proves otherwise with Christianity still burgeoning over two millennia later.

Quite often we can let our intellect get in the way of believing in something if we feel we do not have all the facts and information. In fact, the preaching of the cross is considered foolish to many people who pride themselves on their own wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18). The apostle Paul wrote of this in his letter to the Corinthian church when he said, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” [1 Cor. 1:20]. Paul goes on to highlight that the foolishness of God is wiser than men (1 Cor. 1:25) therefore people should be careful to think their own wisdom will outsmart the seemingly foolishness and simplicity of the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name

John 20:31

Eternal Consequences

Lastly, this Bible study on the world knew him not ends with a cautionary note of eternal consequences. To think that the most educated and knowledgeable religious leaders rejected Christ. To think that even some of his own brethren and disciples either walked away from him or betrayed him. Here they were walking and talking with the eternal Son of God, the giver of everlasting life for whosoever will come to him but sadly many turned away from him. John the Baptist poignantly expressed the decision all of us must face this side of eternity when he exclaimed, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” [John 3:36].

Eternal life really comes down to this decision of belief or unbelief, the Son, or the world, with both bringing forth eternal consequences. Consider the importance of this decision in your own life before closing off this page for as Jesus once said to an inquisitive Pharisee named Nicodemus who ultimately became one of them (John 7:50), it comes down to believing, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] Here is the solution: the world knows him not; God’s love, the sacrifice of his Son, and your redemption drawing near as you believe in him!

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this Bible study called the world knew him not, what were some of the confusing points noted that led people to think that Jesus may not be the Christ?
  2. Fill in the blanks from this verse, “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called ____________: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee __________ ___________.” [John 4:25]
  3. The terms Messiah and Christ mean the same, true or false? Hint John 1:41.
  4. John the Baptist was the Christ, true or false? Be careful on this one! Hint John 1:20, 3:28.
  5. Why do you think the Pharisees had such a hard time accepting who Jesus was as the Christ, the Son of God?
  6. Memorize John 20:31 as a faith building exercise about the importance of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  7. If you know someone who is letting their intellect get in the way of coming to faith in Jesus, please consider sharing this Bible study with them!

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