10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
Division. It seems as though we humans are obsessed with division. We divide time into AM and PM. We divide history into BC and AD, or for those who insist on removing Christ from the equation, BCE and CE.
BC means "Before Christ". AD, however, does not mean "After Death" as I always thought. It stands for Anno Domini, which means the year of our Lord, beginning at the time of Christ's conception. I learn something new every day!
We divide the books of the Bible, too. The Old Testament books, written BC (Before Christ), and the New Testament books, written AD. But sadly, that division seems to firmly establish in our small minds that Jesus did not exist prior to the New Testament. Like with everything else that we divide, we use the Biblical division to squeeze Jesus into a box, neatly compartmentalized into his lifespan (33 years), his ministry (3 years), the time between crucifixion and resurrection (3 days). We pack him in so tightly that our tiny little brain cells can't quite wrap themselves around the fullness of Christ. We struggle to grasp how He still lives, and we stumble around like we're in darkness trying to find some glimpse of Him before His birth. We might even count ourselves lucky to recognize Him in the words of the prophets or reflected in the lives of the patriarchs.
But Jesus isn't limited to smoke and mirrors any more than He is limited to the years of His earthly life. He is the Son of God, a part of Elohim (the plural form of the Hebrew word for God) that can't be divided from Eloah (the singular.) He is one of the three persons of the Godhead, representing the triune nature of God, who is the alpha and omega, the beginning and end. Are you having trouble chewing through that?
John, one of the apostles, started his writings with this:
Prologue: Christ, the Eternal Word
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:1-5 NLT)
There's way more than that, but it's a good starting point. The beginning usually is! So, what does that mean? The Word already existed and was with God. Quite simply, it is referring to Jesus at the beginning of creation. Before He was Mary's babe in swaddling clothes, before He was the pre-teen teaching the scholars and experts in the temple, before He healed the sick and cast out demons and forgave the sins of those who believed, He existed.
He was there when the earth was created and when the heavens were formed. You could say He hung the moon and you'd be right. Ya know how some people pay $20 to "buy a star" and name it after someone they love? It's been a popular gift for years. It's really such a waste, because it's already been done! He counted the stars and gave them each a name (Ps. 147:4). And I guarantee that the names He gave them are far more beautiful (and each one unique) than anything we can come up with.
Jesus was the Word of God. As God (the Father) created, Jesus (God the Son) spoke those creations into being and gave each one life. His existence lit everything up, bringing light to everyone, even in the Old Testament. (Just for the record, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, but I could write another entire chapter on that subject. And i probably will at some point. But not today.)
I often read debates about how people were or were not saved before Jesus. They don't get it; There has never been a 'before Jesus'! He was always the light of salvation, it says so right there in John 1:5. The animal sacrifices, the "sin offerings", were just substitutes for the blood that Christ had not yet shed.
Still, there is more.
Do you remember the story of Jacob's ladder? In Genesis 28, Jacob had fled from his home to escape the wrath of his brother. On his way to Haran, he stopped to sleep. He had a dream that night. He saw a stairway that reached from heaven to earth, and angels going up and down the stairs. At the top of the stairs stood the Lord, and He spoke to Jacob about the covenant He had made regarding Israel. When he awoke, Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning House of God.
But it wasn't just a dream. It was real. In John 1:51, Jesus tells Nathanael that He is a stairway between heaven and earth, and that the angels of God travel up and down on Him.
We can learn even more from Jacob's encounters with God. One such encounter was when he wrestled with God, smack dab in the middle between his past and his future. Jacob didn't have a stellar past. His whole reason for having to run from his brother years earlier was because he had stolen from him one too many times. First, he'd stolen Esau's birthright. Then he stole their father's blessing. In today's world, a blessing from dad doesn't mean that much. But in those days, when a dad blessed his son, he was passing down a promise from God. The promise that he stole was to become the father of the nation of Israel. That's a pretty big deal!
And now, many years later, with two wives, two concubines, a dozen sons and a daughter, and a whole herd of animals, he was fleeing again. This time he was leaving his lying, conniving father-in-law and running towards home, and hoping for mercy from the twin he'd done so wrong. When they reached the Jabbok River, Jacob sent his wives and children across. He'd already sent everyone and everything else ahead of him, and now he was alone in the camp. Emotionally drained and physically exhausted, he probably laid down to rest. But sleep wasn't going to happen that night. He lay there instead, facing his fears, his failures, his weaknesses, his sins. We've all had sleepless nights where we're tormented by our personal demons, but Jacob wasn't struggling with them. He was struggling with God.
Your name will no longer be Jacob. From now on, you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men, and have won.
Who was that man? It wasn't a figment of his imagination, because the injury to his hip was real. Some say it was an angel of the Lord, because he had a human form and appeared as a man. But the man told Jacob he had fought with God! I don't know about you, but I would take Him at His word. That's what Jacob did.
As the sun rose, Israel limped away, a new man with a new name. He named the place he'd been Peniel, which means face of God, because he had seen God face to face, and his life had been spared. The essence of God, His Word, took on human form and gave Jacob a whole new life.
Now, you could dig through books and commentaries and find all sorts of examples of how Jesus revealed Himself through the people of the Old Testament. But I like the instances where He reveals Himself as Himself. To me, that's the coolest thing of all!