He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
Have you ever felt like you were just a nameless face in a crowd; unknown, unwanted, without value? I have. You see, I was never one of the popular crowd; always the last one picked for a team, never invited to other kids’ parties, always wondering what was wrong with me.
One example: Linda was a girl across the street who I played with a lot, and in my mind she was my best (and only) friend, but… A year ahead of me in school, she quickly found new friends and moved on. One day Linda had another friend over and they were playing in a building behind her house. Standing outside of the fence, I longed to join the fun as I heard them laughing, clearly having a great time. They even came out and teased me about how much I was missing.
Another time: There was a huge playground at school, and given that we were only a block from the beach, it was mostly sand. A group of kids started building sand castles, which over the course of a week evolved into a sand city. Other kids were invited to help but though I asked, they told me no; and I remained on the sidelines.
Those are very simplistic examples of a lonely child; and as an adult I came to understand the deep agony of others who weren’t just rejected by other children, but by parents and family; often abused or abandoned. I am so blessed that I had parents who truly loved and did the best they could for me and my younger siblings; but my point is that no matter how good or bad our backgrounds may have been, most of us have felt like invisible people at some time, lost in a swirling crowd of humanity.
Biblical examples of the misunderstood are almost too numerous to mention; but consider a short list:
- Joshua and Caleb – nobody believed their report of the wonders that the Land of Canaan offered; so they had to spend forty years wandering around in the desert until all of those rebellious people died
- Joseph – his jealous brothers not only scoffed at him but also sold him into slavery, where he spent 17 years (some of them in prison) before he came to the attention of Pharoh and was exalted to the highest office in Egypt, second only to the king
- King David – persecuted and pursued by Saul even though he sought to honor the king throughout his life
- All of the Old Testament prophets – condemned, criticized, and many who were martyred for their faith
- The apostles, all of whom except John were martyred, and he was certainly persecuted
I’m sure that Jesus himself would have known what that felt like. Sure, thousands of people flocked to hear Him teach; individuals sought Him out for healing; but even among His disciples, did anone really know Him? He wasn’t welcome in His own home town, and even His mother and brothers doubted:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which
their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.
But passing through their midst, he went away.
Luke 4:16, 28-30
So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”
For not even his brothers believed in him.
Almighty God, I AM, Jehovah understands:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man
and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:19-23
No matter how invisible we may feel, there’s good news. God knows each of us intimately:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high;
I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:15-16
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:3, 14-15
The Lord sees what we are enduring:
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:7-16
And the best news yet – He gives us hope:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Yet sometimes, life gets hard and we may easily fall back into our invisibility cloaks. In such moments, consider Jesus’ prayer for you. Consider that just hours before He was nailed to the cross, you were on His mind:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17