When we see sacred paintings of Christ, the glorious image of His countenance is divinely pictured. Then, 2,000 years ago, what did people think of Jesus? What did they think of the Church that Jesus established? What did they think of the good news of the heavenly kingdom that Jesus preached? Without thinking of these matters, we cannot say we really know Christ.
Christ is God Himself in nature (Php 2:5), and Mighty God the Father (Isa 9:6). However, the Jews tried to stone Jesus to death when He said, “I and the Father are one.” According to the law of Moses, he who profaned God had to be put to death. They thought that Jesus committed blasphemy by saying that.
The God of heaven came into this earth and introduced Himself. However, the people, who claimed to serve God, tried to kill Him when He came in the flesh; finally they crucified the One whom they claimed to believe.
It’s an irony that they executed God whom they’d worshiped. When we look into the background of this terrible event, we come to know that the religious leaders of those times didn’t know God well. Actually they had a god of their own imaginations. They did not have spiritual knowledge of God that He could appear in any form, even in the bodily flesh of man just like one of them.
Then, why did God come in the flesh? Through a short story, let’s find the will of God-the reason why He came in the flesh.
A traveler, while walking along a quiet country road, saw birds pecking at grains. They looked so cute and the traveler felt like patting their heads.
However, when he drew near to them, they flew and sat down a little ways off. Not knowing the traveler’s mind, the birds feared he would harm them. Though he attempted to come near to them several times, they flew away from him each time.
So the traveler came to a conclusion that there was no way to convey his love except to become a bird.
For the same reason Christ came in the flesh. Men always feared God and fled from His presence when they saw His holiness with their own eyes. So, God had to appear as a man in the flesh to deliver His special message of love and salvation.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “ … But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” …Ex 20:18-21
When the ancient Israelites heard directly from God on Mount Sinai in an awesome atmosphere, they trembled with fear and asked Moses to intercede between God and them. As the birds flew away for fear of death when the traveler drew near to them with a loving heart, so the people feared they would die when God Himself proclaimed the word.
Men are afraid when they hear God’s voice directly. So, our God came in the same appearance as us. God is spirit, but men are flesh; God is so awesome and dreadful to them. That’s why He decided to come into the earth in the likeness of men.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word [God] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only [Jesus], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”Jh 1:1-14
Jesus, who came in the flesh, was God by nature, the One who created all things. He came as a man so that men could come near to Him. However, people who feared God when He showed His power and divinity, despised Him and held him in contempt when He became flesh. At that time, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, so-called religious leaders, did not recognize Jesus’ divinity and looked upon Him as the same kind of man.
Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “ … We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect”Ac 24:1-5
In those days, religious leaders called Jesus a ‘Nazarene.’ The Bible vividly shows that they denounced God as a heretic, though He loved mankind and preached the good news of the kingdom of heaven to them.
“ … I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”Jh 10:27-33
They tried to stone God, calling Him a blasphemer, saying that He was making Himself equal with God. Thus, they rejected God Him-self, so they could not receive His words precious like jewels.
John, the writer of the Gospel, recognized Jesus as God Himself who came in the flesh. However, in the eyes of the religious leaders, Christ appeared a mere man, a criminal even more brutal than a murderous robber. So they shouted to release Barabbas the robber and crucify Jesus.
Even Jesus’ family and relatives, who were expected to know and understand Him better than anyone else, tried to take Him into custody.
… When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”Mk 3:20-21
Why do you think these scenes are recorded in the Bible? We are to understand not only Jesus’ divinity but also His humanity, so that we can know God rightly.
God so loved this world that He came in the flesh, but the world did not recognize and receive Him for no other reason than that He be-came flesh. The religious leaders who claimed to have a full knowledge of God devalued the gospel, calling its followers the ‘Nazarene sect.’ They rejected and crucified their own God. They spit in His face and struck Him with their fists. They slapped Him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you? (Mt 26:67-68)”
Even the Gentiles would not profane the gods in whom they be-lieved. However, the people, who claimed to believe in God, treated Him with contempt; His family tried to take charge of Him, saying, “He’s gone mad”; the chief priests and the teachers of law condemned His teachings as heresy, and yelled to God who testified of Himself, “You, a mere man, claim to be God.”
They had no spiritual eye with which they could distinguish right from wrong, truth from falsehood. They judged only according to the flesh and would not open their spiritual ear to His gracious teachings. Even after Christ rose from the dead, they bribed the soldiers not to bear witness to His resurrection. They did not believe though they saw such undeniable proof. They thought they absolutely believed in God, but none of them received Him when He Himself came to this earth.
This is the actuality of the so-called religious fundamentalisms. The present situation is exactly the same in the days of Jesus. Through the things that happened at Jesus” first coming, we need to consider what occurs at His second coming. The history of the Early Church repeats in these last days; people do not receive Christ just because He has come in the flesh, even though He has brought believable and credible proof.
“ … For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”1 Ti 2:4-5
To those who repeatedly ask how God can be a man, the Bible gives a definite answer through the word-‘the man Christ Jesus.’ The Bible says every spirit that does not acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is the spirit of the antichrist (1Jh 4:1-3). This shows that those who are taught by the spirit of the antichrist deny that Jesus has come as a human being.
Actually, today’s Christian doctrines are totally different from the Biblical teachings. The doctrines and fixed ideas of the religious leaders drove God, whom they believed, to the cross in those days. It is the same now.
The apostles already recognized Christ; they were depressed be-cause the people did not understand that Christ came in the flesh, and taught them, “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is the spirit of the antichrist,” emphasizing, “the man Christ Jesus.”
When God appeared on Mount Sinai in a spiritual form, people fled with fear. So He became flesh and drew near to men. Then they rejected Him and His teachings, calling Him the Nazarene. They reported to the governor their charges against the apostles who preached the truth. They were accused of telling the truth.
Seeing the truth being rejected, we come to understand that it is hard for ordinary people to perceive the truth. Then, who can recognize and receive Christ who has come in the flesh? Some will receive Him and accept His teaching graciously, and some will persecute Him and reject it, calling it heresy. Those who receive Him are the ones born of the heavenly blessing.
“… Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”Heb 2:13-15
When the traveler approached the birds, they fled away. Then he wanted to be a bird to draw near to them. Likewise, people fled away in fear when God approached them, so He chose to come into the world, having the same flesh and blood as His children. He didn’t care whether the world believed Him or not, whether the people called His teachings heresy or not; for He came to earth for the sole purpose of saving souls with true faith.
The place Christ first visited in this earth was not the magnificent temple built for 46 years. He visited the Sea of Galilee where Peter was fishing to earn his livelihood. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” On hearing this word, Peter left his net and followed Jesus.
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.”Mt 4:18-20
Why do you think Jesus did not go to the temple, where many people gathered together, but to a small sea village? Jesus did not visit them but called Peter and Andrew and told them to follow Him. Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. When Jesus went a little farther, He saw James and John. Then He called them and they too followed Him right away.
There was a great difference between these fishermen and the chief priests. The chief priests, who were worshiping God in a magnificent temple with numerous people, were not pleasing in God’s sight; they were not the people who would receive His word. When Jesus preach-ed the gospel to them, they rejected it, calling it heresy. However, when He delivered it to Peter, he received it with joy and followed Him wherever He went.
Jesus already knew their spiritual state. Did He ever say to Peter, “Repent”? No. However, to the chief priests and the teachers of law, He repeatedly cried out and said, “Repent!” They called upon God only with their lips and their heart was far from Him; without repentance, none of them could enter heaven.
God came into the earth and gave His children the Passover of the new covenant so that He might redeem His children from the devil. Nevertheless, today’s churches blasphemously say, “The Passover is a heresy.” Finally, they say such words to Jesus, who destroyed death through the truth of the Passover. Not only in the time of the Early Church but also in the last days, the religious leaders say that every teaching given by Jesus is a heresy.
The Passover of the new covenant is the gospel which Jesus Him-self preached and Apostles Paul and Peter passed on. If they call it heresy, they are like the high priest Ananias and the lawyer Tertullas who brought charges of heresy against Paul.
If Jesus comes again in the flesh, what will the world say about Him? People will reject Him again, calling Him a heretic. It’s because they do not know God. They claim to acknowledge the Trinity, but actually they do not know why the names of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are to exist. Since they blaspheme God out of ignorance, Jesus said, “They hated me without reason (Jn 15:25).” The Bible definitely prophesies that Christ will come into the earth a second time.
“… so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”Heb 9:27-28
Since it is prophesied that Jesus will come again, we must prepare ourselves to receive Him. We must not repeat the same mistake that they made when He came the first time. At that time they blasphemed God, saying, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? How did this man get such learning without having studied?” They seemed to think that God had to come from a distinguished family and have much scholarship. They did not listen to Him however many words He spoke to them. On the contrary, the disciples followed Him after hearing just one word, “I will make you fishers of men.” What kind of people should we be?
In these days, we hear the prophecy, “He will appear a second time.” We are to prepare the lamps with oil in order to receive the Second Coming Christ. Belittling the gospel, calling it heresy, ironically the world uses the names of Jesus, Paul and Peter. Claiming to believe in Jesus, they call His teachings heresy. How then do they account for Jesus after all?
Now, we need to think about why people rejected Christ at His first coming. Without knowing the situation of those days, we can not understand why people reject the Second Coming Christ in this age, nor can we receive Him.
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”2 Co 5:16
Most people regarded Christ only from a worldly point of view, but the apostles recognized His divinity and received Him because they did not look on His outward appearance but recognized His true character. Then how can we see Christ’s divinity like the apostles?
We can observe tiny organisms or distant objects through a telescope or a microscope. Likewise, we can see Christ’s divinity only through ‘the eye of prophecy’-the Bible. Only through the Bible, written by those who were moved by the Holy Spirit, we can recognize the divinity of Christ, God in the flesh.
Though everything concerning Christ was recorded in the Bible, the chief priests, Pharisees and the teachers of the law did not fully believe the Bible and failed to recognize Him. However, the disciples received Christ even though they were not learned. Like the prophecy, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” the gospel of Christ was delivered to those who were pure in heart and they accepted His teaching as the word of God.
“ … brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created … all things were created by him and for him”Col 1:13-18
Apostle Paul boldly testified that the One, whom the world rejected, was God the Creator. The reason God hid His divinity was because men always feared Him and ran away from Him. To save them He veiled His Godhead in flesh. However, men scorned and despised God when He came in the flesh and they accused Him of heresy for His teachings.
Likewise, today’s worldly churches regard the Passover of the new covenant as heresy. It’s no wonder. In the time of the Early Church, Apostle Paul was accused of preaching the new covenant. He is now exalted to a higher status, being called Saint Paul. In those days, however, he was called a ‘ringleader of the Nazarene sect.’
In these last days, too, Christ so loves mankind that He has come in the flesh and brought the good news of salvation. Most people do not receive Him, as did people at His first coming. However, like the forefathers and martyrs of faith, we too should walk on the right path diligently, whatever disadvantages we suffer because of Christ. We can be greatly blessed and loved by God when we follow His teachings recorded in the Bible.
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first (Jn 15:18).” Since we are loved by Christ, we are supposed to be hated by the world. Keeping in mind that God will give great blessing to us who suffer for following the path of Christ, we should rightly recognize the Christ, who has come in these last days, and believe in Him and boldly testify to Him. Let us build our faith on Christ the solid rock and follow the paths of Christ, and we will all enter the eternal kingdom of heaven together.