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March 10, 2016

Text: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:9-11

Thomas Alva Edison was born in the backwater town of Milan,  Ohio. In his childhood he had only three months of formal education. Because of his inattention in class his teacher pronounced that he was “adled” and was withdrawn and “homeschooled” by his mother. He went on to become the most prolific inventor perhaps in the world. It was written of him, “He led no armies into battle, he conquered no countries, and he enslaved no peoples… Nonetheless, he exerted a degree of power the magnitude of which no warrior ever dreamed.” (uncited)

Likewise, many others have risen from obscure and humble beginnings to make their marks upon the world. Notably, Abraham Lincoln arose from ignoble origins to be one of the world’s most revered persons.  He was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky in a log cabin with a dirt floor and became the sixteenth president of the United States. Some characters in the Bible have done similarly. One was born to a family of nomadic shepherds, was sold by his own brothers into slavery, and lived as an alien, slave and prisoner in a foreign land. With God’s providence he became the second-in-command of a large empire. You guessed it: Joseph! Another man of humble beginnings was named David. He started as a shepherd tending his father’s sheep. He was taken into the service of the king of a struggling nation and became a respected general in the service. When the king died he was  elevated to the crown himself.

God’s own Son came into the world that he had fashioned, but many hands were turned against him. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” John 1:10  Jesus was birthed in the hamlet of Bethlehem, in a stable where farm animals were sheltered. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2  When the family returned to Judah from Egypt they settled in Nazareth, a despised location.  “‘Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”‘ John 1:46a  Prophetically Isaiah wrote of our Lord Jesus’ rejection by men. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”Isaiah 50:3 

Nonetheless, Jesus did attract men and women who would not  be swayed by the denigration of some of his origins, his works, his teachings, his lack of formal education, and his claims to be the son of God. He was mocked by his enemies even until the day of his death. “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross.” Matthew 27:40b 

Conversely, there were many who were attracted to Jesus despite the slurs about his rustic background, the company of outcasts he embraced, the censures he uttered about his opponents, and the healings he performed on Sabbath days. He was thronged by crowds in his travels. “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed…” Mark 3:7a  At  his house in Capernaum the crowd pressed around him so that four men had to climb up on the roof and tear off some tiles to lower a friend so that he could be healed by Jesus.  “And many were gathered together so that there was no more room, not even at the door.”  Mark 2:2  The bulk of his followers seem  to have been the poor, the despised, the down-and-outers, the hopeless, and the sick and maimed. Yet, even religious leaders, government officials, military officers, etc. These people saw him clearly and embraced him in spite of his background.

Here is how Jesus overcame his humble beginnings.  First, Jesus knew what was in men’s hearts. “… and (Jesus) needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself  knew what was in man.” John 2:24  All men of all classes were an open book to Jesus. He was able to build bridges to reach them.  Jesus did not curry favor with the upper classes, the rich, or the powerful. However, he did go among them, teach them, and have disciples from the “upper classes”.  Jesus was content to “be himself” out in the world. His contemporaries recognized him as a carpenter, teacher, miracle worker, friend, and an able student of the Scriptures. He was humble and sincere; these traits are always welcome.

Truly Jesus rose higher than his modest circumstances.  Everywhere Jesus went he MADE A DIFFERENCE. He changed water to wine at a wedding in Cana. He traveled through a town called Nain and gave a widow back her dead son. Walking through Jerusalem he found a blind man and sent him to the Pool of Siloam to cure his blindness. He went to Bethany to comfort two grieving sisters and raised their dead brother from the grave. He crossed the Sea of Galilee and fed a multitude of listeners. He went to the cross and died to save mankind from sin. That’s what I call a difference!

You should go now and make a difference. Do not let any fears you have about being insignificant or from humble beginnings overwhelm you. Go places you know and places you don’t, but make a difference. Teach, encourage, comfort, feed the hungry, love all men, but make a difference! (Take the gospel with you!)  






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