Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 21, 2007

Why Did Israel Not Recognize Him? (Lesson 2: Question 5 Answer)

5.  Why did Israel have this privilege of receiving the Messiah? Why did Israel not recognize Him? 

First, we must point out that there is not unanimity amongst the interpretation that “His own” is explicitly referring to Israel.21 Some support the idea that “His own” is referring to all people and following the thought of verse 10 rather than contrasting it.  As we quoted above John Calvin advocates that this is referring to Israel and many others would support it.  We believe that his interpretation is the correct one and is substantiated by the rest of Scripture.  Especially, Matthew 15:24-26 where our Lord explicitly clarifies who He was sent to (or came to) “the lost sheep of Israel”.  We realize that it is possible for there to be some equivocation with the term “Israel” (Rom 9:6), which can also refer to the children of Abraham by faith (Gal 3:7).  However, who are our Lord’s comments directed towards in the passage referenced?  Well, they are directed towards a syro-phoenician woman, a Gentile who was not a child of Abraham after the flesh.  Thus, we believe that it is safe to conclude that “His own” referred to in John 1:11 is indeed directed towards Israel.The first part of the question can be answered quickly or exhaustively we will elect to describe the shorter version.  The reason Israel received this privilege is alluded to in numerous Old Testament passages, however the short version is that they were chosen by God.The fact that Israel did not recognize our Lord is not surprising and if the previous verse was an indictment of the world for their failing to acknowledge our Lord, how much more severe is it that “His own” people did not recognize Him.  Unfortunately, this was all too common for the people of Israel and can be traced back to beginnings.  In Isaiah 1:2-4 the prophet laments in this tragedy as follows:

Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me.  An ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.  Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.”

In this introductory chapter John begins to set the stage for the subsequent events, which will prove to unfold just as it is characterized here in verse 11.  We will see repeatedly just how Israel “abandoned the Lord…despised the Holy One… turned away from Him.”  Before we move on, let us clarify that on this side of the cross we may think that we would have done things differently than Israel.  Yet, how often do we abandoned the Lord and turn away from Him…everyday.  Thus, we set our hope on the Gospel and cling to the grace of God without which we would be Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:9) or not my people and doomed to the judgment we deserve.  It was our sin that sentenced our Lord to the cross and we are no better than that generation that “did not receive Him”.  It was our sin that drove the nails through His hands and feet.  Thus, let us not be too quick to judge and presume that we would have done things differently.

21 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) 345


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