Most (the majority) weren’t ready and believing when Jesus came in the first advent. They missed it.
There’s much we can learn from the reception of Jesus from those during that first century. They had the opportunity to have known the truth in Scripture and have it revealed to them through the Holy Spirit. It was all laid out in the law, the poetry and from the prophets. In Luke 2, we find that Anna and Simeon understood the Word. They recognized that the consolation of Israel — the coming Messianic Kingdom — was at hand. We also see through the Spirit that it was revealed to them that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
I believe it’s fair to understand that few in first-century Palestine could know about Jesus’ birth. Too bad Mary and Joseph weren’t online at the time, but by the time of Jesus’ public ministry more should have come to see that Jesus was the Messiah. If only the people knew the Word, they could have recognized that.
As mentioned, Anna and Simeon seemed to recognize from Scripture that the Messiah was coming and that Jesus could fit the description. It’s fascinating what the Magi could have known, too. I doubt it was just one prophecy, but rather they likely had picked up on the thread of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament starting with the prophecy of the star that is found in the Law in Numbers 24.
In Matthew 2, we read of when Herod encountered the Magi and had his experts of the law look up prophecies concerning the coming King. They were able to find in Micah that this king would be born in Bethlehem.
There are many other prophecies that could have helped guide God’s people to the truth in that first advent. Isaiah wrote about how the Messiah would come as a humble servant and suffer. Isaiah 53 details all that happened during the false imprisonment and crucifixion of Jesus. In Daniel 9, it’s plainly stated that the Messiah would be “cut off.” Not only does Daniel 9 point to something happening to the Messiah, but it actually gives an exact timeframe from the Jews’ return from exile to the coming of the Messiah.
Scripture gave ample evidence that proved Jesus was the Messiah.
The evidence was there in Scripture, and it wasn’t that the Jews during the first advent didn’t know the Word. They were far more Biblically literate than we can imagine being. They would have known the Word by heart. The problem wasn’t a lack of knowledge, rather it was a distracted understanding — they focused on certain things and missed the plain details of the coming Messiah.
We know there were a lot of divisions within their religion in that day. Pharisees focused on the morality and outward appearance of the law. The Sadducees had discounted parts of the Bible, especially aspects of the Messianic age. They had also intertwined their teachings deeply with national politics. We see the same with Zealots as their focus of Scripture had turned more to what it meant toward immediate politics. The Essenes had also focused on one particular aspect of Scripture and had isolated themselves from others.
All these divisions created a distracted foundation for the people. Though those who were not priests or teachers of the law may not have completely belonged to one of the sects, they were likely influenced by their teachings. This landscape may have been a major reason why we find Jesus constantly clashing with the religious leaders. It’s why He said the people were like sheep without a shepherd.
The first advent should not have been missed through the knowledge of Scripture, and especially prophecy, but that’s not the main trait that kept first-century Jews from missing that first advent.
Even with the first advent superstars, Anna and Simeon, it was the seeking and obeying the Lord that led to them recognizing the Messiah. In both their accounts, they were guided by the Holy Spirit.
The others who didn’t miss did so through faith. Mary and Joseph are both said to be people of faith, even before being thrust into the story. When they were faced with the moment of belief, they stepped forward in faith. Since they already walked in faith, they were quick to acclimate and not miss the story. The same is true for Zechariah and Elizabeth. Since they walked by faith, they were able to easily continue doing so.
Again, we won’t miss the second coming, but it is possible that we’re not walking in faith and obedience if we’re that generation or at our last breath. Let’s not miss being found faithful when we see Jesus at the second advent, whether we do so raptured or resurrected.
Those who didn’t miss the first advent knew the Word, walked in the Spirit and walked by faith. We need to do the same.
Jake is available for revivals and preaching learn more at standfirmministries.com.