A few years ago, I read a story about a man who put up a nativity scene in his front yard for Christmas. One night, vandals came and stole his plastic baby Jesus. They left the wise men. They left Mary and Joseph. They left the sheep. But the vandals stole his plastic baby Jesus that had been lit by a 10-watt bulb. This man was very distressed about the theft and issued a plea in which he asked those responsible to bring back the plastic Jesus from his nativity scene. It even made the newspaper. He was quoted as saying, "Do you know where my Jesus is? Please return Him to me."
In a broad sense, you might say that this man was looking for Jesus. But His Jesus was a plastic figure with a 10-watt bulb inside. He was looking, but he wasn't looking for the right one. Today, many people say they are looking for God. But are they?
In Jesus' day, there were different groups of people looking for Him, all for different reasons, but not necessarily the right ones. The Jews were looking for Jesus, but they wanted to find Him so they could kill Him. Jesus had become something of a sensation, much to their dismay. He spoke in a way people could understand. He reached out to hurting people. He was known to be a friend of sinners. This really irritated the Jewish leaders. He was a threat to them, and thus, He became Public Enemy Number One.
Today, there are people who also hate Jesus Christ and everything He stands for. They despise His teachings. If you proclaim His teachings or try to live by them, then you are categorized as narrow-minded and intolerant. You are like a light in a dark place, and your mere presence is cause for irritation, because you stand for biblical values and biblical truth.
Another group of people was looking for Jesus because of the great signs He had performed. They sensed that something big was about to happen. But it was not what these people thought. They thought Jesus would free them from the tyranny of Rome. But Jesus did not come to conquer Rome. He came to conquer sin and death. He did not come to make war with Rome. He came to make peace with God and man. These people misunderstood His mission. They were looking for Jesus, but they wanted Him on their own terms.
At Christmas, many people will celebrate Jesus’ birth, but live the rest of the year as though He never came. They want God in their lives, but they want Him on their own terms. They essentially say to God, "Look God, you can come into my life, but don't tell me what to do. I will do things my way. But by the way, Lord, I could use your help in this particular situation."
The Gospel of John refers to another group of people who wanted to see Jesus as "certain Greeks" (12:20–21). The Greeks of that day were renowned for their incredible philosophy, architecture, and learning. In fact, the city of Athens was regarded as the intellectual center of the world. The Greeks believed in multiple gods. It was said in that time that it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man. But these men who came looking for Jesus obviously were dissatisfied with their philosophies, their religion, and their accomplishments. They said, "We wish to see Jesus" (verse 21). Unlike the Jewish leaders who wanted to kill Him and the multitudes that wanted Jesus to fit into their mold, it seems these "certain Greeks" had the right motives. They wanted more than just a passing glimpse of Jesus. They wanted to really see Him.
Is that your desire? Do you want to see Jesus? If so, then the place to look is in His Word, the Bible. He speaks through His Word. Jesus said, "In the volume of the book it is written of Me..." (Hebrews 10:7). You don't need to go out and look for a guru that claims to have some special revelation. You can find everything you need to know about God in the pages of the Scripture. As you study His Word, you can begin to know Him, and He will begin to work in your life. If your desire is to see Jesus, then I have great news for you. You can.
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.