(Note: I’m (Joel) contributing to a daily Advent devotional. Each post proceeds from a lectionary reading.)
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him.
Jesus was a confusing figure. If he really was the “Prophet” (an end-times figure that 1st Century Jews were looking for as a sign that God’s day of final salvation had emerged) or the “Christ” (a king-like anointed leader; again a symbol that final salvation had commenced) THEN WHY WAS HE FROM GALILEE?
Galilee was backwoods. Galileans were a peasant people. Thoughts like this emerge:
“Nothing wrong with Galilee, but the Christ would have to come from somewhere else.”
“If he is from Galilee, he can’t be him.”
Instead, you see, the Christ would be of royal lineage! From the ancient city of David! From David’s line!
John is writing with great irony here, and intentionally so. Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, but he grew up and lived his adult life in Galilee. While John’s reader knows this, the characters in the narrative do not. John loves this dramatic irony.
In this exchange, however, is the great hope of the Advent season. Further, it’s the hope of the gospel, in miniature.
Jesus is indeed royal. He is the king of kings, for crying out loud. The God of all creation, in him all things hold together.
But at his coming, we have a king on the scene that made himself nothing. He’s in human skin. To draw near. To be God with us. To come for and to identify with the nobodies, the insignificant ones, and the ones who don’t have it all together.
More irony? Heck, when this royal son of David went to the royal city of David for the occasion of his birth, forget a birthing suite. His parents can’t even find a cheap hotel room.
It’s that exact combination — his kingliness and his lowliness — that constitutes all our hope.
A Royal Nobody.
All for us.