The Day of Visitation

“… because you did not know the time of your visitation” Luke 19:44

These words came from the lips of Jesus mingled with His tears. He had presented Himself to Israel as their promised Messiah and been rejected. His presentation began in the town of Bethlehem. The scribes and Pharisees knew that Messiah would be born in there but they were too preoccupied to even have a small contingent in Bethlehem waiting for the arrival of Messiah.

Instead of the religious leaders being summoned for the great arrival shepherds were invited to the birth of the King of kings. Instead of Israel’s king being invited, Gentile men living in expectation of this King came.

The words of Jesus, “… because you did not know the time of your visitation” could be repeated throughout history to people collectively and individually. There have been many periods in the history of the church when the Holy Spirit has opened the minds and hearts of great numbers to turn from sin and receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ. It could be said of the multitudes that did not respond that they missed their opportunity. Each time the Gospel has been shared individually many have responded but for those who would not receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit they also missed their opportunity for eternal life. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Christmas and Easter are times when the world has its attention drawn in some measure to Jesus Christ. It is a special opportunity for those of us who know Jesus Christ to share the Gospel with others. For those who do not know Him it is an opportunity to come humbly to Him and find mercy and forgiveness. Since that is the reason He came, He will give it to the genuine seeker. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). The next verse reveals that the world is already condemned and in need of a Saviour.

When a person or group of people miss the time of Christ’s visitation to them it is a time of sorrow to Jesus and it ought to be so for us also. It is a time of grief when a soul does not take advantage of their opportunity to know Jesus Christ. Jesus finds no pleasure in a person dying without sins forgiven (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). In contrast, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). In the one, any hope of an intimate relationship is lost forever. In the latter, that intimate relationship will endure for eternity. We pray that many will know His visitation this Christmas.

So Near Yet so Far

“He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet’” Matthew 2:4, 5

“If only I had known …” This is not an uncommon statement that we make. It comes out of a measure of sorrow that we have just missed something important solely out of ignorance. But what if we had known and still missed the opportunity?

As a bus driver there were many occasions that people were running late and literally running to catch the bus. They knew the place and time the bus would come but were running late. If possible to safely do so I waited for them but there were some occasions when it just was not possible.

Observation and Jesus teach me that there are many who know the time and place to receive Jesus Christ but they miss Him just as one misses a bus. They know the “Christmas story,” they know about Jesus coming but they do not seek Him out.

When asked by the “Wise Men” where the King of the Jews was to be born, Herod consulted the chief priests and scribes. They knew the Scriptures and promptly quoted the prophet Micah who had written that He would be born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was not far from Jerusalem where this question was posed.

Since Israel was in an expectant mode concerning the appearing of their Messiah one would have expected that those in the know would have been in Bethlehem waiting. One can only conclude that they did not really believe what Micah had written or they didn’t really care. They may not have believed but King Herod certainly demonstrated that he believed by conducting a most horrific act against toddlers and babies.

The scribes and chief priests knew where their King would be born but they did not act on that knowledge and seek Him. They were so near yet they missed His arrival.

Jesus tells us that many will miss out on entrance to His kingdom for the same reason. Matthew records Jesus’ words, “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (7:22). These are people who knew about Jesus because they claimed to be teaching His words, acting under His authority and doing miracles by His power. Jesus says for all that they have no relationship with Him. They were so near and yet so far.

It is so sad that many will sing carols and hear the Christmas story this week and yet they will miss the King just as one misses a bus. This doesn’t need to be the case. Knowing the Christmas story and knowing the Christ in Christmas are two very different things. Inclusion or exclusion from His kingdom has to do with a personal relationship with Jesus and not just knowledge about Him.

Jesus is not far off. Turn and He is there waiting patiently and lovingly for you. He will wait but He will not wait forever. Christmas is truly a joyous time for those who did seek and find Him.