Sweet Little Jesus Boy
"Adoration of the Shepherds," Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
“None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
Let that thought hang in the air for just a moment. “They would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
If they had known . . . If they had understood . . . But they didn’t!
This means Pilate didn’t know who Jesus was. Yes, he had heard the stories, the wild rumors about healings and miracles and people brought back from the dead. You could hardly keep that private. The news had spread like wildfire. When you read the gospels, Pontius Pilate appears as a kind of tortured soul—a man caught between the demands of his job and a genuine curiosity about Jesus. “What is truth?” he asked. It was not an idle question. He wanted to know the truth. I do not doubt he wanted the crowd to choose Barabbas over Jesus. When he washed his hands with water, he was trying to say, “I did the best I could to save this man, but I couldn’t. His blood is now on your hands.” It didn’t work; it could never have worked.
Pilate stands guilty of a terrible crime—crucifying the Lord of glory. Only he didn’t know he was the Lord of glory. Exactly who he thought Jesus was, we cannot say for certain. But this much we know—he didn’t know, didn’t understand, and so he ordered him crucified.
The world didn’t understand Jesus when he walked on the earth, and the world still doesn’t understand him today. That fact ought to give us patience when we talk to unbelievers. Sometimes when lost people say foolish and hurtful things, we may be tempted to retaliate with unkind words of our own. That’s almost always a bad idea. It’s like cursing a blind man because he can’t see the color green.
That brings us to our song for today. Most people think of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” as a spiritual written in the 1800s, but Robert MacGimsey composed it in 1934. The haunting lyrics remind us the world misunderstood Jesus when he came as a baby, and for the most part, the world still misunderstands him today.
One line in particular focuses on how wrong the world was: “They made you be born in a manger.” There was no room for Jesus 2000 years ago, and sadly, there is no room for him in many hearts today.
Sweet little Jesus Boy,
They made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child,
Didn’t know who You was.
Didn’t know you’d come to save us, Lord;
To take our sins away.
Our eyes was blind, we couldn’t see,
We didn’t know who You was.
Do you know Jesus as Lord and Savior? If so, you know it because God has revealed it to you by his Spirit.
There is no room for boasting, and no need for it either. If you are among those who can see and hear and understand the truth, do not take any credit for it. Get down on your knees and thank God for opening your eyes. Thank God for rescuing you from the pit of despair. Thank God for turning your life around. Thank God for giving you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand his truth.
Let’s listen together as Babbie Mason sings this Christmas spiritual.
Lord Jesus, if you had not opened our eyes, we wouldn’t have seen you either. We thank you now and forever for your saving grace. Amen.