He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
The world. There is a funny duplicity in the way John uses the word “world”. The world was made through Him. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. So we have a clue that John means something more than “mankind” or “human society” by this word “kosmos”, because he says that the “world” (meaning all things) was made through Him. Yet, the kosmos is said to be capable of knowing, of recognizing, perhaps even of worshipping Him. Are we prepared to say that the universe was making a moral error, and through some kind of sin was unwilling or unable to recognize Him? I don’t think so. So what does this word “kosmos” mean?
I’m speculating. I think that mankind is the teleological endpoint of creation. The raw laws of logic and mathematics, the finely tuned laws of physics, the existence of life, all point to and lead to mankind as the crowning achievement of creation. If mankind does something or knows something, it is the same as saying the universe at large does something or knows something, because mankind is the end towards which the rest of the universe was designed to lead and support. So if mankind did not know Him, it is the same as saying that the universe at large did not know Him. We find a similar idea in romans 8:
Romans 8:19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
He was in the world. This is quite extraordinary! The Logos-God, Who existed before time began, in Whom is life, was in the world! He through Whom the world was made, the very creator of the universe, was manifested in the “ordinary” world of men. To God, the society of men is important enough that the Creator of all things wanted to make a personal appearance to us. That is what Christians think. We think that people are important because God thinks they are important enough to come into in a very shocking and miraculous and direct way. As far as we know, God has not manifested Himself similarly to trees, to dolphins, to stars, to nebula, or anything else. The rest of creation is represented through us as it crown, and God appears to the universe by appearing to us.
The world did not know Him. Here is something just as extraordinary: the world did not know Him! They obviously did not recognize Him as being the eternal God who created the universe, which tells us He somehow masked His identity in ordinariness. Consider this verse:
Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
God conceals Himself. He created all things and yet has kept Himself invisible until Christ so that men must search and think and debate as to whether there truly is a God at all. This in itself is extraordinary! Christ breaks this paradigm, and shows us God directly manifesting in the world as a man. Yet Isaiah tells us:
Isaiah 53:2 He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
So even though He has manifested directly to mankind, He did not appear as a glowing angel speaking with an otherworldly baritone with a halo floating above His head. He looked normal. Maybe He had less than perfect teeth. Maybe He didn’t have six-pack abs or great hair, but He had calloused hands and scratched and scarred arms. We don’t know, but we do know that He didn’t look stately or majestic and He certainly didn’t look supernatural. People who grew up with Him had trouble believing that He could really be the Messiah, much less the eternal Son of God.
So there was room, by God’s design, to manifest the light in a way that required searching and faith. He appeared in the world, and there was room for the world to ignore Him or to disbelieve. He made it so. Indeed, we know from this verse, that they did not know Him at all for being the light of God come into the world. They did not at all see Him as the timeless eternal God through whom the world was created.