Have you ever looked into a mirror and wondered, “Who is that?” or “Who am I?” What if the answer could be, “I am a child of God.” Intrigued? Consider this: If you were standing in a room that was cloaked in darkness, what would you see? You’d see nothing, right? So, if there was a mirror on the wall in that room, and you happened to be looking into it, would you see your reflection? Would you be able to see who or what you are? No, you would not. But, what if a light was turned on?
When light enters darkness, there is a dramatic change in what can be seen. In the opening verses of his Gospel, John identifies Jesus as the light. Interesting! Is he saying that things change when Jesus enters the darkness of our lives?
Jesus was born in Bethlehem and now, at roughly age thirty, he was embarking on His public ministry. To pave the way, God sent a man, a messenger, to announce the debut. So John the Apostle introduces a man we will come to know as John the Baptist. He writes, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John (a.k.a. John the Baptist not John the Apostle). He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light” (John 1:6-8). We’ll hear much more about and from John the Baptist in later studies so let’s leave it at this for now – he has announced the coming of the light, the coming of Jesus.
The Apostle John tells more about this light, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 3:9-11). This is not referring to the birth of Jesus. He had been born many years before and had lived a life of obscurity. This is about Jesus’ going public as He begins to move from obscurity to becoming the most widely known person who ever lived.
The English translation of verse 11 doesn’t capture the full meaning of what John was saying in Greek, the original language of the New Testament. English renders, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). In the Greek, the first “own” is in a neuter form, essentially meaning that Jesus came to his own things. We’ve already seen that all things were made through him (John 1:2) so all created things belong to him. When Jesus went public, He came to all that He had made – i.e. all things. The second “own” in this verse is in a universal masculine form, specifically referring to people and not things. It was His people who did not receive Him. If we narrow the focus, the Hebrew or Jewish people are in view. Jesus, born as a Jew, came to the Jews. Jewish faith, Judaism, was anticipating the coming of a Messiah, but when Jesus came to them as the Messiah, He was not received as such. As a faith, Judaism rejected Jesus as the Messiah, choosing not to believe that He was the one.
That is not to say that no Jews believed in Jesus as the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah, but that the mainstream of the Hebrew people rejected Him and, though the Messiah had come, Judaism continued to look for, to wait for, someone else. This rejection of Jesus as the messianic Son of God continues in force today for Judaism as a faith, as a belief system.
John continues, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
Make note that one of the most important words in the Bible is the word BUT. There are many, many passages in Scripture that reveal some negative circumstance that would befall people if left to themselves BUT the love, the grace, the mercy, of God intervenes to provide a change of course and a glorious outcome. Such is the case here. Jesus came as the light to bring spiritual, eternal life to His people, but as a group these people rejected Him. That could have been the tragic end of the story, BUT there’s more.
There were many, and are many, who believe in Jesus, who believe, as John writes, “in his name” (John 1:12). What does it mean to believe in the name of Jesus? The “name” of Jesus represents all that Jesus is, all that Jesus says, all that Jesus does and all that Jesus claims about Himself. In other words, His name is His character, His words, His actions and His explanations of what is true. We find all this in the Bible, the word of God. Either the Bible is true or it’s not. Either what the Bible reveals about Jesus is true or it’s not. We either believe or we don’t.
John’s Gospel reveals an amazing promise in verse 12. Those who believe are given the right to become children of God. These are not children because of biological birth but children because of spiritual birth as God adopts them, adopts us, into His eternal, spiritual family. As an adoptive Father, they and we are His forever as He never un-adopts one of His own children. As children of God, we are the spiritual siblings of Jesus, the Son of God, with all the benefits of being co-heirs with Jesus of all that God has for us for all eternity. And imagine; this is all God’s will. Do you believe?