The phrase, "according to," has been thought by some to suggest a type of doctrine or teaching with which the document might be supposed to harmonize, and therefore to set aside the idea of personal authenticity by its very form. This interpretation, seeing it applies to Mark and Luke as well as to John and Matthew, would lose its meaning; for Mark and Luke, by numerous traditionary notices, have been continuously credited, not with having personally set any special type of doctrine before the Church, but as having been respectively the interpreter of Peter or Paul. Consequently the meaning of the phrase compels us to ask whether the word "Gospel" or "Holy Gospel" did in the first instance refer to the book at all. It is not "John's Gospel" that is intended, but the good news or glad tidings of God related by John, of which this and similar titles speak, Moreover, numerous instances occur where the κατὰ is similarly used to denote authorship. Thus "The Pentateuch according to Moses," "The History according to Herodotus," "The Gospel according to Peter," are titles which in every case are meant to suggest the idea of authorship (Godet). We cannot imagine that any other implication was intended by this ancient superscription.
Each of the evangelists starts with a grand "presupposition," or main thesis, of his own, expressed with more or less of explicitness, which it becomes his obvious purpose to sustain.
This main thesis is set forth in the first sentences of each of the synoptists. Thus MARK opened with the memorable words, "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God." £ From the first he refers to the prophetic anticipations and historic realization of glad tidings uttered by the Lord, and he based all his teaching on the fact that Jesus Christ was SON OF GOD . MATTHEW , who wished to establish the Lord's special claim to Messiahship, and his official right to the throne of David, began with a genealogical proof of the Lord's descent from David and Abraham. LUKE , who aimed throughout to illustrate the Divine humanity, and to build his narrative on historic facts and chronological data, took up his story with the birth of the Baptist, and, in conjunction with his baptizing of Jesus, presents a lineal genealogy of the supposed father (and probably of the mother) of Jesus, through the line of Nathan to David, thence from David to Abraham, and finally to Adam, the first son of God. In his prologue Luke indicated the biographical use he had made of the material in his hands, and of the personal knowledge he had acquired, and that he aimed to set forth the grounds of security that existed for the things most fully believed by the Church ( Luke 1:1-4 ).
The fourth evangelist was as earnestly set upon giving proof of the Messiahship of Jesus as Matthew was (see John 20:31 ), and as resolved to emphasize the complete humanity of the Son of God as even Luke himself was (see verse 14, and all the many signs of the Saviour's resemblance to his brethren, and sympathy with their sufferings and joys— John 2:1 ; John 4:6 ; John 5:13 , John 5:14 ; John 11:5 , John 11:35 , etc.). But John had felt more deeply than many of the apostles the effulgence of the Father's glory which gleamed in the face of Jesus Christ. John had heard in the words of Jesus the veritable voice of the living God; "The Word of the Lord ( ὁ λόγος κυρίου ) came to him" in the speech ( λαλιά ) of Jesus. There was a Divineness about the mission of the Lord which deeply impressed this evangelist—that Jesus had come in a special sense from God, that he was the Giver of eternal life and the Author of eternal salvation, and that he had the "form of God," though in the likeness of men. John's mind revolved all the truth which, long before this prologue or introduction was written, had been proclaimed by Paul and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in every varying phrase. It was in harmony with the whole purpose of his Gospel that he should begin it before the baptism, before the birth, before the conception, of the Lord Jesus; that he should press back in thought to the Divine activity itself—to those ideas of the older revelation which, though not in conflict with the pure monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures, involved the veritable preparation for the stupendous reality, for the supreme tragedy, for the Divine kingdom which had evolved itself under his very eyes. He looked back into the past, nay, he gazed out of time into eternity; he looked up from the miraculous conception to that holy thing which was conceived in the womb of humanity; he endeavoured to set forth that form of God which could alone become "flesh" and tabernacle among men; and which, though it did this, did not destroy the unity of Deity, but confirmed and established it. He was not slow to reflect on all the methods in which God had ever come near to men, nor could he believe that God Incarnate had never foreshadowed his presence with men, or his manifestation to them, before his own day and hour. When the old man was at Ephesus, many dangerous speculations were rife. Some denied that Christ had ever come in the flesh at all, and said that so Divine a presence as his was no objective reality—was allied to the Docetic "seeming" manifestations made to the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Jesus was to them a theophany, not a living Man. Now, we learn from the First Epistle that such a thesis was, in the opinion of John, the quintessence of antichrist. Others, again, had speculated about the emanations of Deity, until a new mythology was beginning to hover on the borderland between Christendom and heathendom. Essenic and Ebionitic errors had grieved him. At length the moment arrived when the "Son of Thunder," who saw all the glory of the risen Lord, all the majesty of his triumphant reign, uttered these opening words, replying, in every sentence, to one or other of these misconceptions of his Lord's Person. And he proceeded to lay a simple basis deep and strong enough to support the facts upon which the faith of the Church was resting. Men had come veritably to believe that they were children of God, and had been generated as such by the will of God, and, if children, that they were heirs of God through Jesus Christ ( Romans 8:16 , Romans 8:17 ; Galatians 3:26 ). "Grace and truth" were lighting up broken and bewildered hearts when they accepted the reality of the Divine manhood of Jesus, and something better than the mere speculations of the schools of Palestine, Alexandria, or Ephesus was needed in order to explain (as he, the beloved disciple saw it) the mystery of the life of Christ. That which he laid down as the solution of the problem of "the beginning of the Gospel" is called the prologue of this Gospel. Even apart from the inspiration which breathes through it, no passage in literature can be cited which has exercised a more powerful influence upon the thought of the last eighteen hundred years than that which sets forth John's fundamental ideas concerning the essence and character, the idiosyncrasy and the energy, of the Divine fulness which dwelt in Jesus.
The question has been asked—Where does the prologue end? M. Reuss strongly presses the view that tile proem terminated with the fifth verse, and that with the sixth the apostle commenced his historical recital. He urges that there is no break from the sixth to the eighteenth verse; that in this paragraph the author sets forth the general effect of the testimony of the historical Baptist to Jesus; and that, in consequence of it, a limited number of individuals were led to recognize
Some preliminary advantage is thus secured by the critic who seeks to ally this paragraph with the rest of the history, and to impute to the whole Gospel, as well as to the passage in question, the character of a theological or didactic romance. The enormous majority of all scholars, while recognizing new points of departure at verse 6, and again at verses 14-18, do not admit that the evangelist's preliminary representations or presuppositions have come to a pause until he reached the sublime utterance which points so obviously back to verse 1, "No one hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." From the first verse to the eighteenth the evangelist revolves around the fundamental idea of "the Word which was with God and was God." but his aim is to show how the Word came into relations with man, and how man may come into relations with the Godhead through him who was manifested in the flesh in all the fulness of grace and truth.
An obvious method of this author in the Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse shows that he was wont to return upon thoughts which he had previously uttered, yet at the same time doing so in fresh cycles and with added meanings (see Introduction). The large spiral of his meditations sweeps at first round the entire region of "all things" which have their centre in the "Word of God:" "All things came into being through him." Then he formally discriminates between "things" and "forces," and especially indicates the relation of "the Word" to the energies and blessedness of the entire universe of sentient and responsible beings which derive all their "life" from the "life that is in him," and their "light" from that "life," indicating, as he proceeds, the presence of the antagonism to the light and life displayed by our imperfect and damaged humanity (verses 1-5). Here the entire testimony of prophecy—gathered up in the person of an historic man, John Baptist,—is broadly characterized, and some conception of the aid which revelation and inspiration have given to men to recognize the light when they see it, and to hear the voice of the Lord God while it speaks. The entire function of prophecy is discriminated from the light force at work in every living man. The special aid given to the holy, prepared, and selected race, by the manner of his self-revelations brings the spiral thought round into the region of the intensified darkness of those who refuse the brightest light (verses 9-11), so that verse 11 corresponds with verse 5. Verses 12, 13 pause in the region of light. Some souls are at least transformed into the light, become conscious of a Divine generation, are born (through faith), independently of all earthly, national, or sacramental means, into the same kind of relation to God that has from eternity been enjoyed by the Word.
At this point a novel revolution of thought is commenced, characterized by more intense brilliancy and efficacity, because revealed in a narrower range of fact. He touches the very focus and centre of Divine manifestation, when he says, "And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us." "The Word" did not become "all things," nor was he identified with life, still less with light. The wide radiance and glorious glancing of the light was not identified with the objects on which through prophetic agencies it alighted. The τὰ ἴδια , the special race of light bearers, were not, even in their highest form of recipiency, incarnations of the Word. Neither conscience, nor prophecy, nor Shechinah glory was of the substance or essence of "the Word," although all the energy of each of these was and is and ever will be the shining of the primal light on humanity.
This is the theory of the writer of this prologue, but his chief contribution to the sum of human thought is that "this Word became flesh." Having announced this stupendous fact, the author relates the evidence of his own personal, living experience; and he records his invincible assent to this unique and central glory of Divine manifestation. This at once leads to a few comprehensive antitheses drawn between the Incarnation and all the most illustrious and luminous of previous revelations. Just as verses 6, 7 revealed the difference between prophecy and the "light of men," so, having come to this focal point of splendour, prophecy again speaks in the person of the Baptist; and verse 15 cites the highest testimony to the supreme rank of the incarnate God above the greatest of the teachers of men. In verse 16 the apostle refers to the Incarnate Word as the Source of all apostolic emotions and life. Through him, and not from the mere teachings of prophecy or conscience, have we all received grace and truth. Then, sweeping back to the grandest epoch-making man and moment of all past history, Moses himself appears to shine only like the light of a waning moon in the advent of the dawn. More than that; neither Adam in Paradise, nor Noah gazing on the averted bow, nor Abraham at Moriah, nor Jacob at Peniel, nor Moses in the cleft of the rock, nor Elijah at Horeb, nor Isaiah in the temple, nor Ezekiel at the river of Chebar, have ever seen, in the sense in which Jesus saw, the face of the Father. The only begotten Son who was with God and was God, and in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him. The entire proem does not cease till it reaches this triumphant peroration. Detailed exegesis of the passage can alone justify this estimate of the significance of the prologue. Different commentators have divided it somewhat differently, and many have drawn too sharp a distinction between the preincarnation life of the Logos, and the historical, theocratic, or ecclesiastical manifestation. Surely that which the eternal Logos was before his manifestation and before the humiliation of the infinite love, he was and must have been during the human life of Jesus, he must be now, and he must ever be. In other words: The Word, who was in the beginning with God, is still "with God." All life is continually the effluence of one of his infinite energies; all light is the effulgence of that bright essence uncreate. He is still coming "to his own," and "they receive him not." The processes described in verses 6-13 have never ceased; nay, they are indeed more conspicuous than they ever were before in the ministry of the Word, but they have not exhausted nor diminished one iota of the stupendous activity of the eternal, creative, revealing Logos.
The first part of the Gospel, consisting of ch. 1-4, we have already described as
I. THE REVELATION OF THE LOGOS TO THE WORLD .
1. The hypothesis framed by the evangelist to account for the series of facts which he is about to narrate is seen especially in John 1:14 ; but before asserting this great fact that the Word was made flesh, he proceeds to show
(4) The general manifestation of the revealing Logos.
But before the apostle advances to the central statement of the entire proem, he stops to show that, though the whole world, though man as an organized mass, though Israel as a favoured and selected theocracy, have refused to know and confess his supreme claims, yet there has always been an election of grace. All have not perished in their unbelief. Some have received him. The twelfth and thirteenth verses do, indeed, in their full meaning, refer unmistakably to the entire ministry of the living Christ to the end of time; but surely every word of it applies primarily (though not exclusively) to the whole previous pleadings of the Light and Life—to the ministry of the pre-existing and eternal Logos, and to the privileges and possibilities consequent thereupon. As many as received him . £ This phrase is subsequently explained as being identical with "believed in his Name." The simple verb ἔλαβον , is less definite than are its compounds with κάτα and παρά , used in the previous verses (5, 11). The acceptance is a positive idea, is broader, more manifold, less restricted as to manner of operation, than the negative rejection which took sharp and decisive form. The construction is irregular. We have a nominativus pendens followed by a clause in the dative; as much as if he had written, "There are, notwithstanding all the rejections, those who received him." To these, the evangelist says, however many or few they may be, who believe in his Name, he—the subject of the previous sentence— gave the authority and capability of becoming children of God . Believing in his Name is discriminated from believing him. The construction occurs thirty-five times in the Gospel, and three times in the First Epistle—and the Name here especially present to the writer is the Logos, the full revelation of the essence, character, and activity, of God. John, writing in the close of his life, surveys a glorious company of individuals who, by realizing as true the sum of all the perfections of the manifested Word, by believing in his Name, have also received as a gift the sense of such union to the Son of God that they become alive to the fact that they too are the offspring of God. This realization of the Divine fatherhood, which had been so obscure before, is itself the origination within them of filial feeling. Thus a new life is begotten and supervenes upon the old life. This new life is a new humanity within the bosom or womb of the old, and so it corresponds with the Pauline doctrine of new creation and of resurrection. ἐξοσία is more than opportunity, and less than ( δύναμις ) power; it is rightful claim (which is itself the gift of God) to become what they were not before, seeing that a Divine generation has begotten them again. They are born from above. The Spirit of the Son has passed into them, and they cry, "Abba, Father." This Divine begetting is still further explained and differentiated from ordinary human life. The writer distinctly repudiates the idea that the condition he speaks of is a consequence of simple birth into this world. This is done in a very emphatic manner ( οἵ here in the masculine, is the well known constructio ad sensum, and refers to τέκνα θεοῦ ). Who were begotten from God, not from (or, of ) blood . John repudiates for this "generation" any connection with mere hereditary privilege. No twice-born Brahmin, no dignified race, no descendant of Abraham, can claim it as such, and the writer further discriminates it, as though he would leave no loophole for escape: Nor yet from the will of the flesh, nor even from the will of the man ( ἀνδρὸς not ἀνθρώπου ) . Some, very erroneously, have supposed that "the flesh" here refers to "woman" in contradistinction to "man," and numerous efforts have been made to point out the threefold distinction. The simplest and most obvious interpretation is that "the will of the flesh" here means the human process of generation on its lower side, and "the will of the man" the higher purposes of the nobler side of human nature, which lead to the same end. Special dignity is conferred by being the son of a special father; but however honoured such might be, as in the case of an Abraham, a David, a Zacharias, such paternity has nothing to do with the sonship of which the evangelist is thinking. Doubtless this triumphant new beginning of humanity can only be found in the full revelation of the name of the incarnate Logos; but surely the primary application of the passage is to the fact that, notwithstanding the stiff-necked rejection of the Logos by the peculiar possession and people of his love, there were, from Abraham to Malachi and to John the Baptist, those who did recognize the Light and live in the love of God. The author of Psalms 16:1-11 ., 17., 23., 25., 103., 119., and a multitude beyond calculation, discerned and received him, walked in the light of the Lord, were kept in perfect peace, found in the Lord their most exceeding joy. "Like as a father pitieth his chihlren, so the Lord pitied them." He nourished and brought up children, and to the extent to which they appreciated his holy Name they therein received as a gift the capability and claim to call him their Father. This was not a question of human fatherhood or hereditary privilege at all, but of gracious exchanges of affection between these children of his love and the Eternal, who had fashioned them in his image and regenerated them by his Holy Spirit. To restrict any element of this passage to conscious faith in the Christ is to repudiate the activity of the Logos and Spirit before the Incarnation, and almost compels a Sabellian interpretation of the Godhead. Even now the grandeur of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity—a doctrine which treats these relations as eternal and universal—compels us to believe that whenever among the sons of men there is a soul which receives the Logos in this light, i.e. apart from the special revelation of the Logos in the flesh, to such a one he gives the capacity and claim of sonship. John certainly could not mean to imply that there had never been a regenerated soul until he and his fellow disciples accepted their Lord. Up to this point in his argument he has been disclosing the universal and the special operations of the Logos who in the beginning was with God and was God, the Source of all life, the Giver of all light, the veritable Light which shines upon every man, which does more even than that—which made a long continued series of approaches to his own specially instructed and prepared people. Prophecy all through the ages has had a wondrous function to bear witness to the reality of this Light, that all might believe in it, that all might become sons by faith; but, alas[darkness, prejudice, depravity, corruption—"darkness" did not apprehend the nature, name, or mystery, of love. And so he proceeds to describe the greatest, the most surprising, supreme energy of the Eternal Logos—that which illustrates, confirms, brings into the most forcible relief, the nature of his personality, and the extent of the obligation under which he has placed the human race; and proves in the most irresistible way, not only the character and nature of God, but the actual condition of humanity. The great extent of the literature and the imposing controversies which have accumulated over the entirely unique sentence that here fellows render any treatment of it difficult. A volume rather than a page or two is required to exhibit the significance of a verse which is probably the most important collocation, of words ever made.
The grace of adoption.
The Jews might boast themselves of being children of Abraham, but Christ gives his disciples the far higher privilege of being sons of God.
I. THE NATURE OF THE RIGHT OR PRIVILEGE ENJOYED BY TRUE BELIEVERS . "As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become the children of God."
1 . It is more than creation—sonship. It is more than the relationship of God as a Father to all men as rational and moral creatures; that sonship belongs to all men by virtue of their birth.
2 . It is more than the restoration to man of his original relation with God before the Fall.
3 . It is a new relation, involving a new filial standing and a new filial character, and has for its blessings freedom of access to God, deep fellowship with him, a sure interest in his fatherly care and discipline, and a well grounded hope of enjoying the inheritance of sons.
4 . It originates in the free grace of God ; for we are "predestinated to the adoption of sons" ( Ephesians 1:5 ). "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" ( 1 John 3:1 , 1 John 3:2 ). We are said to "receive the adoption of sons" ( Galatians 4:5 ).
II. THE CONNECTION OF ADOPTION WITH THE PERSON AND MEDIATION OF JESUS CHRIST . Though the Father adopts ( 1 John 3:1 ), it is the Son through whom we become sons of God. In virtue of his Mediatorship he gives the right to it. God predestinates us "to the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ" ( Ephesians 1:5 , Ephesians 1:6 ).
III. THE ADOPTION IS EFFECTED BY REGENERATION ON GOD 'S SIDE , AND BY FAITH ON MAN 'S SIDE . Faith is the first and immediate effect of regeneration. Faith may be mentioned before regeneration, because it is, so to speak, that element which is nearest to man, and that clement by which man has his first point of contact with Christ; but there can be no faith till it be given by God's Spirit in regeneration ( Philippians 1:29 ).
1 . Regeneration is necessarily connected with the entrance of sinners into evangelical sonship. "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The Jews might believe that they were sons of God by descent from Abraham, or from human parents in direct descent from the patriarch. The apostle says that believers are born:
2 . The evangelical sonship is effected on man ' s part by faith in Christ. "Even to as many as believe in his Name." There are other testimonies to the fact. Believers become "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" ( Galatians 3:26 ). "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" ( 1 John 5:1 ). There is no sonship to God without living faith in the Son of God.
(a) It is not a mere belief of the truth, though this is essentially implied in it.
(b) Nor is it a belief of the fact that "Christ died for me, " or any such proposition.
(c) It is trusting in a Person. We believe on Christ for salvation.
Christ rejected and accepted.
It is related by an ancient historian that an Eastern tribe were so afflicted by the blazing and intolerable heat of the sun, that they were accustomed, when the great luminary arose in the morning, to assail him with their united and vehement curses. It is hard to believe that, the benefits of sunlight being so obvious as they are, any should be found other than glad and grateful for the shining of the orb of day. "The light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun." The rising of the Sun of Righteousness, however, was, we know, hailed in very different manners by different classes of men; as in these verses is very strikingly pointed out by the inspired evangelist. The same diversity obtains to this day among the hearers of the gospel of Christ. There are still those who reject and those who receive the Saviour.
I. CHRIST REJECTED .
1 . By whom? The evangelist speaks, first generally, and then specially, upon this point.
2 . In what way?
3 . For what reasons?
4 . With what results?
II. CHRIST ACCEPTED . John states first, what must have been the general impression during our Lord's ministry, that Jews and Gentiles alike rejected him. Indeed, his unjust, cruel, and violent death was sufficient proof of this. But there was another side to this picture.
1 . Observe by whom the Son of God was gratefully and cordially received. This very chapter witnesses to the power of the Lord Jesus over individual souls; for it tells of the adhesion of Andrew and Simon, of Philip and Nathanael. The Gospels relate the call of the twelve and of the seventy. They afford us a passing glimpse into the soul history of such men as Nicodemus and Joseph, of such families as that of Lazarus at Bethany. And they exhibit Christ's attractive power over very different characters, such as Zacchaeus and the penitent thief upon the cross. After the Ascension, Christ's converts were reckoned, not by individuals, but by thousands. And throughout the Christian centuries, men from every clime and of every race have been led by the Spirit to receive Jesus as the Son of God.
2 . Observe the description given of their reception of Christ. They "believed on his Name." The "Name" is full of significance. Whether we examine the name "Jesus," or "Christ," or "Immanuel," the Name sets before us the object of our faith. Those who receive the Saviour who is thus designated, believe what prophecy foretold of him and what he declared concerning his own person, character, and work. They trust in him as in an all-sufficient Mediator, and obey him as their Lord.
3 . Observe the privilege accruing to those who receive Christ
APPLICATION . Our treatment of the Lord Christ makes the decisive turning point in our spiritual history. Those who are once brought into contact with him, by hearing his gospel, are by that fact placed in a new and solemn position of responsibility. To reject him is to reject pardon, righteousness, and life. To accept him is to enter the Divine family, to enjoy the Divine favour, to live the Divine, the spiritual, the immortal life.—T.
The rejected and received Saviour.
These words bring under our notice a most interesting subject—the great subject of the first fifteen verses of this chapter, viz. the coming of the Son of God, the manifestation of the Eternal Word in the flesh. We have here one of the peculiar aspects of his coming in order to carry out the great scheme of human redemption. We have Jesus here—
I. AS COME TO HIS OWN .
1 . This is a special coming. He was in the world before and after his Incarnation. But here we have a special description of his manifestation. "He came . " He had to do with the Jewish nation for ages, but no previous movement of his could be accurately described in this language. He came now physically, personally, and visibly.
2 . This is a special coming to his own. His own land—the land of Palestine; his own people—the Jewish nation. He came to the world at large, but came through a particular locality. He came to humanity generally, but came through a particular nation. This was a necessity, and according to pre-arrangement. The Jewish nation were his own people:
3 . This was a special coming to all his own. Not to some, but to all. Not to a favoured class, but to all classes—rich and poor, learned and unlearned. The unlearned and poor being the large majority of the nation as well as the world, he identified himself rather with them; for he could reach the higher classes better front below, than the lower classes from above. He taught all without distinction, offered the blessings of his coming to all without the least partiality, and invited all to his kingdom by the same road, viz. repentance and faith.
II. AS REJECTED BY THE MAJORITY . "And his own received him not." A few received him; but they were exceptions, and they received him individually, not nationally; as sinners and aliens, and not as his own. So complete was the rejection that it is a sad truth, "his own received him not." Their rejection of him:
1 . Was a sad dereliction of duty. A duty they owed to their God and Defender; a duty most sacred, important, and obligatory. A duty for the performance of which they had been chiefly chosen, specially blessed, preserved, and prepared for ages; but when the time came, they sadly failed to perform it. "His own received him not."
2 . Was most inexcusable. It is true that they knew him not to be the Son of God, the promised Messiah. This is stated by the apostle. But this is not a legitimate excuse; they ought to know him. They had the most ample advantages; they were familiar with his portraits as drawn by the prophets, and he exactly corresponded. His holy character, his mighty deeds, and his Divine kindness were well known, and even confessed by them. They had the mightiest proofs of his Messiahship and Divinity. So that they had no excuse for their ignorance, and consequently no excuse for their rejection.
3 . Was cruelly ungrateful. Ingratitude is too mild a term to describe their conduct. It was cruel. Think who he was—the Son of God, the Prince of Life, their rightful King, their promised and long expected Messiah, come to them all the way from heaven, not on a message of vengeance as might be expected, but on a message of peace and universal good will, to fulfil his gracious engagement and carry out the Divine purposes of redeeming grace. Leaving out the graver charge of his crucifixion, his rejection was cruelly ungrateful and ungratefully cruel. "His own received him not."
4 . Was most fatal to them. They rejected their best and only Friend and Deliverer, who had most benevolently come to warn and save them—come for the last time, and their reception of him was the only thing that could deliver them socially and spiritually; but "his own received him not." This proved fatal to them. There was nothing left but national dissolution and ruin, and that was soon the case; and they are the victims of their own conduct to this day. To reject Jesus is ultimately fatal to nations as well as to individuals.
5 . Was most discouraging to him. To be rejected, and to be rejected by his own—by those who it might be expected would receive him with untold enthusiasm. Better be rejected by strangers and spurned by professed foes,—this would he expected; but to he rejected by his own is apparently more than he can bear. And not satisfied with leaving him an outcast in his own world, they banish him hence by a cruel death. What will he do? Will he be disheartened, leave with disgust, and hurl on the world the thunderbolts of vengeance? No; but stands his ground, and tries his fortune among strangers, according to ancient prophecy, "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged," etc.
III. AS RECEIVED BY SOME . "But as many as received him," etc. He was received by a minority—a small but noble minority. With regard to the few who received him we see:
1 . The independency and courage of their conduct. They received him, though rejected by the majority, which included the most educated and influential. It is one thing to swim with the tide, but another to swim against it. It is easy to go with the popular current, but difficult to go against it. This requires a great independency of action and decision of character. Those who received Jesus at this time did this—they received "the Despised and Rejected of men." They accepted the Stone rejected, and rejected of the builders. This involved admirable independency of conduct and courage of conviction.
2 . The reward of their conduct. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power," etc.
3 . The explanation of their conduct. How did. they receive him while the majority rejected him? How came they possessed of such a high honour—to become the children of God? The answer is, "They believed on his Name." It was by faith. We see:
1 . The minority are often right, and the majority wrong. It was so on the plain of Dura, in Babylon, and so here.
2 . The minority, generally, are the first to accept great truths ; the majority reject them. Think of scientific, reforming and redemptive truths. The Jewish nation rejected the Saviour; a few received him.
3 . It is better to be with the minority when right, than with the majority when wrong. They have truth and right, and will ultimately win all to their way of thinking. The few that received Jesus are fast gaining ground. The Saviour of the minority win soon be the Saviour of all.
4 . We should be very thankful to the minority for receiving the Saviour. Humanly speaking, they saved the world from eternal disgrace and ruin—from sharing the fate of those who rejected him.
5 . We should be infinitely more thankful to the Saviour that he did not leave the world in disgust and vengeance when rejected by his own. But inspired by infinite love, he turned his face to the world at large, stood by the minority, and the minority stood by him. The river of God's eternal purposes cannot be ultimately checked. If checked in one direction, it will take another, and the result will be more glorious. Christ comes to us every day. Do we receive him? Our obligations are infinite.—B.T.
Receiving Christ, and the result of it.
I. CHRIST IGNORED . "The world knew him not." This statement is humiliating to the world, not to Christ. The world makes a great parade of its insight and its power to give deciding verdicts; but here is its very Maker in its midst, yet it knows him not. Here surely is the crowning sin of the world, that it knows not him who is the Fountain of all its boasted powers. Were the world what it ought to be, it would welcome its Maker, rejoicing in the presence of him who gave its intellect and all the material on which that intellect is so busy. In the face of this statement of John, it should not trouble us that so much of the world's intellect and grandeur ignores Christ. A man with the worldly spirit strong in him is contented with his own infallibility and certainty. Rather let us, when we see the world's complacent ignoring of Christ, contrast it with the Christian's substantial knowledge of him. And seeing that the world, with all its knowledge, knows not Christ, let us bear in mind how many things the Christian himself does not yet know.
II. CHRIST IGNORED WHERE MOST OF ALL HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN RECEIVED . The reference is doubtless to Christ's coming into the land of Israel. He was not only the world's Maker, but Israel's Messiah, and Israel failed to recognize him in either capacity. They did not give him even a provisional reception till such time as his claim could be examined; for such seems the force of παρέλαβον . They were prejudiced against him from the very first. Every word and act were twisted against trim. What candour there is in these admissions of John! Christianity fears no statement of facts. The more emphatic and bitter human rejections became the more clearly the necessity of a Christ was proved.
III. RECEIVING CHRIST , AND ITS RESULT . Here is the whole truth. The world cannot receive Christ, but always there are some who go out from the world because they are not of the world. Among the children of men there is a rejecting spirit and a receiving spirit. He who receives Christ must be all the more determined and cordial in his reception, because he sees so many rejecting; and he who is at all inclined to consider the claims of Christ must be careful not to be turned aside because so many are indifferent. See with your own eyes. All true things have met with scorn and persecution at first. But what is it to receive Christ? Evidently to deliver ourselves over to his rule and authority. If a man should receive a traveller into his house, and give trim henceforth the disposition of everything there, that would give the analogy as to how we should receive Christ; and so receiving Christ, we gain the right to become sons of God. We have our part in the natural world's existence through Christ, and that comes without our willing; but a part in the highest attainment belonging to human life, even sonship towards God, can only come through our voluntary submission to Christ. Jesus gives true and humble disciples the right to become sons of God; and teaching them to say, "Our Father, who art in heaven," he involves the constant remembrance of this right in every true prayer.—Y.