Day 7: Unrecognised, Unreceived

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not recognise Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. (John 1:10-11)

I once had the privilege of reading John 1:1-14 at my school carol service. A teacher, the late Mr. Pudden (who was, in fact, the first person who taught me Greek), gave me some training in preparation. He said that you almost had to bore those listening: I was to read slowly with little modulation of the voice. With these verses, however, I was to inject some emotion: to illustrate the tragedy, the pathos of the situation – the created world, humanity, God’s own people rejected Him.

There are two key ‘buts’[1] in these verses: “but the world did not recognise Him … but His own did not receive Him.” The Word, Jesus Christ, spent time in the world that he had created; but it didn’t want anything to do with him. He reached out to His people, but they did not grasp Him. This is still the reaction of many to Jesus today.

The language of coming to “His own” is interesting: the Greek word is idios. There is also the related word, idiotes, from which we derive our word “idiot”. I know plenty of people who do not believe in Jesus who are highly intelligent, far from idiots. The apostle Paul did not call Christianity idiocy, but he did talk about it as foolishness (moria – cf. English ‘moron’) in terms of worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). In ancient Athens, however, an idiotes was a private-citizen, someone who did not vote, which was considered foolish in a democracy. They saw themselves as self-governing.

And this is perhaps the challenge to us today: to what extent do we delude ourselves into thinking that we can govern ourselves – that we can control everything, that we are in charge of the world, that it centres on us? These verses remind us that Christ created the world; we are His own, not our own. While also a responsibility (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), this is also liberating.

[1] I translate the Greek καί (generally meaning “and”) as ‘but’ in both cases here, as there seems to be an adversative force.

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