John 1:9-13 – Rejecting and Receiving

Verses 6-8 talked about John the Baptist’s witness to the light and now in verse 9 the light is made the subject again. Here the text also qualifies the light as the true light. Jesus is said to be true in the sense of ‘ultimate.’ Whatever one thought of ‘light’ in the first place, this here is the true light (cf. Carson, Gospel of John, 122; Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 166). And this true light, which gives light to all peoplewas coming into the world.

In fact, verse 10 tell us that the light was in the world (this earthly realm) now bringing focus to the Word and the Light as actually in space/time history. When verses 1-5 talk about the Word it is in his relationship to God and his relationship to creation. But only here does it begin to outline that the true light actually was in the world, a historical fact that could be looked back on from the time of John’s writing. The first 5 verses could be uttered at any time post-creation.

The second clause of verse 10 reiterates what we already know: the world was made through him, but the next clause tells us that the world did not know him, that is, it did not recognize him. Verse 11 goes on to specify this world even further as his own. He came to his own and his own did not receive him. Shockingly, even though the world was made through the Word, the world collectively has not acknowledged the Word’s entrance into space/time history.

But, this isn’t the whole story. The Word would not be rejected in total. There is a group that the author can refer to as receiving the Word. And to those who did receive him, to those believing in his name, he gave the right to become children of God! Though we start out separated from God, receiving God’s divine self-disclosure (Jesus) results in being adopted into God’s own family as children. This adoption is not the result of bloodlines, it is not the result of the will of the flesh, nor the result of the will of a husband, but rather it is being born of God. And this born of God language will return in chapter 3 in an exciting exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus.

But there it is, the result of receiving Jesus is to be born of God, adopted into his very family, something greater than we can ever achieve or have simply through natural relationships. Being born into a certain family, whether Jewish or Christian or any other will not ensure you are born of God, only receiving Jesus will ensure it, something that transcends natural bonds.

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