The King Who Was Not Received by His Own People
Francis Bourdillon, 1881
"He came to His own — and His own people did not receive Him." John 1:11
When some great man, the owner of property in various parts of the country, pays a visit to a distant estate — he is usually received with great honor. The tenantry turn out to meet him; every cottager puts on his best; all try to show respect to their landlord. This is because he comes to his own.
If a king visits a distant part of his dominions, still more earnestly do his subjects seek to do him honor. Great preparations are made to receive him, and the day of his arrival is a day of general rejoicing. This again is because he comes to his own.
But there was once a King who came to His own, and was not received in this way. Yet He was the greatest and best of kings — and came in a most remarkable manner. He left the glorious part of His kingdom, where He lived and reigned — and came to a poor and base part, the people of which had rebelled against Him. But He did not come to punish them; He came with purposes of mercy. His object was to do them good, to save them from punishment, and to make them happy.
He did not come in royalty — but in a poor and humble way. In fact, He came as one of them. He lived among them, and went about doing good among them. If any of them had any complaint to make, He would hear it. If any came to Him for relief, He never turned them away. He was always kind and gracious and did nothing but good wherever He went.
Yet, strange to say, most of the people would not receive Him. Very few would even acknowledge that He was their King. The greater part rejected Him, hated, opposed, and insulted Him — and at length they cruelly murdered Him.
I need hardly explain whom I mean. There has been but one such case ever since the world began. Jesus Christ was the King; the world was the kingdom He came to visit; and unbelieving men were those who would not receive Him. As in the cases before mentioned, so here — the great point is that He came to His own. "All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made." "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him — yet the world did not know Him."
The world to which He came, was His by a right such as no earthly king ever had — the right of creation. "All things were made through Him" — the world and all things in it. Ages before the men then living were born, the world was made by Him out of nothing — and yet, when He thus came to "His own," "His own people did not receive Him."
That mankind would not receive Him is the more remarkable — because the lower part of creation did receive and obey Him. The stormy winds ceased at His command; the waters were calmed by His word; He had but to speak — and diseases fled; and He cast out evil spirits with a word. Nature and demons bowed to Him — but man refused Him. Man, the highest work of creation; man, who could think and believe and know; man alone would not receive the Son of God.
Yet man, like the rest, was His own, and by the same right — the right of creation. When all else was made, then "God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" — and man was made accordingly. "The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."
Every part and every faculty of man is from God — powers of body and powers of mind, thought and sense and feeling. God made man — and God sustains man; "in Him we live, and move, and have our being". Yet when the Son of God came, and came to save — man did not receive Him.
When we take this general view of the text, we are struck with man's evil conduct. It was so strange, so ungrateful, so unlike what generally takes place even between man and man. It is only from the Bible, that we learn the explanation. The truth is that man is sinfully fallen. His heart is naturally estranged from God; and that very sin which made it needful that a Savior should come — kept man from receiving Him when He came. So it has been ever since — and so it is now. Most men spurn Christ; few receive Him. The words are still sadly true, "He came to His own — and His own people did not receive Him."
How is it with us? We are His, by right of creation at least, for He made us. And He has come to us. For we are among those rebellious subjects whom He came to save; and He has caused us to hear of His coming and dying for sinners; and still He comes to us continually, offering us pardon and life, and seeking admittance into our hearts. Have we received Him?
Let none think this question is out of place among those who profess to be Christians. Alas, among those who profess His name, there are numbers who have not given Him their hearts. But nothing short of this is really receiving Him; it must be heart-receiving — or it is no receiving. He came to save, and He must be received as a Savior, or He is not received at all.
They therefore who do not believe in Jesus with the heart — do in fact reject Him. He comes to them — but they receive Him not. In what state then are they left? They are still His by right of creation — subject to His authority and power; but they refuse to submit to Him or receive Him. They are left therefore in a state no better than that in which they were, when He came in mercy to visit them — they are still rebellious subjects. Their state is no better, but rather far worse. For they have despised the Son of God, slighted His offers, and refused His mercy. When He comes again — He will deal with them in justice.
But some do receive Him. Even of those to whom He came first, some received Him, though but few. And so it is still. Though most reject Him — yet some receive Him. What of them? They were His before — by right of creation. But now they are His by a new and dearer right — His by redemption, His by adoption and grace. "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name — He gave the right to become children of God." They are now at peace with God, and admitted into His family! God is their reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. He loves them and treats them as His children, and they regard Him as their Father. Blessings unnumbered are theirs — eternal life, pardon, peace, and salvation; a God ever near, a Savior trusted and loved, the promised grace of the Spirit. And, besides all this, they know that there is a blessed home is prepared for them — where they will be forever with the Lord!
This is what is given now to all believers. This is what thousands of happy Christians are now living in the daily enjoyment of. This is what is still offered to all — even to those who have long rejected Christ, if they will now at length submit themselves to Him, and receive Him as their Savior and their King.