The Reaction of the World to the Word: John 1:10-13 -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 160:640 (Oct 2003)
Article: The Reaction of the World to the Word: John 1:10-13
Author: David J. MacLeod


The Reaction of the World to the Word: John 1:10-13a

David J. MacLeod

Years ago John Baillie, then principal of New College in the University of Edinburgh, gave an address to students and faculty in the chapel of an American university. Afterwards a middle-aged man, who was one of the university’s legal representatives, approached him. He wanted to talk to Baillie, so they took a walk. He had a complaint about Christianity. “You speak,” he said, “of trusting God, of praying to Him and doing His will. But it’s all so one-sided. We speak to God, we bow down before Him and lift up our hearts to Him. But He never speaks to us. He makes no sign. It’s all so one-sided.”1

Many people, like this man, would like to have a sure word from God, but have not heard it. The apostle John assured his readers, however, that God has spoken. The problem is not the silence of God; it is the refusal of people to hear what He has said.2 People regularly complain of God’s indifference to human suffering and pain. They say that if God would appear, take some responsibility, and offer some help, then they would see Him, recognize Him, and follow Him.

In fact, however, as the Gospel of John makes clear, God does care. Because He cares so much, He came to this world; but the reception He received was not what people often assume it would be. He was met by indifference and hostility. Nor would it be any different if He were to come to earth again, as Studdert-Kennedy surmises in his poem “Indifference.”

When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.3

Yet the picture is not all negative. Some did respond positively to Him, and many have done so since then. The lesson of this paragraph in John’s Gospel may be summarized in this way: When Jesus Christ, the λόγος, came into this world, He was treated with indifference and hostility; yet those who received Him in faith were made members of the family ...

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