Jesus: The greatest ever guest
By Ed Mezzetti, 13 Dec 2018
Christmas and parties go together pretty well, don’t they? There is every chance you will have been to at least one by the time you read this. Maybe your workplace organised one or perhaps you had your neighbours round for Christmas drinks? There’s something great about getting together and celebrating at this time of year, isn’t there?
If you were hosting a Christmas party and could invite anyone, who would be your ideal guest? Mine would probably be a sportsperson like the tennis player Roger Federer, so I could find out about what makes him tick and how he became such a great champion. I would ask him about his favourite moments and see if he fancied a game at my local court! Roger Federer would definitely be a unique and amazing guest.
In the first chapter of John’s gospel, we’re introduced to Jesus by the man who knew him best. This man, John, writes an incredible chapter that takes us right to the heart of what Christmas is all about. And when we zoom in on verses 9 to 11, John shows us that Jesus is the greatest ever guest, but that we give him the worst ever reception.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
The greatest ever guest
Jesus is the greatest ever guest because he is the true light coming into the world. We see that in verse 9. He is not described as a light or one of many lights. John says Jesus is THE true light. Jesus coming into the world is truly a unique arrival - a complete one-off.
John is building on what he has already written in chapter 1. In verses 1 to 4 he says that Jesus is the Word and he is God. Basically, John is saying that Jesus is the reason for everything. He created the world and it is in him that life finds its purpose. In him was life and the life was the light of men, as John puts it in verse 4.
If we want to know what this world is all about, we need to turn to its creator – and the remarkable thing is that he came to his world in person. The bible tells us that we don’t need to speculate about who God is and what he’s like. He has come to show us in Jesus – his Son.
We see too that Jesus gives light to everyone. He is the source of all we know and have. All the light we have ever experienced comes from him. He gives us our minds to understand the world around us, reason to make wise decisions, morality so we know what is right and wrong, happiness and so many other good things. John says that the fact we have any light at all, that we are not simply animals, but can think and create, is all down to Jesus. He is the creator, the light who shines in the darkness.
Amazingly, this true light comes in person to his world to offer us real life, life to the full as Jesus himself says later in John’s gospel. We see more of this offer of real life when we read verses 12 and 13. Jesus, the true light, the originator of everything good, and of our entire being, has come into the world. He truly is the greatest ever guest.
Jesus is the creator. He was always present in his world in the sense that the beauty and complexity of creation reveals its creator – that is what John means in the first part of verse 10 when he says: “He was in the world”. But Jesus had not come into the word in physical form, as a real person, until that first Christmas 2,000 years ago.
Having Roger Federer at my Christmas party would be pretty cool, but with Jesus it’s like I’ve got Roger Federer and Walter Wingfield! You may not have heard of him, but Wingfield is widely regarded as the inventor of lawn tennis – the sport that Federer has so excelled at.
In Jesus, we have the inventor of the world, all that is good, come down to be part of that world and he is also the most amazing person to have ever lived.
The worst ever reception
I would be mad to have Roger Federer at my Christmas party, but ignore him and just leave him eating crisps in the corner. He would be pretty miffed I’m sure and soon start texting his mate Rafa Nadal!
How much more, therefore, does Jesus‘ status as the true light, the creator of the world, the reason for everything, demand our attention? Surely we wouldn’t ignore him? Well, look at how John describes it in verses 9 to 11.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
The reality is that although Jesus is the greatest ever guest, we have given him the worst ever reception. John describes that in two ways in verses 10 and 11.
Firstly, we naturally ignore Jesus. The world was made through Jesus, yet the world did not know him. Despite the light Jesus brings us as our creator, we simply ignore him. Thereis so much in creation that points us to our creator, but we pay no attention. In Romans 1, the writer Paul says that the truth about God is clear from the world he had made, but we don’t want to know it. We don’t even recognise Jesus. We suppress that truth and that’s what the bible calls sin.
We see in verse 11 that Jesus came as a man to his own – that’s the people he created, but they did not receive him. As well as ignoring Jesus, we naturally reject him. Specifically, his own people who did not receive him refers to the Jews who rejected Jesus as he preached the good news to them, but the Bible tells us that in fact this is something we are all guilty of, regardless of our time or place in history.
John describes Jesus as a light shining in the darkness in verse 5. We don’t have to look too far to see that our world is a dark place. For many people, Christmas is a tough time due to strained family relations, while crime, conflict and war are never far away from the news at any time of the year. Jesus came to the people he created, but we naturally ignore and reject him.
It’s pretty shocking, isn’t it? The fact that we refuse to welcome our maker, even when he came into the world he created, shows just how serious the situation is. Christmas diagnoses the problem with the world: we have rejected our maker. In fact, when we met our maker, we killed him – and we see that later in the gospel accounts.
Hang on, though, isn’t Christmas worth celebrating? Rest assured, it definitely is because the great news is that the Christmas story doesn’t end with verse 11. There is a ‘but’ in verse 12 that changes everything.
How will we respond?
I’m really looking forward to celebrating Christmas with friends, family and a party or two, but it would make no sense to ignore the guests who come. Whether they are Roger Federer or Roger from next door, I will seek to give them a great reception. The challenge John gives us in chapter 1 is how will we respond to the greatest ever guest – Jesus – the creator of the world who came to earth with such a unique arrival.
We’re looking at the start of John’s gospel here, but we don’t actually get to see his aim in writing until chapter 20. In verses 30 and 31, John writes: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John’s aim is that we would believe in Jesus and have life in his name. What do you make of that?
In chapter 1, John has told us that Jesus is our creator and came into the world he made. How would you react if you met your maker? People often reply that they would like to ask God some big questions and hear what he has to say. But when God actually came to meet us, John tell us we rejected him.
But also, if John is right, Christmas means that we can meet him - in our case through the words of the bible rather than in person. Jesus comes to us by the Holy Spirit, working through the words of the bible.
Christmas means that we can meet him now as our Saviour and Lord and also that we will meet in person one day as judge. So, the challenge John leaves us with is how will we respond to Jesus - God coming to us with such a unique arrival?
Will we continue being like the people John describes in verses 10 and 11, who didn’t know Jesus and didn’t receive him, or will we accept the life he offers?