Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE SADDEST VERSE IN THE BIBLE?”

John 1.6-13

 

Turn in your Bible to John chapter one. Once there, I invite you to stand with me for the reading of God’s Word, beginning at verse 6:

 

6      There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7      The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

8      He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

9      That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10    He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11    He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

 

What a sad verse this eleventh verse is.

Is it the saddest verse in the Bible? How does it compare with other sad verses? Genesis chapter three is perhaps the saddest chapter in all the Bible, but sadness has not been my reaction from reading Genesis 3.6, where we are told about Eve,

 

“she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”

 

Neither does any particular verse in Genesis chapters six and seven that is related to God’s judgment in the form of the worldwide Flood elicit sadness. Sadness with Abraham siring Ishmael by Hagar, perhaps? Jacob’s deception of his blind father Isaac, perhaps? As well, there is some measure of sadness associated with Joseph’s brothers betraying him and selling him into slavery and deceiving their father, but no particular verse comes to my mind.

My own thoughts turn to David’s sin of adultery and his subsequent conspiracy to murder to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. Imagine the betrayal of one of his mighty men, Uriah, numbered among the king’s bravest and most selfless soldiers. However, again, no particular verse comes to my mind. When the prophet Nathan exposed David and said, “Thou art the man!” in Second Samuel 12.7, there was little sadness for me, owing to David’s hypocrisy. For me, sadness is experienced when I am made aware that the party experiencing heartache is innocent and undeserving of the tragic experience that is described. Isaiah 53.3 is a very sad verse:

 

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

 

Of course, this speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53.7 is another very sad verse:

 

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

 

Even though those two are sad verses about the anticipated rejection of Israel’s Messiah, and are both found in the same passage, John 1.11 still strikes me as the saddest verse in the Bible because, though there is less detail provided than is contained in Isaiah 53.3 and 7, there is finality in its tone that is very somber:

 

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

 

It weighs the heart down as something that has improperly and undeservedly taken place, rather than predicting events that will happen.

In the Gospel according to John, there are seven who bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, each of the three Persons of the Trinity does this - the Father, Christ Himself, and the Spirit. Fourth, the works of Christ bear witness, as does the Word of God. A variety of human witnesses, the apostles, the Samaritan woman, Lazarus, and the multitude, serve as a sixth witness. Then, of course, there is John the Baptist, introduced to us in verse 6.[1]

 

Verse 6 reads:

 

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”

 

Interesting to note is that the man mentioned in this verse is nowhere in this gospel labeled as the Baptist. This is no doubt because no one else having to do with the Savior in this gospel is identified as having the name John, this because the inspired author of this gospel account never directly identifies himself though we understand that he is the apostle named John. It is also interesting to note that being sent from God, John the Baptist’s ministry and mission was, therefore, of divine origin.

 

Verse 7:

 

“The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

 

If verse 6 refers to John the Baptist’s divine commission, verse 7 indicates his actual work. The whole purpose of John the Baptist’s very brief ministry was to bear witness, to make proclamation. Specifically, his divinely appointed mission was to bear witness of the Light. Hearkening back to verse 4, where we are told that in the Word was life and “the life was the light of men,” we are here informed that the goal of John the Baptist’s witness is “that all men through him might believe.” That all men did not through him believe is beside the point. His directive was to bear witness of the Light. His assignment was dutifully and faithfully discharged.

 

Verse 8:

 

“He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”

 

In case there were disciples of John the Baptist who missed the obvious nature of his ministry or paid no attention to his declaration that the Lord Jesus Christ was

 

“the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,”

 

John 1.29, this verse would serve to settle the matter once and for all.

Imagine yourself driving down the road of Biblical prophecy in a convertible on a summer day. You’re not driving fast at all, and there are very few distractions along the way. Additionally, you have a great road map providing guidance, and it’s a map that you are very familiar with. You know precisely how long it has been since the prophet Daniel predicted the coming of your Messiah, and you know exactly where the prophet Micah predicted He would be born.[2] The road map shows you where to turn off on your journey, just ahead on the left, about thirteen miles south of Jerusalem in the dusty little village of Bethlehem, at this point in history. However, despite the fact that there are no real distractions, and you are not going very fast, you drive right past the turnoff without paying any attention whatsoever. Even the fanfare that featured an angelic choir announcing His birth the evening after it took place was ignored by everyone but the shepherds who saw and heard it.[3] Interestingly, wise men from the East traveled a great distance to look for the Messiah in Bethlehem, but no one with the road map seemed to show any interest even though it was clearly marked.[4] Even when the Babe was circumcised in Jerusalem and presented for naming there were only two of all those who should have known who paid any attention at all, an old geezer named Simeon and an aged woman named Anna.[5] No matter how fervently they tried, even pointing to the proper place on the map, no one would listen to what they said. You and the others continued on your way down the road of life in your convertible, blessed with the map that you refused to look at.

Thirty years later the Babe now grown is baptized before many witnesses, who had gone to the Jordan River to hear the prophet named John baptizing converts and heard him identify the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.[6] His earthly ministry of working stupendous miracles of every conceivable kind and teaching as no man has ever previously taught seems to shout out loud that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel. He gives sight to the blind.[7] He cleanses lepers.[8] He miraculously feeds thousands.[9] He raises the dead.[10] He confutes the scribes, the lawyers, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. Yet that ever reliable road map of God’s Word is ignored yet again when He is crucified, and so you drive off into the sunset having missed the last turn to reach your destination.

Despite the witness of the Father (Who said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Matthew 13.17), Christ’s witness of Himself, the witness of the Spirit (Who lighted upon Him at His baptism), the witness of Christ’s many miraculous works, the witness of many human witnesses, the witness of God’s holy Word in predictive prophecy (that I have likened to a road map), and the witness of John the Baptist mentioned in the passage we have just read,

 

THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WAS REJECTED

 

Notice with me again John 1.9-11:

 

9      That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10    He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11    He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

 

Consider verse 9 with me:

 

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

 

We are told by the Apostle Paul in Second Corinthians 11.4 that,

 

“Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

 

However, notice that John informs us that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the true Light,” not only here in John 1.9 but also in First John 2.8, where He is described as the true light that now shines. The word true in those two verses has to do with that which is genuine.[11] The Lord Jesus Christ is the genuine light. No wonder He claimed, “I am the light of the world,” in John 8.12 and 9.5. And as the light of the world, He lights every man that comes into the world. What does that tell you? It is a declaration that He shines bright spiritual truth on everyone. His dazzling glare hits everyone. And especially when contrasted with the pitch darkness of sin and spiritual deadness, how brightly must He therefore shine? What must it then mean about you that you do not see His glow, that you are not aware of His bright aura? What must someone be in the pitch darkness that is struck head-on by bright search lights, yet he is unaware of them? He must be blind. You must be blind.

Now look to verse 10 with me:

 

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

 

The first phrase speaks of something which was once true, and which will someday again be true, but which is not presently true. In the beginning the Lord Jesus Christ was outside the world, being as He was outside the physical universe altogether. But being born of a virgin, He came into not only the universe He had created, but He stepped into this world He had created. He, of course, is not here now. He returned to glory following His resurrection from the dead. But He is coming back again someday. The point that is being made here, however, is that One who was outside stepped into His creation and onto this tiny world He created. And John, who really likes to repeat statements so their importance will not be missed, tells us once more that “the world was made by him.” How often do we read this phrase and lightly pass over it without much effect, yet we are overwhelmed by the ingenuity and cleverness of artists, craftsmen, or design engineers who fashion things far less beautiful, complex, and large as this entire world and all the life that is on it? In an almost matter of fact way, John reminds us of something of profound importance.

 

“The world was made by him.”

 

“And the world knew him not.”

 

This, I think, concludes the second saddest verse in the Bible. He created the universe and all that herein is, the totality of all life on this planet, and then made man in His image and after His likeness, yet this complex array of life had no conscious awareness of Him when He walked about. That, my friend, is sad.

Saddest of all, however, is verse 11:

 

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

 

Bad enough that He became a man and men not only did not acknowledge Him but were completely unaware of Him. Reflect on the One who is the way, the truth, and the life standing before a Roman governor named Pilate, who asks Him, “What is truth?” Has any human being ever asked a more preposterous and profoundly ignorant question? Worse than that, however, far worse than that, was the fact that He came unto His own and His own received Him not. He was born of a virgin, as predicted in their scriptures. Born to a woman who was of the right nation of all nations, of the right tribe of all tribes, of the right house of all houses, in the right village of all villages, and at the right time in history, as predicted by their scriptures. Yet He was ignored. When He presented Himself at His baptism at the hand of the last and greatest of the Jewish prophets, He was declared by that same prophet in front of witnesses to be the Messiah and was immediately recognized as such by several men. He then set upon a course over the next several years to show His people Who He was, in a variety of ways that could not be duplicated by anyone else. Yet He was not received by them. Oh, so very sad. He was God’s answer to all their centuries-long prayers, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and longings. Yet when He came and declared to them in unmistakable terms, “Here I am,” they refused Him. He went so far as to die for them, to suffer the punishment of their sins for them. Yet they refused Him still.

 

HOWEVER, NOT EVERYONE RECEIVED HIM NOT

 

Following the saddest verse in the Bible, we are given cause for rejoicing in verses 12 and 13:

 

12    But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13    Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

 

I love that word but. Though the great majority of our Lord’s kinsmen after the flesh, the Jewish people, persisted in their rejection of Him and perished in their unbelief, yet there were many of them that came to saving faith, and many more Gentiles were also then born into the family of God. Observe here,

First, the true Christian’s description. The Christian is that person who receives Christ and believes on His name. The two descriptions of responsiveness to the gospel message are actually one and the same thing observed from two different directions: To be a Christian is, first, to be someone who believes on Christ’s name. Matthew Henry explains believing on Christ’s name as one’s assent to the gospel discovery, and consent to the gospel proposal, concerning Him.[12] His name has far more meaning in the culture of that day than in our own since it refers to one’s entire personality rather than being little more than an identifying tag. Therefore, to believe on Christ’s name is to acknowledge that He is who He is described in God’s Word to be and to yield to those descriptions so that He may become to the believer what His descriptions claim that He is. Our Lord, our God, our Savior, our Prophet, our Great High Priest, our Comforter, our Master, and the Author and Finisher of our faith. Second, believing in Christ’s name is receiving Him as God’s precious and gracious gift to an undeserving sinner. It is receiving His teachings as true and good before we even know what they all are. It is receiving the Law of Christ as just and holy to govern our lives even before we fully understand it. It is receiving His offers to us (whatever they may turn out to be) as kind and advantageous. And it is responding to His grace and love as the governing principles of our existence. These are in part the descriptions of a Christian.

Next, observe the true Christian’s dignity and privilege. Ours is the privilege as Christians to be regenerated. Though John 1.13 translates the phrase “power to become the sons of God,” the Greek word here translated power refers to right or authority and the word translated sons is just about always translated elsewhere children.[13] I mention this because the New Testament typically portrays sons as being adopted and children as being the product of birth, or, in this case, the new birth, being regenerated. Of course, all of God’s children are born again (or regenerated) and all of His sons are also adopted, with every Christian having both blessings occurring. However, it is always good to preserve clarity when God’s Word provides it, such as here. Wherever God confers the dignity of being His children, He also creates the nature and disposition of His children. Men cannot do so when we adopt. So what we have here in the prolog of John’s gospel is an account of the origin of the new birth, which our Lord speaks of in John chapter three when conversing with Nicodemus. Consider, if you will, this thing whereby we become God’s children, elsewhere spoken of as the new birth: We first reflect on the new birth negatively. The new birth and becoming a child of God does not come about by natural means from our parents. It is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh. Man is identified in God’s Word as flesh and blood because that is what each of us originally is. Recognize that we do not become the children of God as we become the children of our natural parents. God’s grace does not run in the blood, as corruption does. This is important because the Jews gloried in their parentage and the noble blood that ran in their veins. They were so proud to be Abraham’s seed. Neither is the new birth any result of the natural power of our own will, be it the will of the flesh or the will of man. Thus, John seems to show us in verse 13 that no man’s Christianity is the consequence of that man’s will or any other man’s will. And to make salvation a matter of your will or any other man’s will, you have to set aside John 1.13. That is the new birth considered negatively, what it is not the result of. Now we consider the new birth positively, what it is the result of. John writes,

 

“but of God.”

 

Men have argued for centuries what the implications are of this short phrase. Whatever this phrase does mean, it cannot refer to bloods, or to the will of the flesh, or to the will of man, because John sets it in contrast to those very things. I suggest to you that it is the grace of God that makes sinners willing to be His. Furthermore, this new birth is owing to the Word of God as the means employed by God, First Peter 1.23,

 

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever,”

 

and to the Spirit of God as the great and sole Author of the new birth. True believers are born of God, First John 3.9:

 

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

 

This is verified by First John 5.1:

 

“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.”

 

Can we avoid the temptation to bogging down in theological wrangling this morning? Can we pass by without comment the questions that arise among Christians about the new birth, this matter of regeneration and being born again? Let us for now, and in the presence of so many unsaved people, reflect on the saddest verse in the Bible. There are so many people who are utterly blind to the brightest light in the midnight sky, the glory of One whose brightness surpasses the noon-day sun. They do not see Him. They are those who stand outside at midday in the summer, on a cloudless day, and tilt their faces upwards, yet have no awareness of the sun shining with all its brilliance.

Don’t you see that there is only one remedy for you who are so afflicted with such blindness and spiritual deadness? You will never become a Christian because your parents are Christians. You will never become a Christian because of any inherent desire in your flesh to be a Christian. Neither will an act of will by you or any other man result in you becoming a Christian. The Apostle John plainly declares such to us in John 1.13. Only sinners who receive Him, who believe on His name, become Christians, God’s children. You do not become a Christian by praying. You do not become a Christian by asking. You do not become a Christian by works of righteousness. Said one way, you become a Christian by receiving Christ. Said another way, you become a Christian by believing on His name.

That is an important thrust in this prolog written by John that will be developed throughout the rest of the gospel. Somehow and in some way, the rest of this gospel account bears directly upon this truth.

You must receive Him.

You must believe on His name.

You must be born again.

 

__________

[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According To John - Revised Edition, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), page 80.

[2] Daniel 9.24-26; Micah 5.2

[3] Luke 2.8-20

[4] Matthew 2.1-12

[5] Luke 2.21-39

[6] John 1.29

[7] John 9.1-34; Mark 10.46-52

[8] Luke 17.11-19

[9] Matthew 14.14-21; 15.29-39

[10] Luke 8.40-56; John 11.1-44

[11] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), pages 218 and 787.

[12] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[13] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 352-353, 994-995.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org