He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
I have to wonder if John didn’t decide on the wording of this line when Jesus told a would be follower, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests but I don’t have any place to lay my head. Are you sure you want to follow me?” (Luke 9:58) He had come to the people that had been His family for thousands of years and they told Him He wasn’t welcome. Sure they loved Him when He was working miracles and castigating the Pharisees, but his “hero of the common man” status had a shelf life. Everyone in His life abandoned Jesus at some point throughout His ministry and eventual death.
So often, in the writings of the prophets, God tells Israel that they were His people, chosen and loved, from Abraham on. He used the imagery in Ezekiel of finding an abandoned newborn and raising her from certain death to beauty and life (Ez 16).
His people. His family. But now, His family had no place for Him.
One of my favorite quotes from Robert Frost digs into this idea:
Home is the place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
The New Testament uses orphan imagery freely to describe our pre-redeemed state, and rightly so. There are many aspects and qualities that the image of an orphan elicits, but one that might be the most tragic is the fact that an orphan has nowhere to go, no one to open their doors and accept them, to bring them in. That kind of rootlessness and instability leads to a hardened exterior and a profoundly hopeless outlook. And we were those people.
John tells us that Jesus was rejected by the people who were supposed to be His family, we on the other hand, had no family to speak of. Spiritual wanderers, eyes darting this way and that looking for affection and acceptance in whoever or whatever would briefly give it. But on the cross Jesus did something that changed everything. Theologians refer to Jesus’ agonizing question, “My God, why have You forsaken Me,” as the cry of dereliction. He cried out to his Father asking why His Dad had turned away from Him. He had come to His own and they had rejected Him, now the One who had sent Him had rejected Him and He was very alone, you could say He was orphaned. But in Jesus rejection we have found something previously unavailable to us: a home.
The spiritual reality of Jesus’ work on the cross is rooted in substitution. He became our sin, substituting Himself for us. He took our punishment, substituting Himself for us. And now, in this cry of dereliction, we see that He took our isolation, our orphan disconnection, and stood in our place. He became homeless that we might know that we have a place to come home to. He became, incredibly, fatherless for a moment, so that we could be confidant that we will always be accepted by our Father.
Ephesians 2 speaks of our connection in this way as Paul says that we are now “members of the same household” (Eph 2). And of all the nuances of a family, of all the images this idea carries with it, perhaps the most beautiful and comforting one is that when you are in a family you always have a place to go; you can always go home. Because home is that place that, when you go there, they have to take you in. No longer orphans, but sons and daughters whose Father will never turn away because our substitute was already rejected and orphaned in our place.
In times of difficulty and trial, or when we’ve been on a long trip and are weary from the journey, in the event of a long hospital stay or just a work day that never seems to end, in all of these things there is a general sentiment that rests on our lips: “I just want to go home.” Maybe that’s exactly what we’re are designed to long for. Maybe God has built us with a desire to look for home because He knew that Jesus would open the doorway, or you could say “tear the veil”, to our place of rest. Our home. The door is never locked. The den is never cold. The kitchen is never without food and laughter. That’s our Father’s house, and that’s our home.
May our hearts be warmed and comforted by this.