One of you men goes home to-night. It's your own home, shaped on your own personality through the years. It's a bit late. You've had a long hard day. You're tired. It's stormy. The wind and the rain chill you as you turn the corner. And you pull your coat a bit snugger as you quicken your steps and think of home, warmth and comfort, loved ones, and rest for body and spirit, too.
As you come to the door you reach for your latch-key, and find, in the busy rush, you seem to have forgotten it, somehow. So you ring the bell or knock. And suppose -- be patient with me a bit, please. Suppose your loved ones know you're there. You even see a hand drawing aside the edge of the window shade, and two eyes that you know so well peer out through the crack at you; then the shade goes to again. Yes, they know you're there. But the door, your own door, doesn't open. How would you feel?
And some one says to himself, "That's not a good illustration. That thing couldn't happen. It isn't natural." No: you're right. It isn't natural. It could not happen to you. I am sure it could not happen to me. If it could I'd be heart-broken. But this is what happened to Him! This is what John is saying here. He came to His own front door, and they whose very image revealed their close kinship to Him, received Him not into the home, but kept the door fast in His face.
Then there's a later translation. This old King James version bears the date of 1611, I think. And the English Revision is dated 1881, I believe. And this American Standard Revision I am using has 1901 on its title page. But there's a later revision. It bears a yet later date, 1915, April 27. But it is a shifting date. Each translator fixed his own date.
This latest translation runs something like this: He comes to His own. That's you and myself. We belong to Him. He gave His breath to us in Eden. He gave His breath to you and me at our birth. He gave His blood for us on Calvary. We belong to Him. The image of His kinship is stamped upon us. We may not acknowledge it, but that can't change the fact.
He comes to His own, and His own -- and here, as the scholars would say, there are variant readings. Let me give you one or two I have found. Here is one: He comes to His own, and His own -- puts a chair outside the door on the top-step. It's a large armchair with a cushion in, perhaps. And then His own talks about Him through the crack of the door, or likelier, the window. It's reckoned safer to keep the door fast.
Listen to what he says: "He's a wonderful man this Jesus; great teacher, the greatest; the greatest man of the race; His philosophy, His moral standards are the ideals; wonderful life; great example." They fairly exhaust the language in talking about this Man. But notice. It seems a bit queer. The man they're talking about is outside the door. His own claim is left severely outside.
Some make it read like this: He comes to His own, and they who are His own open the door a crack, maybe a fairly respectably wide crack. We all like the word Saviour. Yes, we cling tenaciously to that. Selfishly, would you say? We want to be saved from a certain place we think of as down, that we've been taught about, and don't want to go to -- if it's there; the way men talk about it to-day.
And we want to be saved into another certain place we think of as up, and where we surely want to go after we get through down on the earth, and must go away somewhere else; with that "after" and "must" carefully underscored. And we want to be saved from all the inconveniences possible along the way, and to secure all the advantages and help available: yes, yes, open the door a crack.
But be careful about the width of the opened crack. Let it be just the proper conventionalized width. Let there be no extremeism about the wideness of that opening. Things must be proper. For what would the other crack-open-door-owners think?
And then, too, yet more serious, this Jesus has a way, a most inconsiderate way of coming in as far as you let Him, and of taking things into His own hands. Certain people use that word "inconsiderate" -- to themselves, in secret. Jesus changes some things when He is allowed all the way in. He might change your personal habits, your home arrangements, some of your social customs and your business plans.
Of course He changes only what needs changing, as He sees it. But -- then -- you -- well, some things can be carried too far -- to suit you. This Jesus has the all habit. He contracted it when He was down on the earth. Our needs grew the habit. He gave all. And He has a way of coming in all the way, and of reaching in His pierced hand and taking all.
He might even put His hand in on that most sacred thing, that holiest of all, that you guard most jealously -- that box. It has heavy hinges, and double padlocks, and the keys are held hard under the thumb of your will. Of course there may really not be much in it; and again there may be very much. But much or little, it is securely kept under that thick broad thumb of yours.
Oh! you give; of course; yes, yes, we're all good proper Christian folk here. We give a tenth, and even much more. We support an aggressive missionary propaganda. That's the thing, you know, in our day, for good church people. We give to all the good things. Ye-es, no doubt. And we are very careful, too, that that inconsiderate Hand shall not disturb the greater bulk that remains between hinge and lock. That's yours. Of course you are His, redeemed, saved by His blood.
Well, well, how these pronouns, "His," "ours," do get mixed up! How lovely some things are to sing about, in church, and special services, at Keswick and Northfield. But through it all we hold hard to that key, we don't let go -- even to Him, though it is He who entrusts all to our temporary keeping. We do guard the width of that opening crack, do we not?
One day I looked through that crack and caught a glimpse of His face looking through full in my own, with those eyes of His. And at first I wanted to take the door clear off of its hinges and stand it outside against the bricks, and leave the whole door-space wide for Him.
But I've learned better. No man wants to leave the doorway of his life unguarded. He must keep the strong hand of his controlling purpose on the knob of the front door of his life. There are others than He, evil ones, cunningly subtle ones, standing just at the corner watching for such an opportunity. And they step quickly slyly in under your untaught unsuspicious eyes, and get things badly tangled in your life. There's a better, a stronger way.
Here's the personal translation that I try now, by His help, to work out into living words, the language of life. He comes to His own, and His own opens the door wide, and holds it wide open, that He may come in all the way, and cleanse, and change, readjust, and then shape over on the shape of His own presence.
But every one must work out his own translation of that; and every one does. And the crowd reads -- not this printed version. It reads this other translation, the one nearest, in such big print, the one our lives work out daily. That's the translation they prefer. And that's the translation they're being influenced by, and influenced by tremendously.