I once taught this idea to a group of kids. I asked, “What does it mean to receive Jesus?” One little kid said, “That is when you take the bread at the Mass.” That was not what I had in mind. I learned to ask better questions after that.
What does John say it means to receive Jesus? He defines it here in verse 12.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name – he gave the right to become children of God.”
To receive Jesus is to believe in Jesus.
I want to point out something very important in the passage. It is not to believe things about Jesus. That is to believe in “information” or perhaps “dogma.” We are not saved by information or dogma. We are saved by a person.
Look at these phrases
- V. 10 “the world did not recognize him”
- V. 11 “his own did not receive him”
- V. 12 “to all who receive him”
- V. 12 “to all who believe in his name
- V. 12 “he gave the right to become children of God.”
The words change: recognize, receive, believe, become. One word does not: “him/he/his”. In each of these phrases it is about the person of Jesus. It becomes clear if I replace the pronoun with the actual name.
- V. 10 “the world did not recognize Jesus’
- V. 11 “Jesus’ own did not receive him’
- V. 12 “to all who receive Jesus”
- V. 12 “ to all who believe in Jesus’ name”
- V. 12 “Jesus gave the right to become children of God.”
Religion, if you want work with that term, or Spirituality if you prefer that, is personal. John tells us that Jesus (not the idea or the teaching about Jesus or the other spiritualities that are like Jesus) is the true light. Faith is trust in the person of Jesus.