People respond to things in different ways. Early last week, the Herald ran a story about a man who understandably shouted with joy when he won a million dollars on a $20 scratch-off ticket. But some react in strange ways, even to what ought to be “good news.”
When the wise men came to Jerusalem to worship the child who had been born king of the Jews, they began inquiring as to where they might find him. In this context, the apostle Matthew tells us, "When Herod the king heard this he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthew 2:3). Herod the Great (among the most cruel of Israel’s long list of cruel despots), along with the corrupt religious and political leadership in Jerusalem, were uneasy at the news of a rival to their positions of power. In their minds, nothing good could come from news of the birth of this child, even if he was the promised savior of the Jews.
In a story of a young rich man who was told by Jesus to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor as a condition of receiving eternal life, he responded in great sadness (Mark 10:21, 22).
The apostle John heard, in his initial revelation about Jesus Christ, these astounding words: "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him" (1:7).
Now, contrast those negative responses to news about Jesus with these: "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about" (Luke 2:15). "The people were amazed at his teaching" (Mark 1:22). "The large crowd listened to him with delight" (Mark 12:37). "Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him" (Luke 8:40). "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).
The Gospel is for all. Everyone is called to respond to Jesus and to the message of his coming. His apostles were instructed to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15–16).
And everyone does respond in one way or another, even if it is only to ignore him. (This may be the most telling rejection of all.) Furthermore, beyond the initial responses of conversion, there are reactions every day to Jesus’ calls to his disciples to serve others — maybe several times a day, depending on circumstances. We respond to Jesus in view of his appeals on our time, our possessions, even our thinking and emotions. We simply can’t avoid making a response to Jesus.
And if the citation of those in Revelation 1 is any indication, our behavior at the second coming of Jesus will depend on our response to his first coming. If we rejoiced to see him in this life, we will rejoice to greet him in the next.