In the previous post I used the example of the divinity of Jesus to raise the question of what the implications would be for someone if the knowledge of Jesus never moves from being general to specific. For one thing, they will probably stop answering the door when a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness comes knocking. Nor will they have much to say to Muslim who begins to castigate them for worshiping someone who slept and went to the bathroom.
The implications far transcend the domain of “apologetics”. The deeper issue related to this or any other truth about Jesus is that when it remains a general affirmation with no depth, a real knowing of Him hasn’t taken place. A doctrinal label may have been accepted, but the riches of the glory of a Person were never found, treasured, and believed. If this condition persists uncorrected, a host of problems ensue that need not be enumerated here.
Yet a good way to gauge our need (and we are all in great need), is to choose some facet of the Person or work of Jesus and simply ask “how long could I talk about this?” If we were asked to describe the significance of Jesus as the great high priest (or fill in the blank with your own example), how long would it be before we ran out of things to say? The answer is a good indication of whether we truly know that facet of Jesus or have simply become well-versed in Christian vernacular about Him. As I outlined earlier in this series, by saying this I am not reducing knowing Jesus to facts (even biblical facts). It is in prayer that truth and experience collide to forge authentic relational knowledge of Christ. Yet this process begins with availing ourselves to revelation and gathering up every crumb of knowledge found in Scripture to form a cohesive understanding of who He is.
The remedy for our lack lies before us all. We need only to close distractions and open the Bible and get very specific about what it tells us about Jesus. Scripture contains many marvelous words about us. We should delight in knowing all of these. However, if this remains our preoccupation when reading the Bible we will not get very far in the journey of knowing Jesus. It is essential that we come first and foremost seeking Him and allow the personal bearing of the truth to become subordinate to this chief aim. In doing so, it will no longer be enough to pass over references to Jesus without the pivotal question emerging from within: “what does this actually mean?” This simple question has the potential to transform your understanding of Jesus. It is the door the leads from the lobby of platitudes into the deep chambers of real knowledge.
What does it mean that Jesus is called the Servant so frequently in the early sermons in Acts? Why do the New Testament authors quote Psalm 118 in reference to Jesus so often? The gospels are filled with references to the Son of God – do the epistles use the phrase in the same way? Psalm 110 is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament more than any other passage from the Old Testament – what is the context and meaning of all those references? What does it mean that Jesus preached “the gospel of the kingdom” over two years before His death and resurrection (Mt 4:23)? Why does Jesus call Himself “the first and the last” when He appears to John in the book of Revelation (Rev 1:17)?
Asking simple questions like these when we come across references to Jesus propel us into so many important practices. We are drawn into a conversation with Jesus about who He is (i.e. prayer). We are forced to look closely at the context in order to understand what is being said. First, we have to see how the specific book of the Bible informs it, then the rest of the New Testament, and finally (but essentially) see what background of meaning the Old Testament offers. Journal it, meditate upon it, and sing it at every step along the way.
The important thing is to just to actually begin the journey of beholding Jesus in Scripture with loving, adoring specificity. There will be bouts of confusion to wade through and seasons of boredom to press through, but unsearchable treasure awaits the persevering soul. “…I count all things loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” (Phil 3:8, emphasis added). Amen.