Knowing Jesus: The Lake or the Drop?
September 23, 2014
Few people, this side of eternity, can claim to have known Jesus like the Apostle Paul did. Yet, not as a man outside of Christ, but as a man "in Christ," Paul considered everything apart from Christ as "dung" because he knew Jesus. Indeed, as a man sometimes privy to direct revelation from God, Paul's great desire on earth was to know Christ (Phil. 3:10 "that I may know him..."). This desire of Paul's was a direct answer to Christ's prayer for all his people in John 17:3 where he asks the Father that his people may experience eternal life, which is to know God and know God's Son, who was sent into the world to save sinners.
There can be little doubt that almost all Christians are content to have won Christ, and thus receive the gift of eternal life. But how many are equally concerned to know him? How often we cut Jesus in half, wishing to know that we are saved, and all is well with our destiny, but forgetting that to be truly saved means we must truly know him. On Samuel Rutherford's gravestone at the Old Cathedral graveyard in St. Andrews we read of his passion to know Christ:
True godliness adorned his name,
He did converse with things above,
Acquainted with Emmanuel's love...
Mostly constantly he did contend
Until his time was at an end.
Then he won to the full fruition
Of that which he had seen in vision.
Little wonder that such words were written on Rutherford's gravestone. For, in one of his Letters (no. 226), he writes:
Put the beauty of ten thousand thousand worlds of paradises, like the garden of Eden, in one. Put all trees, flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness, in one. Oh, what a fair and excellent thing would that be! And yet it would be less to that fair and dearest Well-beloved, Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths.
Put the joy of cell phones, email, television, internet, and sports in one. Oh what excellent joys they are. And yet, the joy of knowing Christ, learning of his person, not just his work: is Christ the drop of rain or is he the "whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths"?
All of us share guilt in our sinful refusal to know Christ better. But guilt simply cannot rectify this seemingly universal problem in the church. There must be other solutions, even apart from the significant fact that we are forgiven for our lack of love and knowledge of God and his Son.
One solution not immediately obvious to most Christians, but certainly compelling when one thinks about it, is to turn our thinking for a moment on Christ. Of all the human desires that Christ retained as he entered his glorified state in Heaven, surely few exceed his desire to know his people.
Christ, the Lord of Glory, supremely satisfied in the love of the Father, Holy Spirit, and elect angels, remains unsatisfied if he cannot know, love, and ultimately be with his people. How can a good husband enjoy life apart from being together with his wife?
As Jesus continues his high priestly prayer in John 17, he makes a most remarkable statement in verse 24: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."
In his heavenly glory, Christ meditates upon his people. He desires not only to know us, but also to be with us. When Christ calls one of loved ones home to be with him we must always remember that he has gained more than what we have lost.
Christ desires to be with us because he knows us. His knowledge of us demands that his desire to be with us will always mean that on earth we may be called home to be with him, not principally because of disease or some fatal accident, but rather because his prayer has been answered. There is for Christ something lovely, enticing, and satisfying in loving poor, sinful creatures like us, who have nothing to commend in themselves to Jesus, except that we belong to him.
Now if this much is true of Christ, are we somehow exempt from desiring to know Christ in the confident hope that we will one day be with him? Consider the words of the Psalmist, knowing that because the king desires us in our beauty (v. 11), we cannot help but desire to know the one who is the "most handsome of the sons of men," who has grace poured upon his lips, and is anointed with "the oil of gladness beyond [his] companions" (Ps. 45:2, 7).
Jesus, who meditates upon his people, has taken the initiative by praying to his Father that we might know him. If we belong to him we must out of necessity be those who will know him: "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me" (Jn. 10:14).
* This is a short snippet from a forthcoming book, "Knowing Jesus".
Pastor Mark Jones doesn't always need to use a tagline.