Do you know Jesus?
Some people say they know Jesus because they think to know Jesus. They say, “He’s the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.” But actually knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Him. I know what an elephant is, but I don’t know any elephants. I may know who the president is, but I don’t know Him. Just having a category for someone intellectually is not knowing Jesus. Even if we are correct in our assumptions about presidents and elephants, still we lack the firsthand acquaintance.
Other people feel like they know Jesus. What they really know is how He makes them feel. But having an emotional attachment to a person is not knowing the person. We can see a picture of a beautiful girl, and we may feel attracted to her, but we do not know the girl. We can read about Jesus and have all kinds of admiration for Him. We can even sing in church and shout His praises, but that isn’t the same as knowing Him. We only know His image. If we watch an actor portraying a famous person, we don’t see the person, we only see the actor’s interpretation. If we hear a sermon about Jesus and like the portrayal the preacher makes of Jesus, it’s not the same as knowing Him. We only know what preachers say about Him.
Other people act like they know Jesus. They may obey Him. They try in every way to do what He wants them to do. But that’s not the same as knowing Jesus either. If I follow the Law of Moses, that doesn’t mean I know Moses. If I believe in the Bill of Rights, I don’t know the people who wrote the Bill of Rights. Just because we build great charities and churches doesn’t mean we’ve actually met Jesus.
John actually knew Jesus—both physically and spiritually. He lived with Him for three years. He was present at His Resurrection. He was there at Pentecost. For the rest of his life, he claimed to keep an intimate relationship with Him. He was an expert in knowing Jesus.
Could it be that the real reason we don’t behave like him is that we don’t really know Him? This summer we talked about the discrepancies between the lives we should be living as followers of Jesus and the lives we actually live. Maybe the reason we haven’t been changed into His image is because we do not know Him. We can’t imitate Jesus if our relationship with Him is only in our minds and not in reality. If all I ever knew of music was musical notation, then I would know nothing about music. If all I knew of marriage was what I read in books, then I would not know marriage. If all I knew of Jesus was what the church told me, then I would not know Jesus.
I grew up in the church, listening to stories about Jesus. But I didn’t know Jesus. I thought I did, but I only knew about him. Knowing Jesus implies a deeper relationship than mere head knowledge, or emotional reaction. It involved a life encounter.
John writes of this life encounter in the first part of his letter. I John 1: 1-4
First, let’s look at John’s introduction.
“That which was from the beginning.” These words are meant to remind us of two other passages.
The first is the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning, God--.” God was here before anything else. The second is the first verse of John’s gospel. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the word was God.” Jesus was God’s eternal expression from the beginning--God’s Word.
John tells us this because he wants us to know that Jesus was here before us. We did not make Him up, so we can’t define who He is according to who we want Him to be. If we describe a fictional character, we make them the way we want them to be. If we describe someone real, who existed before we met them we don’t dictate who they are. Jesus is who God made Him.
For two thousand years, people have been making up their own versions of Jesus. He’s been made over to be a warrior, a ruler, an ideal lover, a businessman, a Democrat, or a Republican. But Jesus isn’t any of these things. He’s been the same since the beginning. He is Jesus. If we think we know Him, then we may only know the version of Him we want to know. We must accept that we cannot create Him in our own image. He created us in His own image.
Don’t come looking for Jesus with a preset agenda. Don’t even come to Him looking to find peace, happiness, or success. You may well be disappointed. Come to Him is to find reality. If that brings peace—fine. If who He is makes us uncomfortable—fine, too. Come looking for Him. He exists and that’s all we need to know.
“Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. “ John describes the process through which He came to know Jesus.
First, he heard about Him. In John’s case he heard about Jesus through John the Baptist. John was following the Baptist, when Jesus came to visit. Then he saw him with his own eyes. Then he walked with Him, studied Him, and analyzed Him. Finally, he actually touched Him. He got involved in Jesus’ life and ministry. Then, he came to love and respect Him.
There’s a parallel to this process in Genesis 3, when Eve ate the forbidden fruit. She heard the testimony of the power of the fruit from the serpent who was Satan. She saw it, she kept looking at it, and she touched it. Then she experienced it by tasting it. The process of temptation and the process of knowing Jesus are actually very similar. It is the way we learn to commit.
The same process goes on when we meet our life mate. We hear about them, then we see them, then we get to know them, touch them, kiss them, and fall in love. The word “knowledge” in Hebrew is used for a sexual or a romantic relationship. To John, knowing Jesus was falling in love with Him. Jesus is calling us to know him intimately, not in the false knowledge of sexuality, but in the full knowledge of spiritual bonding. Knowing Jesus is intimacy with Him.
John then goes on to describe what that relationship is like.
“The life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” John uses a new word to describe what knowing Jesus is. He calls it a life. Knowing Jesus is not just a relationship. It is actually a higher order of what it means to be alive.
How would you describe a higher order of life to a lower one? Would we describe what life means in a way a rock would understand? Could we describe intelligence to a dog? Can we explain to someone who has never been in love what it means to be in love? Neither (John believes) can we describe a life in Jesus to someone who does not know Him. They would have to experience it. It is an intimacy with the Spirit which people cannot know without having met Jesus.
Other religions have reasoned that there is a higher order of life, but to them it is an impossible goal. But when we know Jesus, then we know that experience of a higher order of life becomes ours. To experience Him, is to experience perfection.
This higher order of life, though is not lived in isolation. It requires us being part of a group which knows Him together.
“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
This higher order of life is like falling in love. When we meet someone with whom we become romantically involved, our whole world changes. In order for love to be real, it must be shared.
Let’s suppose you are an enthusiastic sports fan. Can you be a sports fan and not want to go to a game? Who can love a sports team and not want to be on the stands cheering them on.
Let’s suppose you have an interest in stamp collecting. Wouldn’t you want to be with other people who collect stamps?
Let’s suppose you are in love with a girl. Don’t you think you would want to meet her family as well as herself? Of course you would. It is part of the nature of love to share. Our knowledge grows in a community of people who share our interests.
Knowing Jesus means sharing that knowledge with others. I can usually tell a person’s love of Jesus by the enthusiasm with which they discuss the subject. If a person tries to change the subject every time Jesus enters into a conversation, or if all they can do in a conversation is talk about all the hypocrites in the church, and if they hold themselves aloof from other believers in the sure knowledge that everyone else who knows Jesus must be a fool, and they are the only ones who really understands Him, then I look at them like I would anybody who says they know another person, yet believes no one else does or could know them. I look at them as not really knowing Him at all. If all we want is to have our views confirmed, then we don’t know Him. We may know some piece of Jesus’ shadow, but we have no desire to truly know him accurately. If we don’t talk about Him with others, we probably don’t really know Him, or want to. We only want to know a part of Him.
God invites us into His family, but not us alone. He invites us all. The more we are together with others who love Him, the more we come to really know Him. God wants each of us to be attached to Him, but he also wants us to be attached to each other. But as we grow towards others, we know Him more through their eyes.
Knowing Jesus in the presence of others produces joy, according to verse 4--“We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
There’s a textual variation in this verse. Ancient manuscripts disagree about whether John wrote “our” joy may be complete or “your” joy may be made complete. It’s found both ways. Some modern translations go one way, some another. But both are true. Our joy increase when your joy commences. When we know Jesus, then we are happy when others know Him, too. There is no division between our individual walks in the Lord and our community walks with Him. We can’t have one without the other.
John is clear here that knowing Jesus—hearing about Him, seeing Him, studying Him, finding Him, touching Him, and sharing Him produces life and Joy.
Do you want to know Jesus? Jeremiah 29: 13 tells us how. “’You will seek me and you will find me, when you search for me with all your heart. And I will be found by you.’ Says the Lord.’” You have to ask Jesus into your heart, to pray the sinners’ prayer, walk the aisle, and accept Him as your Lord and Savior. But first, you must want to know Him. We can’t take Jesus as we want Him to be, but as He is. We must be willing with all our hearts to worship at His feet.
You will know Jesus when you look for Him. That is when you will find Him.