Episode 37: How can we know Jesus?
Laurence welcomes a new guest, Jeremy Pearce, for this episode to talk about practical ways of getting to know Jesus. Using the apostle Paul’s experience as a template they discuss how to see Jesus as a real person even though we only have written accounts in the Gospels to work with. But, just as we change when we know and love someone really well, knowing Jesus should change us too. Enjoy this conversation on a deeply personal and profound aspect of being a Christian in the modern world.
They start off by noting how important this topic is. John 17:3 states that knowing “the only true God and Jesus Christ” is what leads to eternal life. Jeremy recalls being startled by a passage in Matthew 7:23 in which Jesus warns he will say to many who professed to follow him that he never knew them. With the importance of knowing Jesus established, and realising that they need to develop a relationship with him rather than simply know about him, they approach the discussion with a mission to get closer to knowing Jesus.
What is Jesus like?
The first step on the way is to discover what Jesus is like as a person by how he reflected the image of God. Jesus did not simply reflect God’s image in a passive way but he was active in changing the lives of others. He deliberately used Isaiah 61:1-2 about his own mission to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives”.
Laurence and Jeremy reflect on how it would have been easier to develop a relationship with Jesus as one of those who lived alongside him and interacted in his life. Knowing that he has been resurrected is important, but it can be difficult to get to know him personally when he is not present in the same way as any other human being.
Getting to know Jesus
There is a promise to those who look for him to see him. It’s described as the Father and Jesus coming to make their home in those who search for him, (John 14:19-23). So Laurence and Jeremy talk about practical ways in which to make this a reality. As we get to know and love people we want to know more about them and spend time together. We want to find out what they like, where they live, where they have travelled, what they’ve written and so on. We choose to join our lives to theirs. And it can be the same in getting to know Jesus, as Paul wrote in Philippians.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.Philippians 3:8-11
We need to make a determined effort to really explore the life of Jesus while he was here on earth and who he really is as a person and integrate that into our daily lives. One helpful place to start is to read and re-read the gospels over and over again, paying attention to what they tell us about Jesus as a person.
Other characters who loved Jesus (and who Jesus loved)
We can use the other characters in the gospels as a way of getting into the story and feeling the things they experienced. Like Mary Magdalene who was healed of a debilitating mental illness and included in Jesus’ love and care. Or the fisherman Peter who was challenged by what he saw in Jesus but was led, ultimately, to martyrdom because of his conviction and trust in Jesus.
All of these, and others including John and the apostle Paul, knew that Jesus loved them. And that’s what we take into our everyday lives as well.
When you know Jesus, you change
Laurence and Jeremy shift focus onto how getting to know Jesus intimately can transform us. As human beings, life’s experiences often bring us to a position of being imprisoned by guilt, enduring suffering or mourning loss. We live broken lives desperate for love, but an encounter with the real Jesus can be life transforming. When we get to know Jesus, and understand that he loves us, it can rescue us and fill that void.
They close by exploring the idea of being changed into the same glory that is in the face of Jesus. Though we don’t see him face to face now, we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And one day we will see him face to face, (1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 John 3:2), and at that point our transformation will be complete.
Our series on Discovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is a six part study that introduces you to Jesus in Matthew.
We also explored similar themes in Episode 15: Connecting with God which you may find helpful.
More discussion about the teaching and example of Jesus, specifically in relation to our experiences of stress and anxiety, can be found in Episode 32: Stress and Anxiety – Learning from Jesus with Professor Anna Whittaker.